NCAA finds issue with investigation

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- The NCAA said Wednesday its enforcement staff worked with the defense attorney for former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro to improperly obtain information through a bankruptcy proceeding that did not involve the sports governing body.

A source told ESPN's Joe Schad the attorney was given a list of questions to ask during the deposition on behalf of the NCAA. The attorney then sent a bill to the NCAA for expenses, which NCAA president Mark Emmert said led to questions of the organization's conduct in the case.

The NCAA would not reveal the name of the attorney involved. Shapiro has been represented by Maria Elena Perez, a Miami graduate.

The alleged improper conduct means the NCAA will not deliver the long-awaited notice of allegations against the Hurricanes until an external review is completed.

"I am deeply disappointed and frustrated and even angry about these circumstances," said Emmert, who also described it as "a shocking affair."

A person familiar with the decision to use Shapiro's attorney told Schad that no NCAA officials ever sat in on the bankruptcy depositions, but confirmed that the officials suggested questions Shapiro's attorney could ask. The source said the NCAA's in-house counsel and vice president of enforcement approved the arrangement.

In a statement Thursday, Emmert said the claim that the arrangement received authorization from the NCAA's general counsel is not true. "In fact, evidence shows the General Counsel's Office specifically told the enforcement staff -- on at least two occasions prior to any arrangements being made with the attorney -- that they could not use Shapiro's attorney for that purpose," Emmert said. "As a result, the external investigation is solely focused on the behavior within and the environment of the enforcement program." Another source familiar with the NCAA's concerns in the matter said it is neither common nor acceptable for the NCAA's enforcement staff to retain an attorney representing a person at the center of an investigation to ask questions in unrelated depositions that could aid the NCAA. That behavior, according to the source, could be deemed as an attempt to defraud the court, and the attorney would not be considered an independent party to the NCAA's investigation.

Emmert said during a teleconference on Wednesday that "no one approved the hiring of an outside attorney. It was later (in the fall) when the bill and invoices were presented for legal work that had not been approved."

Emmert added that any information obtained during this would be thrown out.

"We have no interest in pursuing a case based on information garnered through inappropriate behavior,'' Emmert said. "That's not what we stand for. ...We have a great amount of evidence compiled and only some a portion of it is a result of this conduct."

Speaking Thursday from Providence, R.I. in a telephone interview, Perez told The Associated Press that she has done nothing wrong. "The dubious party is not me. What I have done is 150 percent above board," Perez said. Perez said she could not divulge the nature of whatever her contract status with the NCAA is, though she said she is planning to release a statement in the coming days after meeting with her own attorney. "I am a victim of the enforcement staff," said Perez, who is a Miami graduate. "Me." One key person in the investigation has been former Miami equipment room staffer Sean Allen, who was deposed by Perez as part of Shapiro's bankruptcy proceedings. If the NCAA found it could not use the information gleaned in the deposition, that would figure to favor the Hurricanes. A source told "Outside the Lines" that the latest development is a "huge mess" but also claimed that it likely will not jeopardize the NCAA's overall investigation of Miami. "It's another delay," the source told OTL. "This case has been dragging on forever." Miami president Donna Shalala, in a statement released through the university, said she is "frustrated, disappointed and concerned" that the NCAA may have compromised the investigation.

"As we have done since the beginning, we will continue to work with the NCAA and now with their outside investigator hoping for a swift resolution of the investigation and our case," Shalala said.

Shalala's statement also said Miami first informed the NCAA of possible violations more than two years ago.

"I have been vocal in the past regarding the need for integrity by NCAA member schools, athletics administrators, coaches and student-athletes," Emmert said. "That same commitment to integrity applies to all of us in the NCAA national office.

"One of the questions that has to be answered, unequivocally, is what was the nature of that contractual arrangement and what was all the activity that that individual was involved with. There is some uncertainty about all of that, and it's one of the first orders of business for the firm that we've hired to investigate."

I am frustrated, disappointed and concerned by President Emmert's announcement today that the integrity of the investigation may have been compromised by the NCAA staff.
Miami president Donna Shalala
Emmert spoke angrily at times during a half-hour conference call to discuss the findings, in which he revealed that he briefed the NCAA's executive committee and the Division I board presidents with some information about the Miami matter. He said he developed a better understanding of what went on in the days that followed, which led to the hiring of Kenneth L. Wainstein of the firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP to conduct the external review of what happened.

Emmert said he hopes that process can be completed within two weeks and that the investigation will continue with "appropriately acquired evidence."

The NCAA used information from two depositions conducted as part of the bankruptcy case, and Emmert said one of the questions he wants Wainstein's probe to answer is: "How in the world can you get this far without it being recognized that this was an inappropriate way to proceed?

"We cannot have the NCAA bringing forward an allegation that's predicated on information that was collected by processes none of us could stand for," Emmert said. "We're going to move it as fast as possible, but we have to get this right."

The Hurricanes' athletic compliance practices have been probed by the NCAA for nearly two years. Allegations of wrongdoing involving Miami's football and men's basketball programs became widely known in August 2011, when Yahoo! Sports published accusations brought by Shapiro, who is serving a 20-year term in federal prison for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme.

Miami has self-imposed two postseason bans in response to the investigation. The Hurricanes would have played in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game this past season, meaning they could have qualified for the Discover Orange Bowl.

"Although we are deeply disappointed in this turn of events, we strongly support the actions President Emmert is taking to address the problem," said Lou Anna K. Simon, the NCAA's executive committee chair and Michigan State's president.

The delay in the notice of allegations also means former Miami and current Missouri men's basketball coach Frank Haith won't know if and when he will face any charges.

CBSSports.com reported Monday that Haith would be charged with allegations of "unethical conduct and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance." Haith has professed his innocence.

Missouri athletic director Mike Alden could not be reached for comment.

The NCAA looked back into Haith's career at Miami. The lead investigator on the Haith portion of the case was former NCAA enforcement staffer Abigail Grantstein, who was fired by the NCAA after information about the case against UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad was inappropriately leaked by Grantstein through her boyfriend while on a plane trip.

This would figure to be another significant issue for the NCAA and its enforcement department. Among the others pending:

•   A California case filed by former USC assistant football coach Todd McNair, who said 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 said he was convinced that the actions of NCAA investigators were "over the top."

•   Earlier this month, the NCAA was sued by Pennsylvania Gov. Thomas W. Corbett, who claimed the sports governing body overstepped its authority and "piled on" when it penalized Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky scandal last summer. The governor asked a federal judge to throw out the sanctions, arguing that the measures -- which include a four-year bowl ban and $60 million fine -- have harmed students, business owners and others who had nothing to do with Sandusky's crimes.

And now comes Miami, an investigation that was believed to be nearing an end.

Many people who expected to be named in the notice of allegations had been briefed in recent days about what charges they may face, and the NCAA and Miami had reviewed some draft, or preliminary, findings.

Now the drawn-out inquiry has taken its most bizarre turn.

"In my two-and-a-half years, I've certainly never seen anything like this and don't want to see it again," Emmert said.

ESPN's Joe Schad, ESPN.com college basketball senior reporter Andy Katz and reporter Dana O'Neil contributed to this report. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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