Sunday commentary: NCAA loses the moral high ground

Miami now looks like the least guilty of all the parties in investigation mess

The Miami HeraldJanuary 27, 2013 

MIAMI

I WOULD NEVER say this investigation of the University of Miami could not get any more ridiculous, because there is always the chance we will find out that Manti Te’o has been on the NCAA payroll interviewing nonexistent witnesses.

Short of that, though, yes — the NCAA’s probe of Miami athletics officially sank Wednesday to a level of absurdity that left you unsure whether to be angry, bewildered or howling with laughter.

Investigators are now investigating the investigators who were doing the investigating.

No. Seriously.

I think if you Google the phrase “inmates running the asylum,” up might pop Wednesday’s extraordinary admission by NCAA president Mark Emmert that the investigation into wrongdoing by Miami has itself been contaminated by wrongdoing.

You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

Miami’s accuser, Nevin Shapiro, is a convicted liar and thief presently serving hard time in a $930 million Ponzi scheme.

Now we learn Miami’s judge and jury, the NCAA, has in its two-years-plus investigation engaged in what Emmert admitted was “improper conduct” that he called “grossly inappropriate” and “shocking.”

Suddenly, then, somehow, the university being investigated — the accused — looks like the least guilty of all the parties in this mess, which isn’t easy considering Hurricane athletes were alleged to have been lavished with stripper parties on yachts among years of undetected Shapiro skullduggery.

Enough!

Call a mistrial.

Reach a settlement.

End this now.

When the NCAA starts cheating to catch cheaters, it has abdicated the moral authority to pass judgment.

I appreciate the transparency in Emmert’s astounding admission and the steps being taken to make sure this doesn’t happen again, but in the short-term, as relates to Miami and this investigation, there is sufficient cause to not move forward.

The NCAA circumvented its lack of subpoena powers by improperly hiring Shapiro’s defense attorney, Maria Elena Perez, to depose witnesses and obtain information against Miami that would not otherwise have been accessible. It isn’t enough that Emmert says no information improperly obtained will be held against Miami.

This was a corruption of power. The entire case is poisoned.

Miami president Donna Shalala was right Wednesday to call herself “frustrated, disappointed and concerned” by the NCAA’s gross ethical breach. Attorneys for both sides should be working to conclude a matter that both sides now surely want behind them fast. Miami lawyers now have some leverage in that discussion.

The integrity of the entire investigation has been compromised by this outrageous misconduct.

The NCAA owes the University of Miami credit for time served, in effect, and a gavel to end this case now with minimal or no further punishment.

Heck, the NCAA owes Miami an apology while it’s at it.

Miami already has self-imposed the suspensions of eight involved football players, withdrawn itself from two bowl games and an ACC Championship Game and voluntarily reduced the number of scholarships it will award next month.

That strikes us as enough punishment already served considering the despicable reputation of the accuser and now the damnable actions of the NCAA itself.

And you have to wonder: How much of those self-imposed punishments happened perhaps because Miami got word the NCAA had obtained damning information that it should never have legally had in the first place?

Supposedly the university still will be receiving its official Notice of Allegations.

You know what, though?

There will be nothing among those allegations against Miami — nothing — quite as wrong as what college sports’ governing body has just admitted of itself.

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