Miami’s response to NOA: many allegations ‘remain unsubstantiated’

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Confirming what was reported by the Associated Press Tuesday evening, Miami has in fact received its Notice of Allegations from the NCAA following an investigation into the program spanning over two years.

As of last month, that investigation appeared to be coming to an end with multiple outlets reporting the NCAA was close to handing Miami its NOA. That step took a backseat in a major way less than two weeks later when the NCAA announced it was investigating itself for improper conduct related to the Miami case.

The results of that independent investigation revealed select enforcement staff, including soon-to-be former Vice President of Enforcement, Julie Roe Lach, allowed Nevin Shapiro‘s attorney to depose witnesses in a bankruptcy case in order to seek information related to the UM investigation in exchange for money — despite the fact that the NCAA’s legal staff did not sign off on that particular tactic.

The NCAA did, however, sign off on continuing its investigation of UM and sent the university its NOA on Tuesday — this coming after Miami president Donna Shalala released a scathing open letter asking demanding no additional punitive measures be taken.

As one would imagine, Shalala’s response to the NOA is no different. In a release, Shalala claims that while Miami “takes full responsibility for those NCAA violations… based on fact”, many “allegations included in the Notice of Allegations remain unsubstantiated.” Shalala also directly attacks Shapiro’s claims of providing lavish benefits to athletes, including cars, bounties, and prostitution, calling the story “fabricated.”

It should be pointed out that, because the NCAA lacks subpoena power, it has considerably less access to relevant parties. That’s a big reason why the misconduct of using an attorney to depose witnesses for information occurred in the first place.

But if the NCAA is alleging certain violations by Miami that cannot be backed up without using information provided by Shapiro’s attorney, then the university could have a compelling counterargument on its hands. UM is a private institution and therefore not required to release the NOA.

Point being, Miami looks like it’s prepared to fight this one — be it in front of the COI or in a court of law.

Anyway, here’s Shalala’s statement in its entirety:

“The University of Miami deeply regrets and takes full responsibility for those NCAA violations that are based on fact and are corroborated by multiple individuals and/or documentation.  We have already self-imposed a bowl ban for an unprecedented two-year period, forfeited the opportunity to participate in an ACC championship game, and withheld student-athletes from competition.

“Over the two and a half years since the University of Miami first contacted the NCAA enforcement staff about allegations of rules violations, the NCAA interviewed dozens of witnesses, including current and former Miami employees and student-athletes, and received thousands of requested documents and emails from the University.  Yet despite our efforts to aid the investigation, the NCAA acknowledged on February 18, 2013 that it violated its own policies and procedures in an attempt to validate the allegations made by a convicted felon.  Many of the allegations included in the Notice of Allegations remain unsubstantiated

“Now that the Notice of Allegations has been issued, let me provide some context to the investigation itself:

> Many of the charges brought forth are based on the word of a man who made a fortune by lying. The NCAA enforcement staff acknowledged to the University that if Nevin Shapiro, a convicted con man, said something more than once, it considered the allegation “corroborated”—an argument which is both ludicrous and counter to legal practice.

> Most of the sensationalized media accounts of Shapiro’s claims are found nowhere in the Notice of Allegations.  Despite their efforts over two and a half years, the NCAA enforcement staff could not find evidence of prostitution, expensive cars for players, expensive dinners paid for by boosters, player bounty payments, rampant alcohol and drug use, or the alleged hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts given to student-athletes, as reported in the media.  The fabricated story played well—the facts did not. 

> The NCAA enforcement staff failed, even after repeated requests, to interview many essential witnesses of great integrity who could have provided first-hand testimony, including, unbelievably, Paul Dee, who has since passed away, but who served as Miami Athletic Director during many of the years that violations were alleged to have occurred.  How could a supposedly thorough and fair investigation not even include the Director of Athletics? 

> Finally, we believe the NCAA was responsible for damaging leaks of unsubstantiated allegations over the course of the investigation.   

Let me be clear again: for any rule violation—substantiated and proven with facts—that the University, its employees, or student-athletes committed, we have been and should be held accountable.  We have worked hard to improve our compliance oversight, and we have already self-imposed harsh sanctions.   

We deeply regret any violations, but we have suffered enough. 

The University and counsel will work diligently to prepare our official response to the Notice of Allegations and submit it to the Committee on Infractions within the required 90-day time period. 

We trust that the Committee on Infractions will provide the fairness and integrity missing during the investigative process.”

 

Three former Pac-12 refs blast Larry Scott in private letter over Woodie Dixon scandal

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Eventually, the Bad News Train tearing a hole up and down the West Coast will eventually come to a stop. Until that day arrives, though, that train just keeps on truckin’.

The latest incident arrives from the San Jose Mercury-News, where Jon Wilner — the Woodward to The Oregonian‘s Bernstein, with embattled commissioner Larry Scott serving as Richard Nixon in this metaphor — has the published a letter written by three former Pac-12 officials blasting the commissioner over his handling of the Pac-12’s officiating scandal.

