WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
UM president Donna Shalala and NCAA President Mark Emmert have a good relationship, and if Shalala can somehow convince Emmert and the NCAA to allow a settlement that would bypass the typical enforcement process, it will rank among Shalala’s most impressive achievements at UM.
That’s because NCAA experts say it's unlikely Emmert could strike a deal with Shalala without the approval of both the NCAA’s Board of Directors (made up of 18 presidents) and the executive committee (made up of 17 presidents). Both of those bodies authorized Emmert to bypass the infractions committee last summer and levy major sanctions on Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.
And it’s highly questionable whether other college presidents would allow such a settlement when no other schools were afforded the same opportunity for a case involving recruiting violations, a UM official conceded.
“If the NCAA cuts them a break, you would immediately see action from USC and other schools that were punished,” ESPN’s Jay Bilas, who has sharply criticized the NCAA in the past week, said by phone Monday.
Several sources reiterated this week that UM will push hard for a quick settlement – though there are no provisions for one in NCAA bylaws – but won’t raise the issue until a law firm hired by the NCAA completes its investigation into the NCAA’s improper gathering of evidence and inappropriate relationship with Nevin Shapiro attorney Maria Elena Perez, who was paid by the NCAA for taking two depositions and for her reimbursable expenses.
“Attorneys on the Board of Trustees are telling [Shalala] we have leverage we didn’t have before and we have to push for a settlement,” a UM official said, describing her as “determined.”
UM has discussed several options internally, and a lawsuit against the NCAA has not been ruled out as a last resort, sources said. If the NCAA doesn’t agree to a settlement, “then we have to be very aggressive and refute as much as we can,” a UM official said.
“We have leverage now to question this whole process” – including whether violations disclosed by Sean Allen during one of Perez's depositions was used to extract information from others.
A UM official said the NCAA informed UM of the improper relationship with Shapiro’s attorney very late in the process, and in crafting its notice of allegations, the NCAA initially tried to “slip by” some of the evidence gathered from those two Perez-led depositions.
UM essentially told the NCAA “that’s not going to fly,” the official said. Information gleaned from the Allen deposition affected how the NCAA framed its allegations, and that will be a point of contention if the NCAA doesn’t back down.
But UM never leaked the information about Perez being paid. So why did the NCAA go public with it? UM said it was never given a reason, but one UM official said Emmert appeared concerned with “the integrity of the institution” and NCAA officials “couldn’t take a chance of this leaking out. They were worried about it getting out.”
If this case reaches the infractions committee in four months or so, “we have to convince them that we not only have been cooperative, but we’ve done enough,” another UM official said. “We reported to the NCAA that Shapiro was making allegations as soon as we found out about it [in August 2010].”
That UM official said as much as UM hopes to settle, “I don’t see how this does not go to infractions unless the counsel they’ve hired to investigate tells them to settle. If they settle, they would then set a precedent for reaching settlements, and it would be very dangerous.”
University of Wyoming professor Jerry Parkinson, who served as coordinator of appeals for the NCAA Committee of Infractions from 2000 to 2010, said he "doubts Mark Emmert would act unilaterally on his own [to do a settlement with UM]. Does he have the power to do it? It's untested. I would find it unlikely. it could be viewed as not in the spirit of the membership-driven governance of the association."
Parkinson said "it would surprise me" if UM gets a settlement because "this is a basic rules violation case, and it would set a precedent that might not sit well with membership. But the executive committee respects his leadership and it's not inconceivable he could find that kind of support" to settle.
While a settlement would help the NCAA put this embarrassing situation behind them, Emmert has suggested the NCAA has plenty of non-tainted evidence against UM, enough to continue prosecuting the case. But some UM officials believe the whole investigation has been tainted.
Incidentally, a settlement differs from a “summary disposition,” in which every party involved – UM, the former assistant coaches, etc. – work together to contribute to a single report that proposes penalties, which the committee on infractions can accept or reject. But because the UM case is so complicated and involves so many people, UM doesn’t believe a summary disposition is likely. Parkinson calls that scenario "highly unlikely."
