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NCAA: Miami case will proceed despite ‘improper conduct’

- Associated Press - Monday, February 18, 2013

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The NCAA is pressing on with its case against Miami, even after revealing Monday that it was replacing the head of its enforcement department and throwing out all ill-gotten information gleaned from two depositions that could have been very damaging for the Hurricanes.

Still, NCAA President Mark Emmert insisted the case will not be settled.

"This is going to go forward to the committee on infractions," Emmert said.

Miami's notice of allegations, essentially the document that details what the NCAA will accuse the Hurricanes of, could now be delivered as early as Tuesday. And that will usher in the sanctions portion of the process, when the Hurricanes will find out what penalties, other than the ones they've already self-imposed, still await.

Some of the fallout has already occurred. Julie Roe Lach, who was the NCAA's vice president for enforcement — basically, its top cop — since 2010, was ousted and has been replaced on a temporary basis by Jonathan Duncan, a lawyer with extensive experience working with the association.

"Obviously, this is an outcome that nobody wants to see on their watch or anyone else's," Emmert said. "This is something that's an embarrassment to the association and our staff."

Lach was part of the chain that approved payments to Maria Elena Perez, the attorney for convicted Ponzi scheme architect and former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro. According to a 52-page report commissioned by the NCAA and released Monday, Perez offered her help to the NCAA in the form of "using bankruptcy subpoenas to compel depositions from witnesses who had refused to cooperate."

The NCAA, in turn, provided her with specific questions to ask, those coming in an email from former investigator Ameen Najjar, dated Dec. 18, 2011. "Maria, Listed below are a number of areas we would like you to explore," began the email from Najjar.

From there, he listed 34 questions, none of which seem to be in any way related to a bankruptcy case.

The NCAA does not have subpoena power. Upon learning that Perez was willing to participate with investigators, members of the NCAA's legal team urged the enforcement department not to proceed, though were apparently ignored. And now the depositions given by former Miami equipment-room staffer Sean Allen and former Shapiro business partner Michael Huyghue — along with any other lead that came out of their interviews — have been tossed from the NCAA's case against the Hurricanes.

"Based upon our review, it is our opinion that the current assertions in the U. Miami Investigative Record are not based on evidence that is derived, directly or indirectly, from the depositions of Mr. Allen or Mr. Huyghue," said the report, which was prepared by Kenneth L. Wainstein, an attorney hired to lead the probe that Emmert ordered last month.

Wainstein estimated on a teleconference that about 20 percent of the case against Miami had to be tossed because of the depositions.

According to the report and other documents released by the NCAA on Monday, Perez billed the NCAA for $57,115 worth of work performed from October 2011 through July 2012 — though Lach and other officials were expecting the amount of her work to cost roughly $15,000. The depositions of Allen and Huyghue were performed in December 2011.

Records show Perez was paid at least $19,609, and one email released by the NCAA from an investigator who worked on the case said they wanted her to depose Allen because the NCAA "did not think he would interview with us again" otherwise.

Perez did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Another email, one she wrote to Najjar, was released as part of the NCAA's package on Monday, in which she said on Jan. 31, 2012 that she was unhappy with how long it was taking her to be paid.

"Ameen, trust me when I say that if I had endless financial means I would exhaust them just to see this investigation through the end, and likewise crush those responsible for corrupting same," Perez wrote.

Allen was not contacted during the NCAA's external probe, which started late last month after Emmert said major breakdowns in the association's own procedures were discovered.

One of the more interesting elements in the report released Monday was that now-retired Associate Director of Enforcement Rich Johanningmeier — the original point of contact for the association with Shapiro — bought a prepaid cellphone and paid for Shapiro's prison phone calls. The NCAA spent about $8,200 "to fund communications with Mr. Shapiro, including transfers of approximately $4,500 to his prison commissary account."

What remains unclear, even now, is why it took many months for those breakdowns to come to light.

"We found very clearly the enforcement staff disregarded ... the advice they got from the legal staff," Wainstein said.

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