The NCAA delivered what appeared to be a gift Tuesday to the University of Miami in the case involving rogue booster and convicted Ponzi-schemer Nevin Shapiro — after keeping the Hurricanes in limbo for more than two and a half years.
Cited by the NCAA for a lack of institutional control “resulting in a decade of violations,” the Hurricanes football program will lose nine scholarships over a three-year probationary period (2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17) and will not be penalized another postseason ban. UM athletic director Blake James said the NCAA gave Miami the option to remove the nine scholarships any way it deems fit over the three years.
UM basketball will lose three scholarships, one each for the next three years.
According to UM and the NCAA, the Hurricanes did not self-impose any scholarship sanctions, though they did “internally impose some scholarship reductions,” James said, with hope that the NCAA will take those measures into account.
NCAA Committee on Infractions chair Britton Banowsky gushed in a teleconference about UM’s “significant” self-imposed penalties, namely the two postseason bans that encompassed three games. He also said the committee was impressed with UM’s cooperation in the case.
Miami later indicated it would not appeal the sanctions, and, as UM football coach Al Golden said all along, the multiple years it took to process the case was as much a penalty as any other.
UM president Donna Shalala told the Miami Herald that “the athletic program suffered greatly as much by the timeline” of the case “as anything else. But we were responsible, and it was very clear we broke NCAA rules and we admitted that and were penalized appropriately for it.”
Golden, whose undefeated Hurricanes can now breathe easier heading into Saturday’s noon game against Wake Forest at Sun Life Stadium, thanked the UM “student-athletes and their families who, not only stood with the University of Miami during this unprecedented challenge, but subsequently volunteered for the mission. They shouldered the burden, exhibited class and exemplified perseverance for Hurricanes everywhere.”
Golden came to UM in the wake of the scandal and indicated when the story broke publicly in August of 2011 that he had no idea an investigation had been launched. He was not mentioned in the report Tuesday, but individual coaches who previously served at UM received punishments.
Former UM and current University of Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith was suspended for the first five games of the 2013-14 season. He also must attend an NCAA Regional Rules seminar at the end of the 2013-14 academic year.
“The former head men’s basketball coach failed to meet his responsibilities as a head coach when he did not monitor the activities of his assistant coaches, and attempted to cover up the booster’s threats to disclose incriminating information,” the NCAA wrote in a release. “Additionally, two assistant football coaches and one assistant men’s basketball coach did not follow NCAA ethical conduct rules.”
Haith said he will not appeal. “While I strongly disagree with [Tuesday’s] report,” he said in a written statement, “and the inference on how the program was run at [UM], as head basketball coach during that period, I accept responsibility for all actions in and around that program.”
Former UM football assistants Clint Hurtt and Aubrey Hill and former basketball assistant Jorge Fernandez each received a two-year, show-cause order — from Tuesday through Oct. 21, 2015 — usually meaning they are effectively banned from coaching in college for two years, unless they can show cause as to why the penalty is inappropriate. Hurtt, however, is being retained by Louisville under a zero-tolerance policy through 2014-15 and will have to follow strict guidelines implemented in conjunction with the NCAA — including a recruiting ban through the spring of 2014 and his compensation being frozen for two years, the Courier-Journal reported.
Hill is now the coach at Miami Carol City High.
Former UM basketball assistant Jake Morton, who was accused of recruiting violations and accepting “at least $6,000” in supplemental income from Shapiro, did not receive any penalties.
Former UM football coach Randy Shannon was given a letter of reprimand for an infraction involving illegal text messages and/or impermissible calls.
UM’s self-imposed postseason bans in 2011 and 2012 — which included last season’s Atlantic Coast Conference title game — along with the long wait and the NCAA’s admitted failures in processing the case contributed to a less severe punishment.
“What the self-imposed penalties represented was an indication by the university that it was taking the case very seriously,” Banowsky said. “To impose these bowl bans is a big deal, very big deal. The fact that it also prevented an ACC competition in terms of the championship game which potentially could have led to a BCS bowl berth, was a very big decision made by the University, and the committee appreciated [that].”
The NCAA also ruled that UM football may only provide a prospect on unofficial visits complementary tickets for one home game during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
Here are UM’s self-imposed football penalties, besides the two-year postseason ban already served:
• Reduction of official paid visits for 2012-13 by 20 percent to a total of 36 visits.
• Reduction of fall evaluations in 2012-13 by six (from 42 to 36).
• Reduction of available contact days during the 2012-13 contact period by 20 percent.
Miami’s two-day hearing before the NCAA Committee on Infractions (COI) took place June 13-14 in Indianapolis. When asked why it took so long to deliver the sanctions, Banowsky said the case “had a lot of complexities to it that were extraordinary. … The sheer volume of the case was enormous.”
Said Banowsky: “This case is among the most extraordinary in the history of the NCAA.”
Banowsky also was asked about the difference between a case — Southern California comes to mind — in which a school has similar violations and gets 10 scholarships a year compared to an average of three a year for Miami.
“As you know,” he said, “each case is unique and no doubt folks will have a difference of opinion whether the penalties were too severe or too light depending on your perspective. We don’t put cases up against each other because of the unique nature of each case. In this particular case, we felt like the institution’s self-imposed penalties were absolutely significant — unprecedented really. And also the level of cooperation in this case was commendable. Those were factors that weighed in to the committee’s thinking.”
In the USC case, for example, the NCAA mandated that the Trojans vacate all wins in which former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush competed while ineligible, and said he could no longer associate with the school.
UM did not receive any similar penalty for former players involved with Shapiro.
A TWO-YEAR ODYSSEY
The NCAA investigation began in March of 2011, NCAA president Mark Emmert previously acknowledged. It stemmed from Shapiro’s accusations of rampant violations and improper benefits to former UM players and coaches. Those accusations were publicly documented for the first time in a Yahoo! Sports report in August 2011.
Shapiro, serving a 20-year prison sentence for a $930 million Ponzi scheme, said that among the impermissible benefits he provided were cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play and travel to athletes.
The NCAA noted in the summary of its report that the case “involved 18 general allegations of misconduct with 79 issues within those allegations,” and that 81 individuals were involved in 118 interviews. The NCAA said the Committee on Infractions “found, in most instances, corroboration through supporting documentation and the statements of individuals” other than Shapiro.
The NCAA began its 23-month investigation and delivered its Notice of Allegations to UM on Feb. 19. Less than a month before that, however, Emmert used the words “grossly inappropriate” and “shocking” to reveal that the NCAA improperly obtained information from the attorney for Shapiro — and paid her — during its investigation.
The NCAA’s punishment could have been much worse for UM had the organization not discarded “about 20 percent” of all the evidence in the case because some of it had been improperly gathered through a separate bankruptcy proceeding involving Shapiro and his former investment business.
The NCAA’s investigative staff hired Shapiro’s criminal defense lawyer, Maria Elena Perez, to conduct bankruptcy depositions with two key witnesses who were uncooperative with the NCAA. Those depositions highlighted Shapiro’s relationship with a sports agency and its attempts to improperly land UM players through the booster.
In 2003, Shapiro invested $1.5 million in Axcess Sports. Shapiro’s role was to sign star UM football players so the agency could represent them in the NFL Draft. His first big recruit was former UM defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, who allegedly received $50,000 in cash from Shapiro. Wilfork signed with the agency, but then, at the 11th hour, backed out and went with another agent.
Because the depositions that detailed the agency’s activities were conducted by Perez, the NCAA threw out the tainted evidence, weakening the strength of its case against UM and possibly the eventual punishment.