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Stalemate between NCAA, UM to last a while longer

Former Georgia Tech basketball coach Bobby Cremins, a new member of the NCAA’s committee on infractions, said last month the NCAA should have been “really, really, skeptical” about using Nevin Shapiro as a source.

The University of Miami now must hope that other members of the infraction committee feel the same way.

When UM officials present their case before the committee, they will assert that several allegations leveled against UM were not corroborated and that the NCAA is relying, as president Donna Shalala said, “on the word of a man who made a fortune by lying.” Though a mid-June hearing before the infractions committee is not out of the question, the NCAA said in former UM basketball coach Frank Haith’s notice of allegations that a July hearing is likely for UM and the former assistants.

Two UM sources said initial sentiment is the school likely would not appeal limited scholarship reductions but would vehemently fight additional postseason bans in football and any in basketball.

“If there’s a strong penalty, we would appeal,” one of the UM officials said, cautioning that nothing will be decided definitively until the process plays out.

UM likely will not know for many months whether it will receive any additional punishment beyond what it already has self-imposed, including two football bowl bans, 11 player suspensions and a few football scholarships.

Cremins is the only one of the 18 infraction committee members who have spoken publicly about the UM case, and he might not even be assigned to it. Jo Potuto, former head of the infraction committee, said the UM case might only be heard by five or six members of the committee. The NCAA won’t say.

Blogger John Infante, a former compliance officer at Colorado State, said if he bet how this would play out, “I would say the NCAA is more likely to scrutinize the information from the enforcement staff more than they might in other cases.

“I would be shocked if there’s another bowl ban, and it would be foolish to impose that. If Miami gets [docked] 10 to 15 scholarships a year, I see Miami fighting back. On the basketball side, it’s a bunch of minor recruiting violations. I would see minimal scholarship losses — maybe one or two and definitely no postseason ban for basketball.”

Shalala said the NCAA told UM that if Shapiro said something more than once, it considered the allegation corroborated.

“The committee of infractions would be skeptical about taking that position,” said Jerry Parkinson, a former infractions committee member. “I can understand her strong reaction to that. The lack of institutional control charge is serious, but the penalties self-imposed were substantial, and they will get credit for that.”

ESPN’s Jay Bilas said by phone Wednesday that one problem is “the NCAA has no standard of proof, and the committee on infractions can believe whatever bad evidence it chooses. That’s no way to conduct a system of justice. It’s absurd.”

So how will the UM case proceed from here? Shalala and others, who reportedly implicated former coaches, will have a Friday conference call with the infractions committee to discuss procedural issues and concerns. Potuto said UM then will produce a written response to the notice of allegations and the assigned infraction committee members will have ample time to “digest it” before the hearing. Those written responses are due May 20th.

When UM appears before the infraction committee, the former coaches accused of wrongdoing also would appear that day — “so the institution can confront what anybody says,” Potuto said.

But she adds the former coaches would be permitted to stay in the room only during discussions of allegations involving them.

Potuto said schools bring “a lot of people” to the hearing, including the new coach in the affected sports.

Hearings are not open to the public. Most take a full day but “once in a while” can go into a second day, Potuto said.

Shalala and the official representing the NCAA’s enforcement staff will make opening statements. An enforcement staff member then introduces each allegation “and makes a presentation of what occurred and what evidence they have,” Potuto said.

After each allegation, a university attorney — Potuto expects outside counsel Mike Glazier would serve that role for UM — then can respond.

“Anybody with information with regard to an allegation can speak,” she said. “The chair of the infractions committee [currently Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky] will operate as the traffic controller. Lawyers will speak, but the committee likes to hear from people directly involved. The committee of infractions might have questions as the enforcement staff is presenting stuff.”

Potuto said hearings can sometimes “be contentious. People will be free to express displeasure, but they do it in a civil way. No screaming, and interrupting is extraordinarily rare.”

The infractions committee also will allow UM to discuss “why it self-imposed penalties and why it believes additional penalties would be inappropriate,” Potuto said.

When the hearing ends, the infractions committee gives the school no indication what penalties it might be facing, Potuto said. After breaking for an hour or two, the infraction members handling the case “talk it out among themselves until there’s a consensus” on punishment.

How long that takes depends partly “on how much disagreement there is,” Potuto said. But typically, “you get a decision on everything that weekend.”

So why must schools then wait two to four months before the NCAA announces penalties?

Potuto said infraction committee members want to see what they discussed “in writing and then rethink it. It’s the writing that takes the time. It might take two or three drafts.”

So if UM goes before infractions in July, it likely would get its penalty sometime between September and November. If it appeals, the process could stretch another six months beyond that.

Regardless of what happens, “it seems president Shalala will be unhappy because of what happened in the process,” Potuto said. “I don’t think there’s any real good answer that’s going to satisfy all the parties.”

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