But UM hasn’t given up hope of a settlement by any means, and one person in touch with the NCAA said that a settlement absolutely has not been ruled out.
Regardless, UM officials have faith Shalala will play this correctly: “She’s very tough,” one said.
### It remains to be seen if the ongoing NCAA investigation will include allegations, reported in The Miami New Times, that UM baseball strength and conditioning coach Jimmy Goins purchased performance enhancing drugs from a now-closed Miami clinic. UM is investigating and will report to the NCAA if it discovers any wrongdoing. Goins said he has done nothing wrong.
### The Shapiro camp has tried to introduce a UM gambling angle into the NCAA investigation, but there’s no indication anything came of it.
With Shapiro writing a lot of the questions, Perez asked Sean Allen 39 questions directly or indirectly about gambling in his deposition.
Among the questions: whether coaches gave Shapiro any inside information about injuries to help him win bets (Allen said he never heard that happen); whether UM players were aware of Shapiro’s gambling (“Randy Phillips had to have known because he was around him watching sporting events,” Allen said) and whether Shapiro give money to student athletes to facilitate their own gambling (“I’m not aware of that,” Allen said).
Allen said under oath: “I do feel like Nevin tried to separate the gambling from those guys [UM players].” That Allen deposition will be tossed out if the NCAA confirms its belief that the information was gathered improperly.
### Delray Beach Atlantic defensive tackle Keith Bryant, a former UM oral commitment, now has FSU and South Carolina as his co-leaders, with UM running third.... The father of Georgia based punter Austin Barnard said by phone today that his son has accepted an invitation to attend UM as a prefered walk-on, opting for UM over Notre Dame. Barnard, ranked among the top punters in the nation, averaged 44 yards per punt this past season.... Running back Alex Collins will announce his choice on Fox Sports on Monday night. UM, UF, Arkansas and Wisconsin are finalists.
### For news on on the Heat's pursuit of center Greg Oden, please see our last post.... Erik Spoelstra said which player he uses as his 10th man – Rashard Lewis or Mike Miller – will depend on "who we're playing." He's inclined to use Lewis against bigger teams or bigger forwards.
### A friend of Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline said Hartline hopes to get $6 million a year, more than what Miami offered previously and better than Jordy Nelson’s three-year, $13 million extension with Green Bay.
### For the second time in two months, a network is debuting a special on the 1972 undefeated Dolphins. Rick Horrow's Sporfolio, which airs on Bloomberg TV, has several lively interviews in "The Value of Perfection," which focuses on that Dolphins team.
Dolphins owner Steve Ross tells Horrow: "It's great to relive the past but [fans] want to live for victories today.... I mean 40 years is a long time!" Dick Anderson mentions how he and Jake Scott got a wig endorsement deal --- of all things --- after the perfect season. The show debuts at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday on Bloomberg, which is channel 353 on DirecTV.
### MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said the Marlins’ payroll purge had nothing to do with them not getting the 2015 All-Star Game – a game the Marlins expected to be awarded. Cincinnati, which got the game, opened its new ballpark nine years before the Marlins did. The Nationals, Phillies and Padres also also want All-Star games and have waited longer than the Marlins since opening new stadiums.
### Marlins executive Larry Beinfest said because Placido Polanco is 37 “and coming off injury, it’s realistic to say [he’s] probably not going to be an every day [player]. If he’s at third five days a week, it’s going to be terrific. Greg Dobbs can still play over there against tough right-handers.”
### Beinfest said the fifth rotation spot is wide open: “Wade LeBlanc pitched well last year, in the pen and starting, so he may have a little leg up. Brad Hand had a great year in Triple A. Alex Sanabia is back from injury and feeling well. And we have non-roster invitees who could get in the mix as well, guys like John Maine.”