Finally, the National Collegiate Athletic Association is investigating the most blatantly broken and corrupt entity in college sports – itself.
NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the organization had suspended its 22-month inquiry into the University of Miami athletic department after he received a bill from the lawyer of Nevin Shapiro, a convicted Ponzi scheme artist accused of providing cash, cars and prostitutes (among other improper benefits) to Miami football and basketball players.
The lawyer, Maria Elena Perez, was promised cash from NCAA investigators if she would ask Shapiro questions pertaining to the Miami case during a sworn deposition that purportedly had to do with an unrelated bankruptcy case. Emmert said that any information obtained from the deposition will now be thrown out of the investigation.
A CBSSports.com report on the imminent conclusion of the Miami investigation first surfaced on Jan. 21, just three days before its indefinite suspension. Many speculated that the NCAA would charge the coaches allegedly involved in conferring illegal benefits to players – including current Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith, who previously filled the same position at Miami – with “unethical conduct and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance.”
Punishment for such charges typically comes in the form of a multiple-year show-cause penalty, meaning any school that employed Haith or any of the other charged coaches would be penalized by the NCAA for doing so. Though institutions can appeal to “show cause” as to why they should avoid penalties, such efforts are rarely successful. Most coaches who receive a show-cause penalty never coach in college again. Had everything gone according to last Monday’s preliminary reports, Missouri would almost certainly have fired Haith before the beginning of the 2013-14 season.
While the future of the investigation remains unclear, it seems likely that all charges against Haith will be dropped, whether he was guilty or not, and he will continue to coach for MU. The NCAA now cannot risk the further public humiliation it would face after an inevitable lawsuit from Haith.
Shapiro, the NCAA’s star informant in the case, had little opportunity to speak with investigators while serving a 20-year prison sentence for the aforementioned Ponzi scheme. All involved fully knew that the NCAA does not possess subpoena power and cannot use evidence compiled from such depositions.
The incentives, however, led those involved to interfere with the bankruptcy hearing. For Shapiro, it was a chance to get revenge against Miami, the university he feels didn’t appreciate all he did. For the NCAA, it was another chance to scare its subordinates with the sheer scale of its power. For Perez, it was the money (the only reason we even found out about all this is because she sent her bill to the wrong place).
For the NCAA to conflate its petty rules with the actual force of law is wholly ridiculous – and thoroughly unsurprising. An organization that makes billions of dollars off the backs of an unpaid labor force (which would be considered highly illegal in any other business) that doesn’t dare challenge its own rule tends to become reckless. And a bullying investigative arm that declared Miami players and coaches would be considered guilty until proven innocent will go to great lengths to fulfill its twisted prophecy.
Emmert, it must be noted, does not appear complicit in this affair himself. He is, however, ultimately responsible for an organization that claims modesty and morality but only operates with its bottom-line in mind. You can be sure that this case will not stop that.
You can also be sure that the NCAA will continue to allow millionaire coaches to job-hop as they please while their players are forced to sit a year before transferring, and that it will stop athletes from making money off endorsements or their likenesses in video games and other products. And you can be sure that there will be more scandals, more prematurely released bombshells and more incompetent investigations, until there is credible incentive for institutions to abandon the NCAA for a less restrictive, more humane form of oversight.
Regardless of the results of the now-ongoing NCAA investigation into itself, I think one can only recommend it receive the death penalty.