SI Special Report – How the NCAA’s Mishandling of the Miami Case Exposed an Enforcement Department Seemingly Powerless To Do Its Job

After months of interviews with current and former NCAA staffers, as well as with convicted felon and former notorious University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, a special report entitled “The Institution Has Lost Control” in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED by senior writers Pete Thamel and Alexander Wolff exposes a fractured NCAA enforcement department seemingly powerless to do its job—despite recent efforts.

“People are questioning the need and effectiveness of an enforcement staff in general,” says former NCAA enforcement rep Abigail Grantstein, “to the point that I wonder if the membership will say we don’t want it.” (PAGE 65) “The time is ripe to cheat,” adds an ex-enforcement staffer. “There’s no policing going on.” (PAGE 66)

Shapiro, whose initial allegations that he supplied improper benefits to more than 100 Miami football and basketball players between 2002 and ‘10  came to light and was mostly corroborated in an August 2011 Yahoo! Sports report, now claims that he used inside information from Hurricanes players, coaches and athletic department staffers to win bets on 23 Miami football games between 2003 and ’09. Shapiro supplied SI with financial statements and bank records from 2005 to ’08 that show dozens of five- and six-figure sums moving from Shapiro’s entities to Adam Meyer’s during the college football season. Meyer is the operator of a handicapping website Meyer’s lawyer, Joel Hirschhorn, told SI that Meyer would place bets for Shapiro when his client was in Las Vegas.

An example of Shapiro’s new claims: He told SI that several days before favored Miami lost 19-16 to N.C. State on Nov. 3, 2007, he learned from a coach that quarterback Kyle Wright would be benched due to a bad knee and ankle. Shapiro said he got his bet in before the benching became public, and the line moved from 13 points to 11. Records show that six days after the game, nine wires moved $1.18 million from one Shapiro business to another. Shapiro claims it was all money from the N.C. State game.

This week the NCAA committee on infractions will hear the Miami case, but Shapiro says his gambling accusations won’t be a part of it. E-mails from earlier this year obtained by SI between Shapiro and an NCAA investigator make it clear that Shapiro wouldn’t consent to an interview with the NCAA to discuss his gambling on Miami games after the NCAA balked at paying for his attorney to attend the interview.

In addition to Shapiro’s claims, the SI report found that policies under NCAA president Mark Emmert since he took office in October 2010 have resulted in an atmosphere of instability, distrust and tension in the NCAA enforcement division. Among the findings: New performance metrics pressure NCAA investigators to try to solve cases more quickly; Emmert’s public comments on ongoing cases has disheartened staffers; and college presidents have more direct access with Emmert to discuss cases involving their schools. All of this has led to a staff reluctant to be aggressive on high profile cases.

Included in the SI report:

  • Rich Johanningmeier, one of two NCAA enforcement reps originally assigned to the Miami case, retired in the middle of the investigation last spring. He told SI that he had found Shapiro to be substantially truthful and is taken aback by the interest college presidents, such as Miami president Donna Shalala, express in active investigations. Johanningmeier also noted how much more involved Emmert was than his predecessors. Johanningmeier says, “You were more aware that there was an interest from the [NCAA] president’s office in the cases than in the past.” (PAGE 63)
  • Emmert’s No. 2, Jim Isch, began judging all NCAA departments with performance metrics, including an expectation that no investigation would take more than 12 months. Johanningmeier says he considered the Miami case to be a two-year undertaking.
  • Shortly after being fired last spring for contracting with Shapiro attorney Maria Elena Perez to pose questions to witnesses who would not cooperate with the NCAA, Ameen Najjar, the other NCAA enforcement rep initially assigned to the case, sent Shapiro an e-mail that said his superiors “simply want to get the case done, even if it is half or only one quarter done. I don’t know if it is simply to meet some arbitrary time line or the upper levels are trying to save Miami. I suspect it’s the latter.” (PAGE 63)
  • In 2011 the NCAA introduced a new enforcement model that assigned multiple staffers to one investigation. “One of the strong points under the old system was that we had a person who knew a case inside out,” Johanningmeier says. “With ownership comes responsibility. These were no longer your cases. They were team cases.” (PAGE 65) Former enforcement chief Julie Lach claims the new approach was effective and led to a speedier resolution in the case against Ohio State and coach Jim Tressel.
  • Controversial episodes beyond the Miami case also disheartened enforcement employees. The NCAA abandoned a recruiting violation case against UCLA basketball player Shabazz Muhammad after the boyfriend of Grantstein was overheard boasting on a plane that the NCAA would find violations. Additionally, the NCAA’s harsh punishment of Penn State after the Jerry Sandusky scandal was regarded as overreach by many NCAA staffers, especially since the enforcement division never conducted an investigation.

Visit later today to read Pete Thamel’s take on the ineptitude of the NCAA enforcement process and Alexander Wolff’s intimate look at what it was like interviewing Shapiro through a series of jailhouse interviews.


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