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Thursday update: Ireland updates free agency; UM case could be delayed again

Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland spoke to reporters at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis earlier today. Here are a few nuggets; also check out Armando's blog with other comments from Ireland:

### Ireland said he wants Reggie Bush back (though it's clear he has a price in mind and doesn't want to exceed it): "We'd love to have his skill set on the team. We just have to see how things go."

### He made clear re-signing Randy Starks is a priority: "It's very important to have Randy back if we can get it done. We have a very good defensive line and keeping that intact is a focus of mine. I don't want to let that strength become just average."

### On impending free agent Jake Long: "We've made our desire to have him back on this team known, but that's a tricky one. It's a complicated negotiation.... Injury history, I don't want to say it's an issue. It's something we look at obviously."

### He "had a meeting the other day" with Sean Smith's agent "and "I left optimistic, but we still have a long way to go."

### Why hasn't he made more aggressive efforts to re-sign players yet? "You can't just make knee jerk reactions on getting certain guys signed. We've taken on the evaluation of our staff. We've been very thorough in that process."

### Asked about making a splash with a marquee signing in free agency, he said: "I don't really feel the pressure that it has to be a name guy. If that player we think is going to help our team move forward and if he has a big name, great."

### On free agency in general, he said: "You just have to feel confident that what you're paying for is what you're getting."

### On Ryan Tannehill: "I love his intangible skill makeup [and] his athletic skill set. He can get a lot better."

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Though UM has been targeting mid-June as the time it hoped to make its case in front of the infractions committee -- and though Yahoo reported tonight that June 14-16 is likely --- the notice of allegations delivered to Frank Haith says otherwise.

Those allegations - obtained through public record requests by The Herald and several other media outlets - say that a mid-June hearing appears "unlikely." Why? Because the NCAA believes it's too ambitious a timetable because the infractions committee must analyze written responses from all the parties. Those responses are due May 20. That document delivered to Haith says a July hearing is likely.

UM and all the implicated former coaches go before the infractions committee at the same time.

Here is my Wednesday night story on how the process proceeds from here:

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Former Georgia Tech basketball coach Bobby Cremins, a new member of the NCAA’s committee on infractions, said last month that the NCAA should have been “really, really, skeptical” about using Nevin Shapiro as a source.

The University of Miami now must hope that other members of the infraction committee feel the same way.

When UM officials present their case before the committee, they will assert, among other things, that several of the allegations leveled against UM were not corroborated and that the NCAA is relying, as president Donna Shalala said, “on the word of a man who made a fortune by lying.”

Two UM sources said initial sentiment is that the school likely would not appeal limited scholarship reductions but would vehemently fight additional postseason bans in football and any in basketball.  

“If there’s a strong penalty, we would appeal,” one of the UM officials said, cautioning that nothing will be decided definitively until the process plays out.

UM likely will not know for many months whether it will receive any additional punishment beyond what it already has self-imposed, including two football bowl bans, 10 player suspensions and a few football scholarships.

Cremins is the only one of the 18 infraction committee members that has spoken publicly about the UM case, and he might not even be assigned to it.

Jo Potuto, the former head of the NCAA’s committee on infractions, said the UM case might only be heard by five or six members of the committee, though the NCAA would not confirm that Wednesday.

Blogger John Infante, a former compliance officer at Colorado State, said Wednesday to keep in mind that “the NCAA infractions committee came down hard on Southern Cal on a case that was resting on flimsy [evidence].”

But Infante said if he had to bet how the UM case would play out, “I would say the NCAA is more likely to scrutinize the information from the enforcement staff more than they might in other cases, considering the committee is the representative of membership and membership isn’t happy with enforcement.

“I would be shocked if there’s another bowl ban, and it would be foolish to impose that. If Miami gets [docked] 10 to 15 scholarships a year, I see Miami fighting back. On the basketball side, it’s a bunch of minor recruiting violations. I would see minimal scholarship losses – maybe one or two and definitely no postseason ban for basketball.”

Shalala said the NCAA told UM that if Shapiro said something more than once, it considered the allegation corroborated.

