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.
Changes in the University’s Medical Care Contradict Promises to Operate Transparently
At a time when safety in football has never been more scrutinized, changes in Penn State University’s once-exemplary medical care, just 18 months after the biggest scandal in college sports history, contradicts recent promises by the school to reign in the athletic department and operate transparently, according to a special report in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED by senior writer David Epstein.
Wayne Sebastianelli, the beloved longtime Penn State director of athletic medicine and orthopedic surgeon-head physician for the football team since 1992, was relieved of his duties this past January as part of an abrupt shift in the school’s health-care program for football. Even more troubling are the circumstances surrounding the change. SI finds that the policy shift can be attributed to the controversial January 2013 appointment of athletic director David Joyner, a former member of the Penn State board of trustees who had no experience in athletic administration and had a contentious history with Sebastianelli. Just four days after Joyner officially assumed the full title of AD, Sebastianelli was ordered to clear out his office.
“Here we are trying to change our image and approach administrative changes with clarity and openness,” says Mac Evarts, former dean of Penn State’s College of Medicine and a current professor of orthopedics at the university, “and now we have another example of a decision being driving by athletics.” (PAGE 44)
Sebastianelli kept his title of director of athletic medicine, but his work with the football team, which included attending nearly every practice and game, was over. He was replaced by a new head physician, Peter Seidenberg, and Scott Lynch, an orthopedic consultant for football, who will now attend home games and at least one practice a week. Penn State released a statement at the time saying that the “change in physicians was made after a review of procedures and personnel by Coach Bill O’Brien and is part of an on-going re-organization of the football staff.” (PAGE 46)
O’Brien told SI that Joyner approved and implemented the changes that he recommended. However, trustee sources say that Joyner’s rationale for the change was cost savings. “It’s less good care,” says Vincent Pellegrini, the former chair of the department of orthopedics at Penn State “in exchange for saving a few bucks.” (PAGE 47)
The report finds that Joyner, an orthopedic surgeon and former All-America offensive lineman and wrestler at Penn State in the 1970s, actually campaigned for Sebastianelli’s job when it was created in 1992. Joyner previously served as the head physician to U.S. teams at the ’92 Winter Olympics and was the founder of Joyner Sports Medicine Institute (JSI), which developed 19 physical therapy centers in a number of states. The search committee chose Sebastianelli, a move that did not sit well with Joyner, according to Pellegrini. Over the next decade, Pellegrini said, “Penn State had a model program for sports medicine.” (PAGE 45)
According to current and former Penn State staff members, administrators, former players and longtime colleagues and friends of both Joyner and Sebastianelli, the decision started a rivalry between the two doctors. “Joyner kept working behind the scenes to become the sports medicine doctor at Penn State,” Evarts says. “And I have to tell you, now he’s taken advantage of what had been a long-standing, very competitive relationship with Sebastianelli.” Through a University spokesman, Joyner said, “It’s terribly unfortunate some want to make baseless accusations….The vast majority of Penn Staters want the focus to be on our dedicated student-athletes, as it should be.” (PAGE 45)
The special report also notes that O’Brien hired Penn State alum Tim Bream, who worked with Joyner at the ’92 Olympics, as athletic trainer in February 2012. Sources involved in health care for Penn State athletics who spoke with SI on the condition of anonymity say they saw Bream, who does not have a medical degree, engage in practices normally reserved for doctors, such as giving players anti-inflammatory drugs without a prescription and lancing a boil on a player’s neck. University medical sources also said that Bream told physicians to stop talking with the parents of players and that doctors should not spend as much time with the team.
Epstein spoke to former Penn State walk-on wide receiver Garrett Lerner. Lerner says Bream treated him in February with an electrical-stimulation machine that left two severe burns on his right leg. Epstein writes, “The greater problem in Lerner’s case, he says, was that later in the week, when his leg became painful, no physician was in the athletic training room to examine him, and the athletic trainers decided simply to keep the burns covered.” (PAGE 48) While Lerner insists that training staff took good care of him, his leg had become infected as he was not seen by a doctor for several days.
Even before the removal of Sebastianelli, Joyner’s appointment to AD was questioned. “You have to ask yourself how a member of the board of trustees was hired as AD without a national search,” says Brandon Short, a football captain in 1998 and ’99 (PAGE 45). Epstein refers to a November 2012 special report issued by the Pennsylvania auditor general that cites Joyner’s transition from trustee to AD as an example that conveys “a public message that influential insiders are running the university, and that objectivity and independent thinking are compromised.” (PAGE 46)
About the writer:
Senior Writer David Epstein writes about sports science and medicine, Olympic sports, and is an investigative reporter for SI. His science writing has won a number of awards, including the Society of Professional Journalists 2010 Deadline Club Award for an article on the genetics of sports performance. Since 2008, Epstein has co-written several of SI and SI.com’s most important investigative pieces, including the revelation that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003, and a report that revealed a pattern of NCAA violations under former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel.
