Over the summer, the NCAA took unprecedented steps by giving president Mark Emmert the proverbial keys to Penn State’s fate in the aftermath of the Freeh Report on the university’s (in)action against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Now, and as it relates to the ongoing investigation of Miami’s athletic program, the Association is yet again going a more unconventional, although not unprecedented, route.
According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the NCAA has mailed letters to former Hurricane players who allegedly committed NCAA violations by accepting impermissible benefits from Shapiro with a clear ultimatum: either talk or non-response will be considered an admission of involvement. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports was later able to confirm the letters had been sent. Former players must respond by this Friday, Nov. 23 and that’s Black Friday OMG double meaning!
Here’s one letter Jackson was able to obtain (sent to a player’s attorney):
“The purpose of this letter is to apprise you that the NCAA enforcement staff is requesting to schedule an interview with your clients regarding their knowledge of or involvement in possible NCAA violations concerning the University of Miami, Florida, football program.
“Interviewing your clients is important in order for the enforcement staff to conduct a thorough investigation, and both the staff and the institution request you and your clients’ cooperation in this matter. However, at this time, all attempts to schedule and execute interviews with [blank] have been unsuccessful. As a result, this letter serves as a formal and final request by the NCAA enforcement staff for interviews with [blank] to be completed by Nov. 23, 2012.
“If we do not hear back from you or your clients by that time, the staff will consider the non-response as your client’s admission of involvement in NCAA violations. You may contact me at [blank] in order to arrange this interview. Your assistance in this matter is appreciated.”
Assistant Director of Enforcement
A few things here. The NCAA does not have jurisdiction over former athletes, meaning it can’t penalize them personally. The only football players the NCAA can punish are the ones who played for Miami at the time of the investigation. The NCAA’s statute of limitations goes back four years, but does not apply when dealing with what are determined to be “willful violators.”
Shapiro, a former UM booster who is now serving jail time for his role in a Ponzi scheme, alleges that he began providing benefits to players as far back as the early 2000′s. Charles Robinson‘s Yahoo! Sports report identified 72 current and players who received benefits. Eight UM players were ruled ineligible for at least one game last season for accepting gifts from Shapiro.
We’ve linked to NCAA expert John Infante of the Bylaw Blog before, and here’s his take on the situation. According to the NCAA’s Legislative Services Database, “The Committee on Infractions shall base its findings on information presented to it that it determines to be credible, persuasive and of a kind on which reasonably prudent persons rely in the conduct of serious affairs.”
The questions are what evidence does the NCAA have so far, and if the response from former players is silence, are the Shapiro allegations credible enough by themselves to be used against Miami?
They’re not taking Shapiro’s word over the players’ if the players refuse to testify. They’re taking Shapiro’s word over nothing.
— John Infante (@John_Infante) November 21, 2012
Granted, it’s damn-near impossible to think the NCAA has less evidence than what Robinson reported last year. However, this investigation has been going on for a while and the letters indicate the NCAA is still having trouble corroborating all the parts of Shapiro’s story. So, the NCAA’s enforcement staff is prepared to move forward with a case with the evidence available because, hey, #YOLO #amirite?
It’s amazing that silence from former players could end up costing Miami, but unless the NCAA is able to punish past individuals, these are the kind of steps that will be taken.