The University of Miami, which has asked the NCAA to dismiss charges against its athletic department, has alleged tactics used by investigators during the questioning of Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith were impermissible and unethical.
The charges are detailed in a motion sent by Miami to the NCAA, whose external review of its two-year investigation of the Miami case uncovered a messy trail of missteps and insufficient oversight and resulted in 20 percent of evidence being thrown out. The motion also reveals that Abigail Grantstein, a University of Kansas law graduate who was fired by the NCAA for her involvement in another case, served as the lead investigator in the basketball portion of the Miami investigation.
The NCAA’s admission of misconduct has opened a window for Miami and Haith, a former Hurricanes coach, to file motions to dismiss. Haith’s lawyer, Wally Bley, recently declined to release his client’s motion, citing a desire to adhere to the NCAA’s request for confidentiality during the process. But ESPN obtained a copy of Miami’s 45-page motion, which details its argument regarding the NCAA’s alleged misconduct regarding Haith.
Onpages 27-29 of the motion
, specifically, Miami alleges that NCAA investigators Brynna Barnhart and Grantstein “exhibited the enforcement staff’s fixation” on obtaining evidence that substantiated the “most scandalous” of allegations brought forth by imprisoned booster Nevin Shapiro, who in a 2011 Yahoo Sports report accused Haith of being aware of a $10,000 payment to recruit DeQuan Jones. Haith denied the claim.
According to the notice of allegations the NCAA issued Haith in February, Shapiro threatened to claim he paid Jones unless Haith or assistant Jake Morton provided money to Shapiro. The NCAA could not find that Shapiro paid Jones, but charged Haith with “failure to monitor” because he did not alert the athletic department, ensure that Shapiro’s claim lacked merit or disclose Morton’s financial dealings with Shapiro.
Morton resigned Thursday from his position as director of basketball operations at Western Kentucky. The NCAA in February accused Morton of three recruiting violations and accepting at least $6,000 in supplemental income from Shapiro while he worked at Miami.
The motion filed by Miami says that in an attempt to elicit confessions of NCAA rules violations during interviews with Haith and Morton, Grantstein and Barnhart lied to both coaches about what other interview subjects had said in an attempt to obtain condemning information on both. That is an impermissible investigative tactic as specified in the NCAA’s external review of its investigation.
Specifically, Miami’s motion states that Morton repeatedly told the NCAA that Haith had no knowledge of Morton’s intentions to use a check that Haith wrote to Morton in June 2010 to repay Shapiro for a personal loan. But, according to Miami, NCAA staff still told Morton that Haith said he did know what the check would be used for.
When Morton continued to deny that Haith had knowledge of his intentions, Barnhart told Morton that Haith “put a lot of the relationship between the men’s basketball program and Nevin” on Morton and that Morton was “the one that kind of brought Nevin into the program, that he didn’t really know Nevin as well” as Morton did.
The motion asserts that Haith’s statements in an interview he had with the NCAA two weeks prior completely contradict Barnhart’s statement to Morton. In a Sept. 5 interview with the NCAA, Haith said Shapiro was introduced to the men’s basketball program through Miami’s development office, not Morton, and that Haith said he was the one that introduced Morton to Shapiro.
The motion says Barnhart’s false statements to Morton “were clearly an attempt to make Morton believe that Haith had ‘thrown him under the bus” in order to trigger Morton to provide the enforcement staff with condemning information on Haith.”
The motion also says that during the Sept. 5 interview, Grantstein told Haith that Morton had admitted to delivering $10,000 in cash to Shapiro’s mother on June 10, when “in truth,” Morton had admitted to delivering $5,000 to repay a previous loan. And when Haith asked specifically if Morton reported that he had delivered $10,000 to Shapiro’s mother, Grantstein “responded affirmatively, thus stating false information on the record on two separate occasions.”
This section of the motion closes by saying “this willful deceit not only sheds light on the relevant enforcement staff’s lack of investigative ethics in this case and demonstrates the very attitude for which Grantstein was ultimately terminated, but has also irreparably tainted the Investigation.”
Grantstein was fired after serving as the lead investigator in the case of UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad, who had been serving a suspension this season for violating amateur rules. Muhammad was reinstated by the NCAA after repaying $1,600 in travel costs on trips he made as a high school student.
The Los Angeles Times reported last year that the boyfriend of an NCAA investigator named Abigail was allegedly overheard by passengers on an airplane saying Muhammad would be ruled ineligible for the season, “Abby knows it” and “They’re dirty and they were taking money and she’s going to get them.” Miami’s motion contains similar references to Grantstein.
Haith has been accused of “failure to monitor” by the NCAA, which has resulted in recruiting restrictions and a short suspensions for other coaches, including Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun and Baylor’s Scott Drew. Neverthess, Haith has joined the fight to get the case thrown out before the official hearing, which is expected to happen this summer.
In the meantime, Haith and his lawyers will continue to wait for the Committee on Infractions to decide whether it will also allow a preliminary hearing for those who filed a motion to dismiss the case. Bley said Monday that he hopes to hear something within the next few weeks.
NCAA president Mark Emmert was asked about the Miami investigation during a news conference Thursday at the Final Four in Atlanta.
“We had some enormous foul-ups. We’ve acknowledged that. We’ve addressed those issues,” Emmert said. “The Miami case is obviously a significant blow to the confidence people have in enforcement, and we’ve worked very, very hard to be as open and frank about that case.
“If we have to change, continue to change, the culture of enforcement, that’s certainly on me and it’s something I’m working hard on.”The Star’s Blair Kerkhoff contributed to this report