(NEW YORK – Jan.29, 2013) Athletes continue to search desperately for a competitive edge—even if that search leads them to products of questionable legitimacy, like ground deer-antler velvet—according to an investigative report by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED senior writers David Epstein and George Dohrmann. You can read the full story at SI.com here.
Epstein and Dohrmann found that Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, pro golfer Vijay Singh, members of the 2011 Alabama and LSU college football teams, Raiders defensive end Richard Seymour, NFL linebacker Shawne Merriman, former MLB outfielder Johnny Damon, and former NFL running back Jamal Lewis have all used products whose effectiveness hasn’t been proved by modern science, from an Alabama company called Sports With Alternatives to Steroids (S.W.A.T.S.). Two of the company’s products are advertised to contain deer-antler extract, in spray or pill form. The extract contains IGF-1, or insulin-like growth factor, which is banned by every major pro league and the NCAA.
Mitch Ross, founder of S.W.A.T.S., and Chris Key, a salesman for S.W.A.T.S., recorded phone calls and meetings with their clients and shared them with Epstein and Dohrmann, including a phone conversation with Ray Lewis. In the call, Lewis said, “… send me everything you got” to speed his recovery from a torn triceps injury he suffered on Oct. 14, 2012. Ross said that they issued Lewis a mix of holographic stickers, negatively charged water, and deer-antler pills and extract. “Spray on my elbow every two hours?” Lewis asked. “No,” Ross said, “under your tongue.”
When pressed for comment, Lewis says: “Nobody helped me out with the rehab. I’ve been doing S.W.A.T.S. for a couple years through Hue Jackson (former Ravens QB coach and current Bengals assistant coach), that’s it. That’s my only connection to them.”
The report says S.W.A.T.S.’s influence reached college football as well. Key said he gave S.W.A.T.S.’s hologram stickers—which are “programmed” with both a light beam and radio waves to improve performance—to LSU football players before their 9–6 victory over Alabama, in November 2011. And members of the 2011 BCS champion Alabama Crimson Tide were given S.W.A.T.S. products at a meeting with Key (a gathering that Key taped with a pen camera and showed to SI) on the eve of Bama’s 21–0 victory over LSU in January 2012. Six months later Bama linebacker Alex Watkins was featured in a YouTube video citing the boost he got from their products.
Vijay Singh continues to support S.W.A.T.S. He paid for the full S.W.A.T.S. regimen, which included the IGF-1 substance banned by the PGA. Singh says he uses the spray “every couple of hours … every day. I’m looking forward to some change in my body.”
In June 2009 David Vobora failed an off-season test for methyltestosterone and was suspended for four games. Vobora had his S.W.A.T.S. deer-antler spray tested and according to court documents it contained methyltestosterone. Vobora sued S.W.A.T.S., alleging a lack of quality control that allowed the spray bottle to be contaminated, and on June 20, 2011, was awarded $5.4 million dollars.
After the verdict the NFL, the PGA, and MLB notified athletes that the S.W.A.T.S. deer-antler spray had been implicated in a positive drug test. Clients immediately demanded that their names not be associated with S.W.A.T.S. This is when Ross closed his business and reopened under a slightly different name. Epstein and Dohrmann write:
“Overnight, the tiny company that marketed itself as a legal alternative to steroids and that depended on player testimonials became as untouchable for pro athletes as an electric fence.”
The report found that other athletes took S.W.A.T.S. products after the lawsuit and warnings from the leagues. According to a phone conversation that Ross recorded and posted online, Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman used the deer-antler spray and deer-antler pills in 2011 while rehabbing from a torn right Achilles tendon. Another phone call taped by Ross six months after the Vobora verdict has him offering his latest products to Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour.
Before the lawsuit, S.W.A.T.S had largely relied on testimonials of professional athletes and coaches to help spread the word. Ross told Epstein and Dohrmann that:
- In 2007 Jamal Lewis, former Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns running back, went through about 40 bottles of the deer-antler spay. Lewis told a Ravens spokesman: “I didn’t use any spray or anything like that.”
