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2 posts from April 20, 2013

April 20, 2013

NCAA response to UM has omissions, faulty logic; Dolphins, Heat chatter


News and views on the NCAA’s UM investigation:

### What stood out about the enforcement staff’s response to UM’s motion to dismiss were glaring omissions and in some cases, dubious defense, of its objectionable conduct.

As UM’s motion asserted, 20 of the NCAA’s allegations against UM are “without any corroboration from involved parties other than Nevin Shapiro…. Many were denied by involved former student athletes… If Shapiro described a given allegation on more than one occasion, they considered it… self-corroboration and included the allegation in the notice.”

One of those, we hear: Shapiro giving $50,000 to Vince Wilfork. Also, the NCAA asserts 48 players received VIP access and beverage services from Shapiro; UM says there’s corroborating evidence for only four.

What’s more, “the enforcement staff also included several allegations that were only substantiated by convicted ex-felon Mimi Menoscal, Shapiro’s ex-girlfriend. Menoscal in September 2010 plead guilty to stealing at least $380,000 by running a sham wholesale shipping company that kept up-front payments without ever shipping any products.”

So what did NCAA interim vice president of enforcement Jonathan Duncan say about any of this in his response? Nothing, beyond claiming this “is an improper time” to debate Shapiro’s credibility. Expect Shapiro’s credibility to be a major focus of UM’s defense in its mid-June hearing.

### Amazingly, Duncan gave no indication he found anything objectionable with since-fired investigator Ameen Najjar writing a letter on Shapiro’s behalf to his sentencing judge before the NCAA interviewed anyone else.

Duncan said even though the letter “could be seen as vouching for Shapiro’s credibility, the enforcement staff did not assume that information Shapiro reported was truthful.” Then why did the NCAA charge UM with 20 uncorroborated allegations? And why did Najjar write the letter?

### When an interviewee says something wrong, the NCAA usually alleges dishonesty. But when an NCAA investigator does it, it’s passed off as an honest mistake.

Consider investigator Abigail Grantstein, who was fired because her boyfriend told somebody on a plane last summer that she said she was “going to get” UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad and that he wouldn’t play, even before she received any evidence.

Here's how Grantstein tainted the UM case: Former assistant basketball coach Jake Morton told the NCAA that he repaid a $5000 loan to Shapiro. But Grantstein told Frank Haith that Morton said that Morton delivered $10,000 in cash to Shapiro’s mother’s house in June 2010. When Haith questioned that, puzzled that Morton would say such a thing, Grantstein repeated the misinformation.

Morton said no such thing, and Grantstein’s misstatement was significant, because $10,000 was the figure that Shapiro alleged he paid Morton to ensure DeQuan Jones’ commitment – a claim the NCAA tried to prove but couldn’t. Grantstein also told Haith that Shapiro’s former bodyguard made the same $10,000 claim, even though Sanchez never told the NCAA that and the comment was impermissibly obtained.

Duncan conveniently didn’t mention the Sanchez comment in his response and excused Grantstein’s “misstatement” partly because it didn’t elicit confessions from Haith.

And consider this: Haith told the NCAA that Morton did not talk to him about his relationship with Shapiro. Two weeks later, investigator Brynna Barnhart told Morton: “I’ll be honest, Haith put a lot of the relationship between the men’s basketball program and Nevin on you… that you’re the one who kind of brought Nevin into the program.”

Duncan defended Barnhart too, saying Haith changed part of his story. But Haith never said what Barnhart attributed to him. Instead, Haith said UM’s development staff introduced Shapiro to the program.

### Duncan also defended Stephanie Hannah, assigned to the UM investigation after Najjar was fired, even though she continued to do what Najjar was doing: paying Shapiro’s attorney and collaborating with her to try to get people under oath who didn’t want to speak to the NCAA.

Duncan said Hannah thought this had been approved. What he should be asking is this: Why wouldn’t one of the investigators realize such an arrangement was improper and should be discussed with supervisors? Hannah “either acted in bad faith or was incompetent,” UM says.

