Miami receives notice of allegations from NCAA

  • Associated Press
  • Tuesday, February 19, 2013 8:15pm
  • SportsSports

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Miami has finally received its notice of allegations from the NCAA, a long-awaited document accuses the Hurricanes of a “lack of institutional control” within its athletic department.

The allegations arrived on Tuesday. The institutional-control charge is typically one of the most severe the NCAA can bring after an investigation of rules violations. The governing body for college athletics declined comment Tuesday, one day after revealing that it was erasing some elements of its case against Miami because the information was obtained in impermissible ways.

“We deeply regret any violations, but we have suffered enough,” Miami President Donna Shalala said in a statement Tuesday night.

A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that several former members of Miami coaching staffs are named in the notice of allegations, including Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith, who was with the Hurricanes from 2004-11.

Next up: The sanctions phase, where Miami’s penalties will be decided. The Hurricanes have already self-imposed several sanctions, including sitting out two bowl games and a conference football championship game. Shalala said Monday she believes those punishments should be enough.

This saga started in September 2010, when the university told the NCAA that convicted Ponzi scheme architect and former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro made allegations to the school against former players. Shapiro said he interacted mostly with football players and recruits, as well as a significantly smaller number of men’s basketball players.

Shapiro is serving a 20-year prison term for masterminding a $930 million fraud scheme.

“Many of the charges brought forth are based on the word of a man who made a fortune by lying,” Shalala wrote. “The NCAA enforcement staff acknowledged to the University that if Nevin Shapiro, a convicted con man, said something more than once, it considered the allegation ‘corroborated’ — an argument which is both ludicrous and counter to legal practice”

Miami wants to get through the sanctions portion of the process as quickly as possible. But typically, it takes about three months for a hearing, and then can take several weeks — if not months — more for the penalties to be handed down. The sides coming to a settlement beforehand is another possibility.

Shalala said Miami will work diligently to prepare a response to the allegations within 90 days.

“We trust that the Committee on Infractions will provide the fairness and integrity missing during the investigative process,” Shalala wrote.

Miami and the NCAA have gone back and forth on the wording of the notice of allegations for several weeks, and the long-awaited letter was nearly delivered last month. That’s when the NCAA acknowledged that some mistakes were made by its own enforcement department. And that resulted in some allegations coming out of the letter.

It also led to yet another delay in the process, which many at Miami believe has dragged on for way too long.

“This cannot end quickly enough,” Miami coach football Al Golden said earlier this month.

Within about six months of Miami originally bringing the information it had on Shapiro forward, an NCAA investigation was quietly underway, and the story became widely known in August 2011 after Shapiro provided Yahoo Sports with details of what he claimed to have given dozens of athletes, recruits and coaches over an eight-year period.

Among the gifts Shapiro alleged to provide: Memorabilia, cash amounts both large and small, dinners, strip-club trips, prostitutes, and even an abortion.

Shalala, however, labeled most of those alleged benefits as “sensationalized media accounts.”

“Despite their efforts over two and a half years, the NCAA enforcement staff could not find evidence of prostitution, expensive cars for players, expensive dinners paid for by boosters, player bounty payments, rampant alcohol and drug use, or the alleged hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts given to student-athletes, as reported in the media,” Shalala wrote. “The fabricated story played well — the facts did not.”

Several Miami football and men’s basketball players have either served suspensions, paid restitution or both in the past two years after their involvement with Shapiro was discovered. Apparently upset with how people he thought were friends turned their back on him following his conviction for the Ponzi operation, Shapiro vowed that he would take down the program, and his attorney — a Miami alum — was willing to help the NCAA’s cause.

Documents released Monday by the NCAA showed that Shapiro’s attorney, Maria Elena Perez, offered to assist investigators working the Miami case by using subpoena power to depose witnesses under the guise of a bankruptcy case. NCAA enforcement officials accepted her offer, even feeding her questions to ask for at least one of the depositions, and records show they paid at least $19,000 for her work — though she billed them for three times that much.

Perez did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday night. Shawn Eichorst, the Nebraska athletic director who held the same role at Miami for some of the NCAA probe, also declined comment. Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt, who was the AD at Miami for some of the time when Shapiro was a booster, did not respond to a request for comment.

Shalala also said former Miami athletic director Paul Dee, who held the job before Hocutt, also was not interviewed by the NCAA before his death in May 2012. Dee also was a member of the NCAA’s committee on infractions, most notably when sanctions — including a two-year bowl ban, scholarship reductions and vacating victories — came down against Southern California in 2010, stemming from improper benefits given to then-Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush by sports marketers. Dee chaired the committee at the time, then saying “higher-profile players require higher-profile monitoring.”

“The NCAA enforcement staff failed, even after repeated requests, to interview many essential witnesses of great integrity who could have provided first-hand testimony, including, unbelievably, Paul Dee, who has since passed away, but who served as Miami Athletic Director during many of the years that violations were alleged to have occurred,” Shalala wrote. “How could a supposedly thorough and fair investigation not even include the Director of Athletics?”

Any allegations that came from the answers given in those depositions were taken out of the Miami case, the NCAA said on Monday when it unveiled the scope of its alliance with Perez and acknowledged that missteps were made. The NCAA’s vice president of enforcement, who oversaw the Miami probe, has been ousted, and some investigators who worked the case are also no longer with the association.

That prompted Miami to lash out strongly at the NCAA on Monday, with Shalala saying “the lengthy and already flawed investigation has demonstrated a disappointing pattern of unprofessional and unethical behavior.”

The NCAA declined comment Tuesday about Shalala’s remarks, which included a demand that Miami not face any additional sanctions.

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