- In 2008 Johnny Damon, then with the Yankees, took chips for neck pain and provided a testimonial supporting the company. Through Damon’s agent, Damon say’s he is no longer affiliated with S.W.A.T.S. and has asked to be removed from its website.
- In 2008 then Raven’s QB coach Hue Jackson invited Ross to the Ravens’ facility to hand out products to Ravens players (PAGE 64). In 2010, after Jackson was hired as head coach of the Raiders, he met Ross to tape a video testimonial to put on YouTube. “Our players swear by them,” Jackson says in the video.
S.W.A.T.S. continues to market its products and has even touched upon brain trauma. Joe DeLamielleure, a Hall of Fame Bills offensive lineman and plaintiff in a brain injury lawsuit against the NFL, told Epstein and Dohrmann that S.W.A.T.S.’s pills and deer-antler spray help him sleep better.
Legal or not, Epstein and Dohrmann also found that science doesn’t support the claims that S.W.A.T.S. products provide any sort of competitive edge:
“No such thing as negatively charged water exists, according to Stephen Lower, an emeritus chemistry professor at Canada’s Simon Fraser University.”
In a test in his lab at the NYU Polytechnic Institute, radio frequency expert and electrical engineering professor Michael Knox showed SPORTS ILLUSTRATED that S.W.A.T.S.’s chips “appear to just be stickers.”
About the writers:
Senior Writer David Epstein writes about sports science and medicine, Olympic sports, and is an investigative reporter for SI. His science writing has won a number of awards, including the Society of Professional Journalists 2010 Deadline Club Award for an article on the genetics of sports performance. Since 2008, Epstein has co-written several of SI and SI.com’s most important investigative pieces, including the revelation that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003, and an investigation that revealed a pattern of NCAA violations under former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel.
Senior Writer George Dohrmann has been with SPORTS ILLUSTRATED since 2000 and his primary beat is investigative reporting. He won journalism’s top honor, the Pulitzer Prize, in 2000 while at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Pulitzer cited his “determined reporting, despite negative reader reaction, that revealed academic fraud in the men’s basketball program at the University of Minnesota.” Among other honors: Dohrmann has earned the Associated Press Sports Editors investigative honors award (1995, 1996 and 2000) as well as an APSE award in feature writing (2000). He has also covered college football, college basketball and high school sports for SI and SI.com. Dohrmann is the author of the book, Play Their Hearts Out, an exposé about youth basketball to be published by Random House in October 2010.
This week’s cover story of Sports Illustrated looks inside the lives of ordinary players whose careers were defined by the choice they made, to cheat or not to cheat.
10 years ago, senior writer Tom Verducci, uncovered the use of performance-enhancing drugs in major league baseball (MLB). Former National League MVP and admitting steroid user Ken Caminiti told SI that he had used performance-enhancing drugs and believed that about as many major league players were using steroids as were playing the game clean.
Verducci revisits an era that has been defined by tainted records and court cases, by examining the playing careers of four right handed pitchers who were members of the Minnesota Twins organization in mid-to-late 1990s. They had similar skills and backgrounds. None were drafted by the Twins higher than the fourth round of the MLB amateur draft. One of the four, however, took steroids, and he was the only one who ever reached the major leagues. His name was Dan Naulty and his decision to cheat the game, his teammates and himself affected all their lives.
Tom spent some time with us to discuss this profound story.
Inside Sports Illustrated: Your story really sheds a light on how the steroid era in baseball had a wide ranging impact across all levels of baseball. Was that your goal with this piece?
Tom Verducci: The goal was to tell the story of steroids in baseball on the grass roots level: to humanize the decisions and dilemmas of a dirty era.
Inside Sports Illustrated: The 1994 Fort Myers Miracle, a Class A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, it doesn’t get much more obscure than that. How did you identify these four players to be the focal point of your piece? What was the genesis of the story?
Tom Verducci: I was really intrigued when Dan Naulty showed empathy for the clean players of his era. Almost nobody admits steroid use even to this day, and fewer still show regard for the players they cheated. It made me wonder: well, who may have been harmed by his use? Who are the people and what are their stories? I wanted to find players who played the same position, were about the same age and fit the same skill profile – in other words, to start out with a somewhat level field and see what happened when steroids were introduced. I had no idea what I would find. In the back of my mind I was prepared to find other players who used steroids. There was no way to know for sure. As it turned out, I did find another player, a catcher on the team, who used steroids and spoke eloquently about the complexity of that decision.
Inside Sports Illustrated: Upon reading many of the quotes within the story, 10 years later, it still seems as if the wounds of not cracking the big leagues and the feelings of betrayal are still apparent and fresh. What was your impression after speaking to them? Were you surprised at their reaction?
