SI Special Report – How the NCAA’s Mishandling of the Miami Case Exposed an Enforcement Department Seemingly Powerless To Do Its JobPosted: June 12, 2013
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 AdamWins.com. 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 SI.com 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.
Didn’t have a chance to read and watch all of the great content on SI.com this week? Inside SI has you covered. Here’s a selection of some of the top Sports Illustrated stories and video productions from the past week.
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This week’s Sports Illustrated presented my team with the ultimate challenge of designing the cover and feature story at the wee hours of late Monday night and early Tuesday morning due to the college basketball national championship being played on the evening of our weekly deadline. While we are used to having more time to come up with our concepts, this issue is an example of how a tight deadline can sometimes force you to not over think the process. Our cover and inside design wound up being extremely impactful. I’m really proud of everyone who contributed to it.
To get a head start, we designed the entire issue besides the cover and game story before tipoff of the Louisville-Michigan game. This allowed all of us to watch what wound up being a classic title game. Throughout the game, the editors and my team took mental snapshots of key moments, players, etc. Since the game was very close, we had to consider scenarios of either team winning the game.
When the final buzzer sounded around 11:30 pm on Monday night we still weren’t sure what or who to feature on the cover. A team shot? A key play? Cardinals’ head coach Rick Pitino? The tournament most outstanding player Luke Hancock? Or the star of the second half and team leader Peyton Siva? As we were bouncing ideas around, SI Managing Editor Chris Stone heard Kevin Ware, the injured Cardinal who inspired his team, say in an interview that his teammates were all brothers. The editorial team decided that the headline should include the word “Brothers”. This was a rare case when the headline preceded the cover shot.
We now had to find a shot that fit. At around 1 am Tuesday, we started scouring through all the photos that came in from our talented team of photographers that were in Atlanta. We saw great actions shots, team shots and shots of coach Pitino, but then a brilliant photo from John W. McDonough came in—it showed two of the Louisville brothers, Hancock and Siva, jumping in the air celebrating with each other. It perfectly fit our headline, as it encompasses champions, brothers and shows the title game’s two best players. I am extremely proud of the process and final product.
Our work wasn’t done however. We still had to design Luke Winn’s feature story on Louisville. This is where we could use fantastic action shots that came in from our team in Atlanta, such as the game changing foul called on Michigan’s Trey Burke when it clearly appeared that he blocked Siva’s shot. All in all, it was a mad dash until about 4 am Tuesday to complete this week’s issue.
Time for some sleep…then on to the next one!
- Chris Hercik (@Chercik), Sports Illustrated Creative Director