A few weeks after Missouri coach Frank Haith joined the University of Miami and other coaches in an effort to get the NCAA to drop its case, the NCAA’s enforcement staff is defending itself.
A 42-page document sent by Jonathan Duncan, the NCAA’s interim vice president of enforcement, urges the Committee on Infractions to deny the motions to dismiss because they are “largely based on assumptions, misleading statements and meritless claims.”
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Miami’s motion to dismiss was obtained by ESPN two weeks ago, but Haith’s attorneys have refused to release their client’s motion, citing the NCAA’s request for confidentiality. The enforcement staff’s rebuttal document is revealing in the sense it shines more light on the specific topics Miami and Haith are attacking the enforcement staff’s handling of the case. Among them:
*Miami and Haith allege the enforcement staff found imprisoned booster Nevin Shapiro to be credible before obtaining any corroborating evidence, as Miami and Haith used a letter written to a judge endorsing Shapiro’s credibility by Ameen Najjar — the NCAA’s director of enforcement at the time — as proof of the staff’s bias.
The NCAA’s rebuttal disputes this, saying the enforcement staff conducted 100-plus interviews and reviewed 1,000 pages of documents in an attempt to verify Shapiro’s claims during the course of the investigation. It also cited the fact that some of Shapiro’s information did not lead to allegations and the fact the investigation took almost two years to complete as proof the enforcement staff had not pre-judged the case.
*Miami and Haith accuse the enforcement staff of leaking information to the media. Duncan denies this, saying specifically that the staff did not leak Miami’s motion to dismiss and was also not the source for the CBSSports.com report in January that said Haith would be hit with an unethical conduct charge when he received his notice of allegations.
The rebuttal states that in his motion, Haith says the CBSSports.com report was “an almost verbatim recital” of the information the enforcement staff provided he and his attorneys the week before. But the enforcement staff maintains the claim “lacks merit” because the report ultimately proved to be inaccurate. Haith was charged with failure to monitor, a less serious charge than unethical condut.
*Miami and Haith accuse enforcement staff members Abigail Grantstein and Brynna Barnhart of lying to Haith and former Miami assistant Jake Morton about what other interview subjects had said in an attempt to obtain condemning information on both — an impermissible investigative tactic, as specified in the NCAA’s external review of its investigation.
Interestingly, the enforcement staff admitted that both Grantstein and Barnhart did “misspeak in the questioning of Haith and Morton,” but disagreed with the assertion that it was done with unethical intent or impacted the underlying allegations.
*Haith also alleges that when one of his attorneys spoke to Grantstein before his Sept. 5 interview, she repeatedly told him that the interview would contain “no surprises” and “new issues” and added that the purpose of the interview was to wrap up details from the first interview, held in October. Yet, Haith asserted in his motion that the interview “went well beyond the scope of any questions posed” during the first interview.
The enforcement staff responds in the document by saying it does not feel an obligation to “specifically identify which topics will be covered during an interview,” and added that Haith does not implicitly state which new issues were discussed and neither he nor his counsel raised any concerns about the questioning either during the interview or in a subsequent interview on Sept. 25.
*Duncan also defends the enforcement staff on a number of other subjects, including the criticism it has received from Miami president Donna Shalala and the actions of several enforcement staff members that have been let go, and closed the document by reiterating his stance that the Haith and others were “grasping at straws” in their attempt to get the case thrown out. Nevertheless, he ends with the following:
“However, the enforcement staff would first defer to the judgment of the Committee on Infractions regarding whether it has the authority to act to dismiss a case prior to a hearing. If the Committee on Infractions determines that it has such authority, the enforcement staff believes that the only legitimate argument raised for such action relates to the potential violation of confidentiality involving the public release of Cadwalader report. Nevertheless, even if the Committee on Infractions believes that a violation occurred in that regard, the enforcement staff is uncertain as to any demonstration of harm that would merit dismissal of the case.”