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NCAA, Miami both deserve punishment

As teams go, this one has no idea of the rules.

It lacks integrity, it lacks efficiency, and it lacks ethics. It is dysfunctional, it is reckless, and it is shameful. It is out of order, it is out of control, and it is out of bounds.

Yeah, that roving band of NCAA investigators deserves to be punished, all right.

On the other hand, so does the University of Miami.

Call it knucklehead-on-knuckle­head crime, this spat between the NCAA and Miami. There is no good guy here. No one is innocent. No one is pure. Not the investigators, not the investigated, and certainly not the incarcerated.

Put them all on probation, that's what I say.

Start with Miami and Donna Shalala, the sabre-rattling college president who went on the attack this week after the NCAA reportedly charged Miami with a lack of institutional control — the most damaging charge of all in college sports — in its recent investigation. In response, Shalala said the investigation was unprofessional (true), flawed (true), and that it relied on a con man named Nevin Shapiro (true).

On the other hand, does that mean the NCAA's conclusions are false?

The lines have all been blurred in the Miami investigation. Wrong-doers are investigating alleged wrong-doers, armed by the word of a wrong-doer, and nothing feels right. No one knows who to trust or how to salvage justice from the mess.

Until more evidence comes out, I don't know if Shapiro really provided prostitutes for players, as he told yahoo.com. I don't know if he gave them cash or bought them televisions or paid for abortions. There have seldom been more untrustworthy witnesses. Shapiro is in jail for a reason, and everyone agrees that he is such a horrible person that the rats won't even visit his cell.

On the other hand, can you really defend Miami against the charge of lack of institutional control?

According to reports from newspapers in South Florida, the Miami administration was warned that Shapiro was a bad guy, and nothing happened. Former coach Randy Shannon warned the athletic director about him, and he threatened to fire assistants if they hung around with him. Former compliance officer David Reed, who Shapiro got into a screaming match with in a press box, did the same. And still, the school kept cashing Shapiro's checks and his name remained on the players' lounge.

Isn't that the very definition of a lack of institutional control? If you're warned that a booster is a bad guy by your own employees, isn't it up to the administration to chase him away? You don't get to decide a booster is a skunk only after he stops giving your school money.

That's worth remembering as Shalala throws fastballs at the NCAA. Where was all of this outrage when Shapiro was hanging around the program? Where was the leadership when UM players were being exposed to this guy?

No matter how badly the NCAA embarrassed itself, and the word "thoroughly'' comes to mind, Miami's administration should have done better.

Oh, you can say the same about the NCAA investigators. As a group, they have always been a self-righteous bunch of bullies who were strongest when some other organization (such as the Freeh report at Penn State) did their work for them.

This time, they made a deal with Shapiro's attorney (and paid $19,000) in order to use her power of subpoena in a trumped-up investigation. As a result, 20 percent of the NCAA's findings — including 13 interviews and parts of 12 others — has been tossed aside.

Is that enough? There are some who think the NCAA should throw the case out, as if the investigation was poisoned by dirty cops and planted evidence. But if three Miami assistant coaches misled the investigation, as the NCAA says, then this is hardly time for the high moral ground.

As for Shalala, she says her school has suffered enough. That sounds nice, but since when does the accused get to decide what the punishment should be? Put it this way: Every school that has ever received sanctions thought it had suffered enough.

Here is what we don't know. How serious were the violations the NCAA decided upon? How many of the allegations made by Shapiro have been confirmed by other sources? What does the NCAA suspect, and what can it prove? How much did it trust the word of Shapiro, who most of us wouldn't trust to give us change for a dollar?

And did the NCAA really, as Shalala said, count it as "corroboration'' whenever Shapiro repeated himself. In other words, if Shapiro repeated himself, he was suddenly two witnesses.

So what happens now? Despite exposing its own shortcomings, you get the feeling the NCAA isn't going to back off and say "oops.'' It will attempt to look strong (rather than fair) and certain (rather than just).

In the end, it is easy to suspect the NCAA has some more punishment in mind for Miami.

After that, it should punish itself. I'm thinking it should be worse than scholarships.

Here's an idea. Maybe the investigators should be forced to spend some time with Shapiro.

Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 9 a.m. until noon on 98.7-FM the Fan.

NCAA, Miami both deserve punishment 02/20/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 8:20pm]
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