CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The long and sometimes strange University of Miami investigation took another turn Wednesday afternoon.
This time it could be positive for the embattled athletics department.
The NCAA launched an internal investigation into the tactics its enforcement staff used while investigating the Miami football and basketball programs. An angry NCAA president Mark Emmert on Wednesday afternoon addressed the “shocking affair” that could bring the entire investigative process into question.
It will delay the anticipated notice of allegations from the 22-month long investigation into Miami’s compliance and recruiting practices. The internal investigation is expected to take no longer than two weeks, and Miami won’t hear any details about the formal charges it faces until that step is completed.
All aspects of the investigation will be addressed, but it’s the method used to gain testimony that’s at the center of the problem. NCAA enforcement staff members allegedly worked with the attorney of former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro to obtain information during his bankruptcy case. Shapiro, who’s jailed on an unrelated Ponzi scheme, claims he was behind eight years of NCAA violations committed with help from various coaches then employed by Miami.
Because the NCAA does not have subpoena powers, enforcement staff had access to information it couldn’t otherwise obtain.
“That is obviously improper conduct completely contrary to our policies and procedures,” Emmert said on a hastily called afternoon teleconference. “It’s something for me, and for everyone, (that) is deeply disturbing.”
The attorney and NCAA investigator were not named Wednesday, but Elena Perez reportedly was the Shapiro lawyer involved in the depositions.
“One of the questions that has to be answered, unequivocally, is what was the nature of that contractual arrangement and what was all the activity that that individual was involved with,” Emmert said.
Details of this strategy have been published several times during the past few months, but Emmert said red flags were raised when NCAA billing documents were filled containing questionable expenses for a Shapiro attorney.
“I’m concerned by behavior that I view as grossly inappropriate that we can’t tolerate,” he said.
Emmert said only a “small portion” of the evidence is believed to be tainted, however. But it was the information obtained from the Shapiro bankruptcy proceedings that were considered most damaging. Former Shapiro associate Sean “Peewee” Allen was reportedly deposed with questions from NCAA investigators more than a year ago.
Any information that the internal investigation finds to have been discovered improperly will be thrown out, Emmert said.
The NCAA president quickly said any talk of throwing out all charges against Miami is “premature.” In his two-year tenure with the NCAA, Emmert said he’s never seen anything like this alleged misstep in the investigative process.