Nearly three years after former booster Nevin Shapiro began spinning a web of allegations about providing impermissible benefits to former players and coaches, the University of Miami defended itself Thursday in front of the NCAA and its committee on infractions.
Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith, the former head coach of the Hurricanes who was charged by the NCAA with a failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance during his time at Miami, concluded his meeting with the committee Thursday.
“I appreciate having the opportunity to speak with the committee today and now look forward to a resolution,” Haith said in a statement. “Out of respect to the process, I will have no further comment.”
Miami president Donna Shalala apparently made an impression during opening statements.
About an hour after the hearing began behind closed doors on the second floor of a conference room at the downtown Westin Hotel — a short drive away from where the NCAA is headquartered, three men in suits emerged from the meeting and one uttered to the other: “Shalala opened up with a pretty strong case.” About 20 minutes later, Shalala walked out of the same doors chewing gum.
Miami, which received its notice of allegations from the NCAA on Feb. 19 — including the charge of lack of institutional control, has said through its media relations department it will not comment publicly before, during or after the hearings.
But it is believed the school — and other individuals no longer at Miami but charged with breaking NCAA rules — once again expressed their frustration with the NCAA enforcement staff in light of the admitted mistakes it made during its 23-month investigation.
In January, the NCAA announced that former enforcement staff members worked with Shapiro’s attorney to improperly obtain information. College sports’ governing body then hired an external review committee which tossed about 20 percent of the information that was deemed tainted because of the NCAA’s own “improper conduct.”
A source said lawyers for Haith and the lawyers for former basketball assistants Jake Morton, Jorge Fernandez and receivers coach Aubrey Hill also took aim Thursday morning at the NCAA’s enforcement staff and its handling of the case.
The NCAA enforcement staff has alleged Shapiro, now serving a 20-year sentence for his role in a $930 million Ponzi scheme, provided $170,000 in benefits to players, recruits, coaches and others between 2002-10, according to the Associated Press.
The hearings, which began with procedural issues Thursday, are expected to last through Saturday. All of the football allegations will be addressed in a marathon Friday session, and basketball charges will be dealt with Saturday.
The NCAA isn’t expected to render a decision after the hearings for at least six weeks or more.
NCAA President Mark Emmert was not at Thursday’s hearings. NCAA staff members said the president normally does not attend the infractions hearings because those are handled by conference commissioners and other members of the public.