“The committee of infractions would be skeptical about taking that position – someone whose credibility is questionable, that if they simply repeat something, that constitutes as corroboration,” said Wyoming University professor Jerry Parkinson, a former NCAA infractions committee member.

“I can understand her strong reaction to something like that. The lack of institutional control charge is serious, but the penalties self-imposed were substantial, and they will get credit for that.”

ESPN’s Jay Bilas, a vocal critic of the NCAA, said by phone Wednesday that one problem is “the NCAA has no standard of proof, and the committee on infractions can believe whatever it wants and can believe whatever bad evidence it chooses.

“That’s no way to conduct a system of justice. It’s absurd. I believe there should be a serious negotiation undertaken to resolve this, and that the matter should be settled as you would in a civil case.”

So how will the UM case proceed from here?

Potuto said UM will produce a written response to the allegations and the infraction committee members assigned to the case will be given ample time to “digest it.” The deadline to submit is May 20. 

We reported yesterday that UM wanted a forum with the infractions committee this week to jump-start dialogue on procedural issues, and Yahoo reported - and The Herald confirmed - that will in fact happen during a conference call Friday involving Shalala and others. The former coaches also will be part of that call to express their own procedural concerns, according to Yahoo.

Parkinson said the hearings are held either in a hotel or at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis or occasionally, in another city. The site of UM's hearing is undetermined.

When UM appears before the infraction committee, the former coaches accused of wrongdoing also would appear that day --- “so the institution can confront what anybody says,” Potuto said.

But she adds the former coaches would be permitted to stay in the room only during discussions of allegations directly involving them.

Potuto said schools bring “a lot of people” to the hearing – “their general counsel, faculty athletic representative, their head compliance person, athletic director, the new coach in the affected sports, anybody else at risk and lawyers representing them.”

Hearings are not open to the public. Most take a full day but “once in a while” can go into a second day, Potuto said.

Shalala and the official representing the NCAA’s enforcement staff will be permitted to make opening statements. After that, a member of the enforcement staff introduces each allegation “and makes a presentation of what occurred and what evidence they have,” Potuto said.

After each allegation, the university’s attorney --- Potuto expects outside counsel Mike Glazier would fill that role for UM --- would then have a chance to respond.

“Anybody with information with regard to an allegation can speak,” she said. “The chair of the infractions committee [currently Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky] will operate as the traffic controller. Lawyers will speak, but the committee likes to hear from people directly involved. The committee of infractions might have questions as the enforcement staff is presenting stuff.”

Potuto said hearings can sometimes “be contentious. By the time it gets to a hearing, either the enforcement staff and a university are not getting along, or a coach and enforcement may not be getting along. People will be free to express displeasure, but they do it in a civil way. It’s not screaming and yelling, and interrupting is extraordinarily rare.”

The infractions committee also will allow UM to discuss “why it self-imposed penalties and why it believes additional penalties would be inappropriate,” Potuto said.

After the hearing ends, the infractions committee gives the school no indication what type of penalties it might be facing.

Shortly after the hearing ends -- "maybe after dinner" - the infraction committee members handling the case “talk it out among themselves until there’s a consensus" on penalties.

How long that takes depends partly “on how much disagreement there is,” Potuto said. But typically, “you get a decision on everything that weekend.”

So why must schools then wait two to four months before the NCAA informs them of their penalty?

Potuto said infraction committee members want to see what they discussed “in writing and then rethink it. It’s the writing that takes the time. It might take two or three drafts.

“Until the report is written and signed off by everyone [working the case on the infractions committee], it’s not the decision of the committee.” Once the infractions committee signs off,” then the NCAA gets it “formatted and published.”

So if UM goes before infractions in July, it likely would get its penalty sometime between September and November. If it appeals, the process could stretch for another six months beyond that.

“It seems president Shalala will be unhappy even if there is a settlement [of very little additional punishment] because of what happened in the process,” Potuto said. “I can understand her being unhappy with the time it took to get the case ready to go. I don’t think there’s any real good answer that’s going to satisfy all the parties.”

 ### FYI: UM said that Colin McCarthy's tweet saying that former UM tight end Jake Byrne would be the Hurricanes' new tight ends coach is incorrect.

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