We’ll ask it again: At this point, would you expect anything else?
The NCAA’s investigation of the Miami program has already been tarnished thanks to some serious screw-ups by its enforcement staff. Now, there’s another report of more unethical practices on the NCAA’s part. According to the Miami Herald, NCAA director of enforcement, Stephanie Hannah, continued to work with Maria Elena Perez, the attorney of former UM booster Nevin Shapiro, to obtain information relevant to the Association’s case against the Hurricanes.
Hannah succeeded former NCAA director of enforcement Ameen Najjar last May. Najjar, as you’ll recall, was the focal point of the NCAA’s external investigation into the missteps taken in the Miami case. Najjar allowed Perez to depose witnesses in a bankruptcy case for relevant information in exchange for payment. That, of course, was a huge no-no in the eyes of the NCAA’s legal team — the information was eventually thrown out of Miami’s Notice of Allegations — though Najjar proceeded with the plan anyway without proper approval.
The Associated Press reported earlier this month that Najjar also wrote a letter to Shapiro’s judge indicating the NCAA may hire Shapiro as a consultant one day.
When Najjar left the NCAA last year, Hannah continued the policy of working with Perez. In an email exchange last July, Hannah wrote, “Regarding the enforcement staff’s interest in questioning [name redacted], attached is a document that outlines questions/topics to discuss with him.”
Per the Herald, that redacted name was Shapiro’s bodyguard, Mario Sanchez; his deposition never came to fruition, however. The NCAA has since ended its working relationship with Perez.
Ken Wainstein of the Cadwalader law firm — the same law firm that conducted the NCAA’s external review — told the Herald in an email that Hannah was unaware that her practices were considered unethical.
“Ms. Hannah assumed there was nothing amiss about the arrangement [with Perez] and that it had been completely blessed prior to her involvement in the case. In light of those circumstances, it is understandable that she raised no alarms about the Perez arrangement,” Wainstein wrote.
Former NCAA vice president of enforcement, Jule Roe Lach, was also under the impression that Najjar’s plan was given the green light, according to the external report. Lach was fired by the NCAA earlier this year.
Interestingly enough though, Hannah’s actions were not included in the Cadwalader’s report.
“[The report] was not intended… to describe all aspects of Mr. Shapiro’s relationship with the enforcement staff,” Wainstein wrote to the Herald.
The NCAA did not respond to the paper’s request for comment.
But that’s not all. The Herald also reports that Miami is prepared to allege that NCAA investigators lied to interview subjects by “claiming that other people interviewed made comments they never made, in order to trick the subjects into revealing incriminating information they otherwise might not…”
Miami, which is not required to release its NOA but has vehemently disagreed with it publicly, is expected to include both of the aforementioned arguments in a motion to dismiss the case on Friday. Though the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions cannot dismiss a case before a hearing — in this instance, the hearing is expected to occur sometime in June — Miami is reportedly set to dispute that as well.
Whether or not UM will get the case tossed, be it now or later, remains to be seen. The fact that the NCAA has turned this investigation into an unmitigated disaster is much more obvious.