Tom Verducci: I was not surprised by their reaction. I think what hurt them was to find out years later that Naulty had used steroids. They never suspected his drug use when he was their teammate, and I think the shock of discovery made the pain and anger more visceral. He was their teammate and friend. It also speaks to how deep-seeded is the dream of becoming a big league ballplayer. Some of them spoke about feeling like a failure because they didn’t get there. It’s very powerful. If you get to the big leagues even for one day, you have made that dream come true. To think your dream died in part because others cheated compounds the disappointment.
Inside Sports Illustrated: Dan Naulty seems to have made a major reformation in his life. Did you sense that he was remorseful for using PED’s throughout his career?
Tom Verducci: He was not remorseful at all during his usage. It reminded me of Ken Caminiti telling me that he had no regrets about using because it was something of the unwritten rules of engagement at the time. It’s rationalizing poor behavior, of course, but the athlete often needs rationalization to cope with the territory of competition. And Naulty was admittedly selfish; he didn’t care about anyone but himself. Nauty’s empathy only came about when he became a true Christian man. Then his remorse became very profound. In fact, I think he is pained and saddened to this day about what he did to others. I don’t get the sense those feelings will ever fade.
Inside Sports Illustrated: The use of PED’s fostered a “turn a blind eye” culture within major league clubs. With the implementation of a stringent MLB drug testing policy, what has been the most noticeable change in culture at the club level that you have noticed?
Tom Verducci: Players no longer regard cheating with drugs as an acceptable part of the culture of the game. It still goes on, but to a far less extent. But the drug users are marginalized as risk-takers and cheaters. It’s the difference between driving 100 mph on the Autobahn or through a school zone. There are speed limits now and everybody understands.
Inside Sports Illustrated: Lastly, what was the one thing that you learned that fascinated you the most in your reporting of this story?
Tom Verducci: The life of Dan Naulty is just amazingly complex, sad, heartbreaking, redemptive . . . you name it. I had no idea his family background was so awful – a drug addict for a sister, a mother and father who were not there for him, sexual abuse from male and female authority figures . . . he has been through so much that what makes his story so compelling is that steroids were only a part of his saga. It’s uplifting to see someone wind up so happy after a life that had been so dark.
In this week’s issue, Sports Illustrated shines a light on the far reaching impact of Title IX. The historic legislation has extended beyond just the playing field, changing the role of women in society across the country. As we sit on the cusp of the 40 year anniversary of this historic law, this week’s issue features nine stories that reflect the spirit of Title IX. Senior editor Trisha Blackmar oversaw the project and was instrumental in the conceptualization and creation of this unique issue.
Inside Sports Illustrated: SI’s examination of Title IX includes contributions from more than a dozen writers and photographers. How long did it take to complete this comprehensive issue and what were some of your biggest challenges?
Trisha Blackmar: We started planning the issue back in the fall. The possibilities were overwhelming at first: should we focus on the law’s history? Assess what’s going on now? Propose changes for the future? Most of all, I didn’t want the package to be preachy or filled with a lot of statistics and charts. We decided to do a collection of essays as a way to cover a lot of territory and balance the obvious subjects—Billie Jean King, for example—with more obscure references that might interest SI’s readers, such as how Texas football coach Darrell Royal helped to unwittingly bulletproof the legislation.
Inside Sports Illustrated: Nine different essays (Nine for IX) are included in this week’s issue, reporting on a variety of monumental moments throughout women’s athletic history. Are there any other moments that you wish could have included? If so, which one comes to mind?
Trisha Blackmar: One is the 1999 Women’s World Cup final. We referenced this game in several ways (see Brandi Chastain’s iconic celebration), but this event certainly could have been its own essay. I can’t think of a time when more attention was focused on women’s sports in such a positive way.
Inside Sports Illustrated: While researching the development and implementation of Title IX, what did you find most fascinating?
Trisha Blackmar: It was interesting to trace the legal challenges to the law, and to see the many ways Title IX has been used to protect women’s rights, especially in terms of sexual harassment and sexual assault on college campuses.
Inside Sports Illustrated: As a former collegiate athlete, does the 40th anniversary of Title IX hold special significance in your life?
Trisha Blackmar: Absolutely. As a so-called Title IX baby, I came of age at the perfect time to take advantage of the opportunities the law helped create. My athletic career was not notable in any way, but playing college-level sports had a huge impact on my life and career. My competitive instinct serves me well in the halls of a sports magazine!