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Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 2/20/2013

Inept NCAA not qualified as judge, jury

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

His name is Nevin Shapiro, and he is in jail for having orchestrated a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of nearly $1 billion. If that wasn’t enough fun, in his spare time Shapiro provided University of Miami athletes with cash, goods, services, and even the occasional prostitute on a yacht. The NCAA suggests that’s in violation of its rules.

Anyway, to make a long story shorter, the NCAA, which does not have subpoena powers, contracted with Shapiro’s attorney to ask questions during depositions of witnesses and gain answers it would not normally be able to access.

Our bad, said the NCAA, which then ordered itself investigated. The results were released earlier this week in a 52-page document, and here is my favorite part:

An NCAA official, now retired, bought a prepaid cell phone that was delivered to Shapiro for his use making jailhouse phone calls. Between the costs of the phone and the calls plus contributions the NCAA for some curious reason made to Shapiro’s prison commissary account, the governing body of college athletics reportedly allowed its representative to expense more than $8,000.

Really?

As for the lawyer, the NCAA expected fees of about $15,000, instead paid upwards of $25,000, then was billed for $57,115 for what was clearly and admittedly improper and unethical behavior on its part.

A couple heads have rolled, including the vice president for enforcement and some on the NCAA’s investigative staff. Of course, Mark Emmert remains president of the organization. The buck apparently doesn’t stop with him. Just ask him.

It has been determined that 13 interviews/depositions have been thrown out of the NCAA’s case against Miami. Another dozen were partly compromised.

Still, Emmert says the NCAA has information that “hasn’t been tainted” and, amazingly, that its case will proceed and that a notice of allegations should be delivered to Miami in the near future.

So an organization that has been judged guilty of blatantly cheating still sees itself as an appropriate jury against a school that, based on the actions of one booster, is accused of blatantly cheating.

How can any party, including member schools, that deals with the NCAA have any faith in its credibility?

The NCAA is not exactly on a roll (see Cam Newton, Auburn; the butchered case of Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA; and Penn State football) and now this. You sort of wonder how Emmert survives.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I supported the NCAA’s harsh punishment of Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. I believe there was an institutional cocoon of silence for nefarious reasons. But there has always been the discomfort that Emmert stepped outside the NCAA’s investigation/enforcement scope, relied on an independent study that may or may not have been flawed — who knows?— and kicked due process to the curb.)

Miami has already paid a steep price with self-imposed bowl bans (two), skipping an ACC title game, and scholarship restrictions. The school’s president rightfully fired a broadside and basically suggested it was time for the NCAA to cease and desist.

And if the NCAA doesn’t know what that means, it can always ask Nevin Shapiro’s attorney. She’s on speed dial.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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