Miami had a huge day yesterday, in almost every aspect possible. Football landed a huge recruit, basketball continued its meteoric rise, and the NCAA debacle came to a head, with the NOA coming in and Shalala sending it right back out with gusto.
Her statement to the public, and directly to the NCAA, was a fantastic piece of art that, frankly, has been missing from NCAA investigations in recent memory. UM's president is taking the fight to the NCAA, and with damn good reason. They have dragged out this investigation for over two years, watched as Miami cooperated above and beyond what they normally expect, screwed up their own work, and then still had the audacity to drop the hammer on Miami in spite of everything. To top it all off, the facts revealed in Shalala's statement soundly remove the title of investigation from what the NCAA has been doing all this time, and firmly place it under the umbrella of a witch hunt. Let's break this beast down. First, a refresher of the statement:
"The University of Miami deeply regrets and takes full responsibility for those NCAA violations that are based on fact and are corroborated by multiple individuals and/or documentation. We have already self-imposed a bowl ban for an unprecedented two-year period, forfeited the opportunity to participate in an ACC championship game, and withheld student-athletes from competition.
Over the two and a half years since the University of Miami first contacted the NCAA enforcement staff about allegations of rules violations, the NCAA interviewed dozens of witnesses, including current and former Miami employees and student-athletes, and received thousands of requested documents and emails from the University. Yet despite our efforts to aid the investigation, the NCAA acknowledged on February 18, 2013 that it violated its own policies and procedures in an attempt to validate the allegations made by a convicted felon. Many of the allegations included in the Notice of Allegations remain unsubstantiated.
Now that the Notice of Allegations has been issued, let me provide some context to the investigation itself:
· Many of the charges brought forth are based on the word of a man who made a fortune by lying. 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.
· Most of the sensationalized media accounts of Shapiro’s claims are found nowhere in the Notice of Allegations. 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. The fabricated story played well—the facts did not.
· 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. How could a supposedly thorough and fair investigation not even include the Director of Athletics?
· Finally, we believe the NCAA was responsible for damaging leaks of unsubstantiated allegations over the course of the investigation.
Let me be clear again: for any rule violation—substantiated and proven with facts—that the University, its employees, or student-athletes committed, we have been and should be held accountable. We have worked hard to improve our compliance oversight, and we have already self-imposed harsh sanctions.
We deeply regret any violations, but we have suffered enough.
The University and counsel will work diligently to prepare our official response to the Notice of Allegations and submit it to the Committee on Infractions within the required 90-day time period.
We trust that the Committee on Infractions will provide the fairness and integrity missing during the investigative process."
It will never get old reading that. Ever. Now, on to the first bullet point.
- The NCAA considered statements by Shapiro corroborated if he made them more than once.
Here's a few definitions of the word corroboration:
From Merriam-Webster: To support with evidence or authority : Make more certain
From a legal dictionary: To confirm and sometimes add substantiating (reinforcing) testimony to the testimony of another witness or a party in a trial.
The NCAA's stance on this is nowhere near either of those, and is absolutely laughable. They are basically saying that if Shapiro said something twice, on any occasion, that they considered it to be true, regardless of any other evidence to support it. It's unbelievable that any institution, even one so incredibly back asswards as the NCAA, would adhere to this as part of a formal investigation.
The idea that anyone, ESPECIALLY a convicted liar and con man, would be considered to be telling the truth so long as he repeats himself is astounding. If that's how things work, then what the hell has the justice system been doing all of these years? All one side would have to do is take the stand, repeat their accusations or defense more than once, and the trial is over. Shalala could have ended her statement right there, and everyone would have had the same reaction, but she didn't. It only got better from that point on.
- Despite "investigating" Miami for over two years, and supposedly having boxes upon boxes of paperwork supporting Shapiro's claims, the NCAA 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.
