State Colleges

NCAA enforcement staff says University of Miami’s motion to dismiss ‘meritless’

In a response to the attempts of the University of Miami and four former coaches to have the NCAA case against them tossed, a top NCAA enforcement official has accused UM of grasping at straws and making “meritless claims” and “unsupported attacks” on the enforcement staff.

“The enforcement staff believes the majority of the parties’ assertions in their motion to dismiss are largely based on assumptions, false accusations, misleading statements and meritless claims,” NCAA interim vice president of enforcement Jonathan Duncan said in the 32-page report, obtained by The Miami Herald through an NCAA source.

Duncan said UM "is grasping at straws in an attempt to disqualify members of the enforcement team with the most knowledge about the case."

The report was sent to the NCAA’s infractions committee, as well as UM and representatives for Frank Haith, Aubrey Hill, Jake Morton and Jorge Fernandez – the four former coaches who have joined UM in submitting a motion to dismiss the case. The infractions committee is scheduled to hear the case against UM and the former coaches in mid-June. Haith is now the head men’s basketball coach at Missouri. The three others are currently out of coaching.

A member of the infractions committee staff previously told UM and the coaches that the infractions committee does not believe it has the authority to dismiss the case, but has not told the parties that it has been entirely ruled out.

On a possible dismissal — which UM considers unlikely — Duncan’s letter said: “The enforcement staff would first defer to the committee on infractions on whether it has the authority to act or dismiss a case prior to hearing.

“If the committee on infractions determines that it has such authority, the enforcement staff believes the only legitimate argument raised for such action relates to the potential violation of confidentiality involving the public release of the Cadwalader report [which was an NCAA-commissioned investigation into its handling of part of the Nevin Shapiro case].

“Nevertheless, even if the committee on infractions believes a violation occurred in that regard, the enforcement staff is uncertain of any demonstration of harm that would merit dismissal of the case.”

The NCAA made several concessions in the report:

• It agreed to toss at least some of the testimony given by Kyle Wright, as previously reported by The Associated Press. UM claimed that the NCAA asked questions of Wright resulting from information gathered from a deposition from former UM assistant equipment manager Sean Allen.

The NCAA denied that but said it was tossing an undisclosed amount of the information "in an abundance of caution."

Allen's deposition was tossed because it was obtained using a bankruptcy court procedure, giving the NCAA testimony it otherwise would not have obtained.

• It acknowledged the NCAA’s bylaws involving confidentiality “may have occurred” because specific allegations were mentioned in the publicly released Cadwalader report. Former assistant coaches Morton and Fernandez made that assertion in their motions to dismiss. But Duncan claimed “Fernandez and Morton have not identified a specific harm other than alluding to the harm to their reputations and personal livelihoods as a result of the investigation.”

• It concedes that NCAA investigators Bryanna Barnhart and Abigail Granstein told Haith and Morton comments that weren’t accurate during their interviews. But the NCAA disputed UM’s and the former coaches’ claim that Barnhart and Granstein did it to try to elicit confessions from them.

“While the enforcement staff acknowledges that the two enforcement members did misspeak in the questioning of Haith and Morton, the enforcement staff disagrees with the assert that it was done with unethical intent or that it impacted the underlying allegation,” Duncan wrote, adding there is “no evidence Barnhart or Granstein intentionally misled Haith in an attempt to elicit confessions.”

Among other revelations:

• UM attorney Judd Goldberg told the NCAA that UM previously hired Wayne Black to investigate Shapiro and he submitted an oral report. Details of what Black uncovered were not in the letter.

•  Haith said the fact former investigator Ameen Najjar wrote a letter on behalf of Shapiro to his judge, days before his sentencing, suggested a rush to judgment by the NCAA enforcement staff because nobody else had been interviewed except Shapiro when the letter was written.

Duncan said the enforcement staff “does not agree” with that. UM also raised concerns about the letter.

“Thought Najjar wrote a letter than could be seen as vouching for Shapiro’s credibility, it is clear the enforcement staff took additional steps in the months ensuing to determine whether the information Shapiro and others reported was accurate,” Duncan said.

• The NCAA disputed UM’s claim that it was “highly suspect” that it waited to suspend guard Durand Scott hours before a 2012 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament game. The violation reportedly resulted from Fernandez allegedly paying for a flight for Scott's AAU coach, resulting in a six-game suspension.

Duncan said “the enforcement staff is offended by the accusation that it purposely timed the decision to have a negative impact on a specific student-athlete and entire team.”

He said UM was incorrect in asserting the NCAA was "incompetent, unprofessional and uncooperative" in its handling of the matter.

• On the fact the NCAA never interviewed former UM athletic director Paul Dee during the investigation, Duncan said: “The enforcement staff planned to. … Because Dee’s death was unexpected, the enforcement staff could not have predicted that he would not be available for an interview in June 2012.” Dee died in May 2012

• On UM’s claim the investigation took too long, Duncan said: “If the committee on infractions agrees that the investigation lagged, the enforcement staff accepts responsibility. However, … there are no legislated timelines for an NCAA inquiry.”

•  Duncan said the enforcement staff alleged a violation by Shapiro only if it “believed the information provided by Shapiro was credible, reliable, corroborated…In addition, there was information reported by Shapiro that did not ultimately form the basis of an allegation.

“The reason for not bringing some allegations was not that the enforcement staff did not find Shapiro to be credible, but rather the enforcement staff had an obligation to provide the legislated standard for bringing an allegation.”

Duncan said Shapiro “provided the enforcement staff with pictures, bank records, phone records, credit card receipts that corroborate statements made in his interviews.

UM asserts that at least 20 of the violations alleged by the NCAA against the school were unsubstantiated by anyone besides Shapiro.

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