As you’ll recall, last fall it was revealed that Pac-12 general counsel Woodie Dixon remotely intervened to incorrectly overturn a targeting call in favor of USC during the Trojans’ 3-point win over Washington State in late September. Scott said the incident was an isolated one and then triggered a comprehensive review of the league’s officiating process, but three refs have stepped forward to rebuke Scott, saying he’s looking at the wrong people.

The trio — Chuck CzubinFred Gallagher and Mack Gilchrist — have more than a century as Pac-12 refs between them, and in December they sent a letter to Scott and Pac-12 vice president of officiating David Coleman. They then sent the email to Wilner last month and to Pac-12 ADs Ray Anderson (Arizona State), Rob Mullens (Oregon), Scott Barnes (Oregon State), and Rick George (Colorado) three days after they sent it to Wilner; Wilner published it today. On the Dixon incident, the group writes:

Mr. Scott, you know from personal experience this is not the first time he has overstepped his bounds…. Woodie singlehandedly caused the exit of the former Supervisor of Officials, and it is well known that several years ago he wanted to fire the gentleman who is now your Replay Supervisor. After the latest incident there is no question the Conference was far more interested in covering this up and finding the source of the info, rather than dealing with Woodie. You did so by removing a very valuable training tool for IR (instant replay). In your blind and bumbled approach you hid our reports and grades. This info had previously been transparent, which allowed IR to confer within itself…. Instead of dropping the hammer on Woodie you dropped it on IR. 

The Pac-12 declined to comment on the letter, but Scott himself responded to Czubin, Gallagher and Gilchrist on March 5. “[W]e are always seeking new ways to improve our program, and have recently made the decision to hire an outside expert to initiate a review of our football officiating program. The review will include assessments of many of the areas you highlight in your letter, and will definitely take into account feedback from officials,” he wrote. The conference announced it had hired Sibson Consulting to examine its refereeing program on Feb. 23.

If further reporting details that Dixon has intervened on more games than just last year’s Wazzu-USC game and Scott was aware of it, it would call into question the integrity of Pac-12 football itself under Scott’s watch, and the commissioner’s tenure may then follow the footsteps of Nixon’s all the way out the door.

Injured former Southern WR Devon Gales lands job as Georgia HS coach

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Devon Gales is back in football. The Southern wide receiver, who was paralyzed during a 2015 game at Georgia, will join the staff as an assistant coach at Jefferson High School in Georgia, according WDUN-AM.

Gales has remained in Georgia since the injury, transferring from an Athens hospital to an Atlanta rehabilitation facility soon after the collision that left him unable to move his extremities. He was released from the hospital five months later, and Georgia fans helped fund a handicapped-accessible home for him and his family in Jefferson, Ga., a town 20 miles north of Athens, where the family has lived since July.

Gales spoke to the Jefferson High School senior class, which led Jefferson superintendent Dr. John Jackson to invite Gales to join the staff.

“It was brought to our attention upon meeting this wonderful family that Devon missed the game and practices and being part of a football team in the game he still loved so much,” Jefferson coach Gene Cathcart told WDUN. “Dr. John Jackson had the idea of getting him involved in our program in some way and how our young men would benefit from his living example, character, strength in facing adversity and perseverance.”

 

Mississippi State offensive lineman arrested for numerous traffic violations

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In the SEC, it just means more… traffic tickets.

At least that’s the case for Mississippi State offensive lineman Tommy Champion, who was arrested by the school’s police department for a litany of traffic violations that far exceed his accomplishments on the field.

Per the Clarion Ledger, Champion hit the trifecta of driving with an expired tag, an expired license and no insurance. He faces as much as six months-worth of jail time as a result, a $1,000 fine and his license further being suspended for up to a year according to the paper.

A backup offensive tackle, Champion arrived in Starkville after a stop in junior college and redshirted his first year with the team. He was a reserve last season and was expected to add depth along the line for Joe Moorhead’s squad again in 2019.

The news of Champion’s arrest comes just as the Bulldogs were starting spring practice back up this week.

Tennessee DB Kenneth George Jr. arrested after reportedly punching police officer

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Attention in Tennessee is largely focused on the Vols basketball team this month but somehow the Power T’s football squad managed to find a way to steal more than a few headlines on Thursday.

And not in a good way for those back in Knoxville.

Redshirt junior defensive back Kenneth George Jr. was arrested in Miami Beach early on Thursday morning according to local station WPLG 10. However he wasn’t just picked up by police for anything you would normally associate with spring break in South Florida…no, he was arrested and charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting an officer with violence, resisting an officer without violence and disorderly conduct.

Per WPLG:

“Police said George was cursing at one of the officers and ignoring his commands. As the officer tried to get him out of the street, George punched him and knocked the police radio out of his hands, the report said.

George then ran away before other officers caught up with him near Espanola Way and Washington Avenue, the report said.

According to the report, once in custody, George said, “He hit me first. Why can’t I hit him back?”

So far the school has not made any concrete statement beyond saying they are gathering facts on the story but we’re guessing that George’s days with the Vols are limited as a result of his actions. The Louisiana native is a junior college transfer into the program but missed most of last season with an injury.