It would be silly to assume that absolutely none of this happened, because there are photos of at least alcohol use, there was testimony of dinners, and there were 6 players at the start of the 2011 season who were suspended and had to repay money they were given by Shapiro. So while the above statement does have weight, it is not entirely 100% accurate. The main point of the statement, however, is to demolish the sensationalized viewpoint of the media that Miami was one gigantic block party for the entirety of the allegations.
The fact that the NCAA was apparently not able to corroborate (Shapiro must have only said it once) or obtain evidence of major infractions like cars, huge cash gifts, or bounty payments, means that all they had were a handful of minor infractions like dinners, travel expenses, and small bills gifts that were repaid and punished. That certainly is not grounds for an LOIC charge, regardless of how much the NCAA wants to justify themselves. Clearly, Shalala is fed up with the media pouncing on Charles Robinson's story and treating it as fact, when there is no evidence to support 90% of what was alleged.
- Even though Miami specifically requested that the NCAA interview them, the investigators on the case did not interview many key individuals who would have been able to give first-hand accounts of the time during the allegations. This includes former and late Miami AD Paul Dee.
Let me repeat that. During the course of an investigation that is supposed to be based around fairness, facts, and evidence, the NCAA refused, not didn't, REFUSED, to interview extremely important figures that were present during that time. Paul Dee was the athletic director during the majority of the allegation timeline, and he was never interviewed by the NCAA. This is abhorrent. What this basically says is that the NCAA did not care to hear Miami's side of the story, or were afraid that if they were to interview these people, that much of what Shapiro had given them would be debunked, and therefore they would not be able to make Miami an example.
Instead, they chose to compel former coaches and players to talk to them, even when they had absolutely no obligation to do so. They chose to break their own rules in an attempt to gain information, rather than interviewing the people they had access to within their own rules. This wasn't an investigation, this was a witch hunt. This was the NCAA realizing early on that they had a shaky case, and instead of punishing Miami based on what they had, they spent 2 years trying to scrape up as much as they possibly could so they could justify their attempt to hand out sanctions that matched the media frenzy. They weren't trying to punish Miami fairly, they were trying to tailor their findings to fit what they WANTED.
- Finally, during the course of this process, there have been multiple times when information has leaked out the the public regarding allegations made against the school. This information should not have been released, as it was, in its entirety, unsubstantiated. Miami is now on record as saying that they believe that the NCAA was responsible for this information coming out.
Remember when that story broke that Al Golden and his staff had broken multiple rules during recruiting, and that there were reportedly phone records to prove it? Remember how that cause a media frenzy that cast Miami into a negative light, cost them at least one possible recruit in Vernon Hargreaves and countless others because it painted Al Golden as a cheater and made it sound like things were going to get worse?
Do you also remember how that whole thing just sort of...went away with nothing more to come of it? Yeah. THAT is what Shalala is referring to. That information was somehow leaked out, even though it ultimately was patently false, and it came at a time when people were again beginning to question why the NCAA was taking so long in their investigation. They were starting to get questions about whether or not they even had a case to begin with, and then all of a sudden it turns out that they had information on the current staff, which is why they hadn't said anything in a while.
If the NCAA is, in fact, responsible for this information being leaked, then there aren't too many words that accurately express just how corrupt and meaningless that organization is. Their utter disregard for the institutions that they are supposed to protect shows that they only currently exist to further their own means, and to justify their gigantic salaries under the guise of a non-profit organization.
Miami will certainly draft a response to the Notice, and this case will be going in front of the Committee On Infractions. Miami is fighting this the whole way, as well they should. If there was ever a case that completely exposed the NCAA for the frauds they are, this is it. In the course of the next couple of months, it will be interesting to see the outcry from previous victims of the NCAA, and how others respond to what is clearly an attempt to ignore a failure. The NCAA does not just need an overhaul of their investigative branch, or their rule book. The NCAA needs to be gutted and rebuilt from the ground up, and the first statue to fall, so to speak, should be Mark Emmerts.