### Duncan said the NCAA planned to interview former UM athletic director Paul Dee last June --- 15 months after the investigation started – but didn’t know he was ill. That’s not valid. It was widely known around UM that Dee, who died last May, had throat and tongue cancer and was having trouble speaking.

### Long-time investigator Wayne Black tells us Dee hired him to look into Shapiro several years ago “when no one had heard of the guy.” But sources said Black worked on the case only a few days and found nothing of great concern. Black wanted to tell us more, but UM said he couldn’t.

### Sources say neither Al Golden, Michael Barrow nor any current football staffers are accused of wrongdoing in the Notice of Allegations, Yahoo incorrectly accused both of violations.

### Outrageous: The NCAA never told UM about Najjar’s letter to Shapiro’s judge. UM found out when the Associated Press got it from Perez’s Florida Bar complaint.

### UM is challenging the NCAA using Shapiro’s photos with players as evidence, saying they are undated and aren’t proof of rules violations.

### The NCAA plans to make an issue of its claim that Haith changed part of his story the second time he interviewed.

### Shapiro once gave Najjar a flow chart with 16 schools affected by his violations. Shapiro alleged some committed violations; others signed players that Shapiro said UM improperly recruited.


 ### Musings from Heat president Pat Riley: He said when LeBron James "gets older, he might even have to do less. That’s the great thing about Dwyane Wade. I laugh when people say he’s getting a little bit older or is this or that or anything other than what he is – which is a great, great player. For him to get what he wants, he had to give away something and he gave it away very unselfishly to help this whole team work."

### Riley said putting a cast around his three stars wasn’t "rocket science. It wasn’t like we were on pins and needles about whether this guy was going to sign. They wanted to be here and play with those guys. [It’s] a very competent, eclectic group who really support our best players."… He believes the Heat "has two very good point guards now."

### Riley, on Erik Spoelstra: "It’s been his finest year as a coach. That man who is blessed with a lot [of player talent] is overlooked when really it’s one of the hardest jobs to do – to have to win and Eric has to win."

### Riley, on the state of the  franchise: "What’s going on right now is just crazy. When you come and watch LeBron play every night, I  remember what it was like with Magic Johnson. It’s  great to be part of it and it’s going to be very difficult to maintain because you have to keep winning."

### Milwaukee forward Mike Dunleavy, on LeBron: "There are three new planets out there that might have extraterrestrial life. Maybe he's from one of them."

### Some Dolphins will be disappointed if Miami trades Davone Bess, which hasn’t been ruled out publicly. One defensive player said Bess gets open all the time in practice. “In my opinion, he’s the best receiver we have,” said practice squad receiver Brian Tyms. (Actually, that’s Mike Wallace.).

### The Dolphins have expressed interest in -- and spent a lot of time with --- several North Carolina players, including offensive tackle Brennan Williams, guards Jonathan Cooper and Travis Bond, running back Gionvani Bernard and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, whom the Dolphins really like.  

### In its perpetual quest for the speed, the Dolphins were one of a limited number of teams that attended a private workout for Utah receiver/All-American kick returner Reggie Dunn, who had four 100-yard touchdown returns last season. They also called him in recent days. He reportedly ran a 4.35 in the 40.  

### Please follow me on Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Shaq speaks out on Heat; Lots of Heat chatter; UM arrest, recruiting news

The tone among NBA analysts has certainly changed from last spring, when Magic Johnson was saying that the Heat did not know how to win, Skip Bayless was spewing his usual LeBron James venom, Bill Simmons was assuring us Miami wouldn’t win the championship, and Jon Barry was announcing he was “done” with the Heat.

This time around, with Miami having won a championship and 37 of its final 39 heading into the playoffs, pundits are far more respectful, far less likely to predict the Heat’s demise.

“I would be surprised if they don’t win the title again,” TNT’s Shaquille O’Neal said by phone last week. “There is no stress, no drama, no negative stuff. They play great team ball. This was the epitome of the Pat Riley culture this season. And Erik Spoelstra has done a great job.”

So who’s the biggest threat to Miami?

“Themselves,” Shaq said. “They look damn near perfect to me. Everyone says they don’t have a big man. They don’t need it.”

