COLUMBIA — The NCAA emboldened its critics and gave Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith new life Wednesday with a rare and stunning revelation.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
No stranger to criticism because of its complex rulebook and controversial penalties, the National Collegiate Athletic Association blew the whistle on itself.
NCAA president Mark Emmert announced Wednesday that college sports major governing body had uncovered a very severe case of improper conduct by its own rules enforcement staff and was launching an external investigation into misconduct. As a result, the NCAA has put on hold an investigation into the University of Miami that involves Haith.
For me, it is deeply disturbing, Emmert said during a teleconference.
The NCAA was reportedly close to delivering a notice of allegations against Haith, a former Miami coach, as part of a broader investigation into that schools athletic department. But now theres a chance those allegations may never surface because of what the NCAA disclosed Wednesday.
Its a substantial embarrassment, said Mike McCann, the director of the sports and entertainment law institute at the University of New Hampshire and a legal analyst for SI.com. It undermines the confidence that people have in NCAA enforcement because if theres corruption here, it makes you wonder where else could it have occurred.
According to the NCAA, former enforcement staff members paid the criminal defense attorney for Nevin Shapiro to improperly obtain information through a federal bankruptcy case. The NCAA does not have subpoena power, and the information it received through the bankruptcy proceedings would not have been available to its staff if it hadnt enlisted the help of Shapiros attorney.
This is completely contrary to our policies and procedures, Emmert said.
A message left by The Star for a person listed in federal court records as Shapiros bankruptcy attorney was not returned Wednesday night.
Shapiro, who is in prison for his role in a Ponzi scheme, is a former Miami booster who in a 2011 Yahoo Sports report accused Haith of being complicit in a $10,000 payment to recruit DeQuan Jones.
Its not known what information in the Miami case was obtained improperly, but Emmert said Wednesday that the NCAA cant bring forth allegations using information its investigators should not have obtained.
My understanding is there is a great amount of evidence that has been compiled in this case, Emmert said, some small portion of which has been (gained as) a result of this conduct.
CBSSports.com reported Monday that Haith was expected to face NCAA charges for unethical conduct and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance that could land him a show-cause penalty a potential death knell for a college coach.
The report cited an anonymous source who said the NCAA was unable to prove Shapiros allegation about the $10,000 payment to Jones.
However, the source said, the NCAA did not believe Haiths story that payments to his assistants intended for camp money did not wind up going to repay Shapiro, whose mother the recipient of the money verified the payment to the NCAA. Haith has denied Shapiros allegations, and his attorney called the CBSSports.com report premature.
Don Jackson, an attorney based in Birmingham, Ala., who has represented athletes, coaches and universities in NCAA cases for 23 years, said Wednesdays developments can only help Haith.
Even if Haith is served with a notice of allegations, Jackson said, the NCAAs admission of misconduct could give Haith and his attorneys who refused to comment on Wednesday a case to make with the NCAAs Committee on Infractions, which makes rulings and determines penalties when NCAA violations are alleged.
The issue of credibility in any of the Committee on Infractions cases is significant, Jackson said. They either believe the enforcement staff or they dont. They either believe the parties at interest or they dont. In this particular situation, its quite clear that the enforcement staff, their credibility has been significantly impacted.
You cant just question one issue (of the NCAAs case) without questioning everything.
Jackson said its conceivable the infractions committee could even use the NCAAs admission to exonerate Haith.
I do know that now every aspect of this case is in question, Jackson said.
Apparently, the same can be said for other cases the NCAA has recently ruled on.
Kenneth Wainstein, a partner with the law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, will conduct the external investigation, which will focus on the Miami case but also will explore whether the enforcement staff committed improprieties in other cases.
The potential list could include the suit brought by former University of Southern California assistant football coach Todd McNair, who claims the NCAA was malicious in its investigation into his role in the benefits scandal surrounding Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frederick Shaller has already said he was convinced the actions of NCAA investigators were over the top.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett also has sued the NCAA, seeking to void the harsh sanctions put on the Penn State football program following the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal.
Emmert said he hopes the investigation into the NCAAs improper conduct can be completed in one to two weeks.
We cannot have the NCAA bringing an allegation thats predicated upon information collected by processes that none of us can stand for, Emmert said. Were going to move as fast as possible, but we just have to get this right.
Some questioned whether the investigation would be rushed.
That seems short to me, McCann said. Considering an NCAA investigation typically takes several months, why would this only take a week or two?
The Associated Press contributed to this report.