MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The NCAA has launched an external review of the organization’s enforcement program due to improper conduct that happened during its investigation of the University of Miami and convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro.
According to the NCAA, former enforcement staff members worked with Shapiro’s attorney to “improperly obtain information for the purposes of the NCAA investigation through a bankruptcy proceeding that did not involve the NCAA.”
As a result of the findings, the NCAA has commissioned an external review of the enforcement program to be headed by former Homeland Security Advisor to President George W. Bush Kenneth Wainstein, who specializes in corporate internal investigations and civil and criminal enforcement proceedings, according to the NCAA.
During a Wednesday conference call with reporters, NCAA President Mark Emmert said that somehow Shapiro’s attorney was actually hired by the NCAA at one point in the investigation.
“One of the questions has to be answered unequivocally is what was the nature of contractual arrangement of Shapiro’s attorney,” Emmert said. “There is some uncertainty about that and is the first order of business.”
When asked who would have signed off on the hiring of Shapiro’s attorney, Emmert said “It’s supposed to be approved by general counsel, but it didn’t happen in this case.”
Emmert was asked why, if the investigation was tainted this far back, why did it take so long to get to this point?
“The two depositions that were conducted that were under the guise of the bankruptcy were conducted in December and January of last year,” Emmert said. “That was well known inside enforcement as to the date and time. It was the conditions under which those depositions were conducted that weren’t known until later in the summer.”
Emmert continued saying one of his main questions was, “How can it get his far without it being recognized as an improper way to proceed?”
The biggest question for the University of Miami is what this will do to the Shapiro investigation?
“It’s one of the reasons why I’m releasing this information right now. We can tell people exactly what is going on and give a timeline of what’s going on,” Emmert said. “I think it’s reasonable to wrap up this (internal) inquiry in seven to 10 days and then quickly make a decision on the notice of allegations. I’m acutely aware of those who are under some cloud. We have to get this right. It’s beyond the pale to do otherwise.”
University of Miami president Donna Shalala issued a statement shortly after Emmert’s teleconference saying in part, “I am frustrated, disappointed, and concerned by President Emmert’s announcement today that the integrity of the investigation may have been compromised by the NCAA staff. As we have done since the beginning, we will continue to work with the NCAA and now with their outside investigators hoping for a swift resolution of the investigation and our case.”
The University of Missouri, which employs former Miami head coach Frank Haith, had no immediate comment on the matter, nor did Haith. The former UM head coach has been implicated in the Shapiro case during his time at UM.
When it comes to the investigation and using improper methods, Emmert was asked if the information gathered through impropriety, would it be excluded?
“Yes, if there’s information that was obtained improperly, yes absolutely it would be thrown out,” Emmert said. “We don’t have any interest in pursuing a case that was obtained through inappropriate behavior.”
Emmert said the improper conduct was discovered when “bills and invoices were presented later that year (2012) for legal work that was never done.” The NCAA president also said he hopes it will take weeks and not months to complete all of the investigations.
“Process will be once we finish investigation internally, when we finish that, then we have to go through all of the evidence to determine what has or has not been appropriately collected and what has or has not been improperly influenced by this investigation,” Emmert said. “That shouldn’t take a long time once the investigation is done, but we want to make sure we get it right.”
Reporters asked Emmert if the reports that were posted earlier this week with specific charges for coaches involved in the scandal were accurate. Emmert said that in some cases they have talked to the coaches and the University of Miami.
“We’ve been in conversation with the university and individuals involved in the case to discuss some of the matters related to this,” Emmert said, “and in some cases we have given an overview that there were issues with the case and we would be dealing with them.”
Emmert said that any specific charges related to a notice of allegations were “speculative at least.”
Perhaps the best news for the University of Miami and its fans was Emmert saying that the Shapiro investigation would not start over from scratch.
“We’re not going to continue to conduct more investigation. We’ll use the information we collected appropriately,” said Emmert. “My understanding is there is a great amount of evidence compiled in this case and only a small portion of it was collected improperly.”
Still, Emmert said it wasn’t his concern if the internal investigation helps the Miami case, “My concern is that the policies, procedures, in the enforcement program are consistent with our values. Whether it produces good information or no information, it has to be done properly.”
According to Emmert, once the person responsible for the problems with the case faces proper discipline.
“As the investigation is being conducted and reaches a conclusion, I will look at all the facts as to what transpired here,” Emmert said during the teleconference. “I will make sure whoever is responsible for all of this is dealt with.”
For the NCAA, it’s the latest blight on the Committee on Infractions and the enforcement staff in general. Late last year, the NCAA struggled to make a judgment on the eligibility of UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad.
The freshman was initially ruled ineligible by the NCAA only to have his eligibility restored after an NCAA member involved in the case was overheard making comments about it.
In a separate case, the NCAA was sued by former USC assistant coach Todd McNair for what he labeled a “malicious” investigation into the Reggie Bush case.
The NCAA has been investigating the University of Miami for two years in relation to the Nevin Shapiro case. Shapiro claimed in a Yahoo! Sports investigation that he paid players, lavished gifts on them among other alleged rules violations.