By TIM REYNOLDS, Associated Press
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — After nearly two years, the NCAA has finally announced some of the wrongdoing discovered during the investigation of Miami's athletic compliance practices.
The alleged rule-breakers: former NCAA employees.
NCAA President Mark Emmert revealed Wednesday that the Miami investigation is on hold after the governing body for college sports in this country discovered "a very severe issue of improper conduct" — specifically that the attorney for former booster and convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro was used to "to improperly obtain information ... through a bankruptcy proceeding that did not involve the NCAA."
The NCAA does not have subpoena power. At least one of the people deposed by attorney Maria Elena Perez — who represented Shapiro — as part of his bankruptcy case appeared under subpoena, and his testimony would not have been otherwise available to NCAA investigators. The investigators who were involved are no longer with the NCAA, Emmert said.
"How in the world can you get this far without it being recognized that this was an inappropriate way to proceed?" Emmert asked.
That's the question that the NCAA wants answered, and fast.
Miami has been bracing for the arrival of its notice of allegations — the charges it will have to defend itself against during the sanctioning phase of the NCAA probe.
Those allegations are now on hold until an outside review of the NCAA's procedures, specifically in this case, are completed.
"As we have done since the beginning, we will continue to work with the NCAA and now with their outside investigator hoping for a swift resolution of the investigation and our case," Miami President Donna Shalala said.
It was part of a stunning day for Hurricane athletics: The 25th-ranked men's basketball team beat No. 1 Duke later Wednesday, 90-63.
Emmert said the NCAA was trying to find out why part of the investigation was based on depositions specific to the bankruptcy case against Shapiro, who will have to repay $82.7 million to his victims as part of his sentence. One of those depositions was given Dec. 19, 2011 by former Miami equipment-room staffer Sean Allen — who has been linked to Shapiro and many of the allegations that he made against the university.
During that deposition done as part of Shapiro's bankruptcy proceeding, the phrase "University of Miami" was uttered at least 58 times either in questions or answers. Miami was not part of the Ponzi scheme that led to Shapiro's legal downfall.
And the timing of this also is curious. Several people who were to be named in the NCAA's notice of allegations against Miami have been told that the document was in the final stages of preparation — and one person who spoke with AP said at least one person who was to have faced a charge of wrongdoing was told the letter was scheduled for delivery to Miami on Tuesday.
Now it's anyone's guess when that will happen.
"We cannot have the NCAA bringing forward an allegation that's predicted on information that was collected by processes none of us could stand for," Emmert said. "We're going to move it as fast as possible, but we have to get this right."
Emmert spoke angrily at times during a half-hour conference call to discuss the findings, in which he revealed that he briefed the NCAA's executive committee and the Division I board presidents with some information about the Miami matter. He said he developed a better understanding of what went on in the days that followed, which led to the hiring of Kenneth L. Wainstein of the firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP to conduct the external review of what happened.
Wainstein, Emmert said, will begin his probe on Thursday, with the NCAA hoping that he can finish within two weeks.
"We want to make sure that any evidence that's brought forward is appropriately collected and it has the integrity that we expect and demand," Emmert said.
Perez, a Miami graduate, did not immediately return a request for comment from the AP on Wednesday. A person in Perez's office said that the attorney was working in New York and that she would be forwarded all messages.