### ESPN’s Flip Saunders, the former Timberwolves and Wizards coach, said of the Heat: “I don't see anyone challenging them. I give a lot to credit to Spoelstra, my Coach of the Year.

“You take a team that won a championship being defensive oriented, and he came back this year and changed his offensive philosophy and they became the most efficient offensive team because of that. And then their defense caught up with how they were playing.

“There are teams that are going to be able to beat them a game or two maybe, but I can't see anyone that has the ability to beat them four games in a row.”


First, Bucks guard Brandon Jennings said in March that he hoped Milwaukee would play the Heat in the first round because he believes the Bucks match up well.

Now that a Heat-Bucks series has become a reality, Jennings not only isn’t distancing himself from that rhetoric, but instead is adding fuel.

“I’m sure everybody is writing us off, but I see us winning the series in six,” Jennings said this week. “There’s no pressure on us.”

The comment caught the Heat’s attention, even though coach Eric Spoelstra said he wouldn’t mention it to his players because “that wouldn’t deserve me bringing it up. This thing will be decided between those four lines, and you can’t hide from it.”

Here’s how Heat players reacted to Jennings’ prediction:

### Chris Bosh: “If he thinks they’re going to win, great. They already had our attention. Now they have more of our attention.”

### Shane Battier: “There’s no need for talk. Just play. Let your game speak for itself…. We don’t give that sort of talk much time. We have more important things to worry about.”

### Dwyane Wade: “We don’t need any motivation from what a guy says. A guy is supposed to have confidence in his team.”

### Asked if he appreciates the Bucks’ confidence, LeBron James said: “I can only appreciate what we do here. Whatever their confidence or motivation, that’s for them to figure out, worry about.”

Wade said there’s no risk of overlooking an opponent that finished six games under .500. “We know they’re a good team, especially if you let them get to their game…. We respect teams more than they respect us, probably.”

Spoelstra said overlooking an opponent isn’t an issue with this team.

“Milwaukee will get the respect they deserve,” Spoelstra said. “This team can be very challenging, with that speed and quickness, great shot-blocking.”

He said he told his team to “stay in the moment” because “everybody wants to fast track right now. For some ill-informed people, this series doesn’t draw enough interest in their eyes.” To wit: Game 2 is relegated to NBA TV.

But Spoelstra said: “This is a team that has challenged us, and we struggled against them in our first two games.”

The Heat beats the Bucks in overtime in their first meeting, lost by 19 at Milwaukee in December, and beat them by 13 and 11 in their final two matchups.


Spoelstra has remained non-committal about whether he will stick with Udonis Haslem as a starter or instead opt for Battier, who started in last year’s Finals and through the first month of this season.

Haslem has started since mid-December, including throughout Miami’s 27-game winning streak, but said Spoelstra hasn’t told him if he will remain in that role.

“I’m as anxious as you guys are to see what happens,” Battier said, saying the decision could hinge partly on matchups.

### James said sitting out three games in the past week “allowed me to miss the game again, and that’s what I need. You need something just to kind of make you miss it, love it again.”

### Wade, who missed some time late in the season with soreness in his right knee, did not participate in the contact portion of practice but said he hopes to practice fully on Saturday. Spoelstra said the rest of his team is healthy.

### The Heat said a limited number of tickets remain for Games 1 and 2.


### UM was disappointed about linebacker Gabe Terry’s arrest for felony marijuana possession because it was counting him for next season. Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said Terry was useful in a third down package last season and likes his upside as a pass rusher.

Terry has been removed from UM’s on-line roster and was suspended, with his longterm future here in serious question.

### Miami Northwestern defensive end/linebacker Mike Smith, a skilled pass rusher, has received a UM offer and told Canesport.com on Friday that there’s a 90 percent chance he will accept. “Miami’s at the top, no doubt,” he said.

Rivals.com ranks Smith 24th among all weakside defensive ends. He had 73 tackles and 18 sacks last season.

### Please follow me on Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

And please see our last post on what Pat Riley said in his state of the franchise news conference today.