Let’s get one thing straight right out of the gate — in college athletics, the NCAA serves as police department, prosecuting attorney, judge, jury, and appellate court. So when the NCAA messes up its own investigation into a school or coaches, well, it’s up to the NCAA to decide just how badly it messed up.
Having said that, the NCAA called a press conference today to admit that it had screwed up its investigation into the University of Miami athletic department and all those many coaches now employed elsewhere (meaning: Missouri’s Frank Haith and Alabama’s Jeff Stoutland and Joe Pannunzio). According to a press release put out by the NCAA:
“Former NCAA enforcement staff members worked with the criminal defense attorney for Nevin Shapiro to improperly obtain information for the purposes of the NCAA investigation through a bankruptcy proceeding that did not involve the NCAA.
As it does not have subpoena power, the NCAA does not have the authority to compel testimony through procedures outside of its enforcement program. Through bankruptcy proceeding, enforcement staff gained information for the investigation that would not have been accessible otherwise…
As it relates to the Miami investigation, the NCAA will not move forward with a Notice of Allegations until all the facts surrounding this issue are known.”
NCAA president Mark Emmert added: “I have been vocal in the past regarding the need for integrity by NCAA member schools, athletics administrators, coaches, and student-athletes. That same commitment to integrity applies to all of us in the NCAA national office… To say the least, I am angered and saddened by this situation. Trust and credibility are essential to our regulatory tasks. My intent is to ensure our investigatory functions operate with integrity and are fair and consistent with out member schools, athletics staff and most importantly our student-athletes.”
The takeaway? Everyone involved in the Miami mess might just walk thanks to a technicality.
Think of our favorite police procedural on television. Cop X goes into a house looking for someone/something and finds evidence of a murder. But Cop X didn’t have a proper warrant. So the evidence discovered can’t be used in court. And the murderer walks.
This isn’t television and none of the Miami coaches (current or former) have been accused of killing anyone, but the gist is the same. Some NCAA investigators apparently overstepped their bounds while evidence-gathering and now they’ve compromised the NCAA’s case against Miami, Haith, Stoutland, Pannunzio or any other ex-Hurricane coach who stood to receive a notice of allegations.
For fans at Miami, Missouri, Alabama and elsewhere, this is a great thing. If their coaches beat the wrap on a technicality — even though the illegally-gained evidence might have proven those coaches were guilty of NCAA violations — so be it. And it would surely seem that any information gathered through Shapiro’s bankruptcy case now must be excluded from the NCAA’s case against Miami and its former coaches.
For anti-NCAA folks — and they are legion — this is a day of jubilation as well. The NCAA will now have to investigate its own former investigators. Columnists, anti-authoritarians, and anarchists will revel in this news.
According to CBSSports.com, “The NCAA’s involvement in a federal case that has nothing to do with the government’s interest in that case could be cause for concern for the NCAA.” For now it appears we’re completely down the rabbit hole on this one. The NCAA has botched as investigation and is now having to investigate itself. The NCAA could be in legal trouble if it somehow damaged Shapiro’s bankruptcy case. A school and several coaches could avoid major penalties… even though they might actually deserve them.
And even if the NCAA decides to use some of the evidence it gained illegally, Miami and any coaches hit hard by NCAA sanctions could have a real case against the governing body in an actual court of law. Again, we’re talking about the way evidence was gained — not the evidence itself — but people win cases every day thanks to technicalities. They might not have very much at all to do with whether or not someone really committed a crime, but they are a part of our justice system.
Now we know they’re also a part of the NCAA’s justice system.
Seeing as how Emmert and crew decided to change their own century-old paradigm in order to spank Penn State University this summer — solely for the sake of applause — well, this couldn’t have happened to a better bunch of guys. When you change the rules from one day to the next, apparently not even NCAA investigators can keep up with what’s kosher and what’s not.