This week the NCAA fired Vice President of Enforcement Julie Roe Lach citing several “missteps” in the ongoing investigation of the University of Miami’s football and men’s basketball programs stemming from former booster Nevin Shapiro’s dispensing improper benefits to more than 70 athletes at Miami from 2002 to 2010. Yahoo! Sports’ national college columnist Pat Forde joined Bill Littlefield.
BL: Pat, what were those missteps, and should Lach have been fired for them?
PF: Well to answer the second question first, I believe that she was the scapegoat in this more than anything else. The missteps were that they employed the lawyer for Nevin Shapiro, who was the source almost all the allegations in this case and who is in jail for a Ponzi scheme. They employed his lawyer to do some of the depositions for them and utilized some of the leverage he had in a bankruptcy proceeding to get some more information out of people. That was a conflict of interest and not a very good idea. Now it was not illegal—I don’t think it should have compromised the overall investigation. But, quite frankly, [NCAA President] Mark Emmert, put himself into a corner by having a fairly alarmist press conference, I thought, when this all first came to light. And there was no doubt that somebody had to go after that and it ended up being Julie Roe Lach.
BL: Miami President Donna Shalala came after the NCAA pretty hard this week, saying that the university has been wronged and that no further penalties are called for and that the ones that Miami imposed on itself should be sufficient. Is she right?
PF: This is the NCAA opening up a loophole and her trying to drive Nevin Shapiro’s yacht through it. It is fairly brazen, I think, for her to say the university has been wronged. I mean the university has done a lot wrong on its own. It’s fairly brazen, in my opinion.
BL: The NCAA itself has said that about 20 percent of the investigation was tainted. If that is the case, why would anybody have faith in the investigation going forward?
PF: Well, that’s the problem that they’re running into here. You know, Miami did self-impose some penalties, and they were not insignificant penalties. I mean they missed bowl games last year and reduced scholarships and some recruiting activities. But the problem is, once there’s been a shadow of doubt created, Miami and others are going to insist that everything should be doubted and should be thrown out in the NCAA court of law.
BL: The NCAA has come under fire numerous times over many years but will the President Mark Emmert survive this particular episode?
PF: You know there’s a lot of prominent voices out there calling for his dismissal or resignation. I don’t think this is necessarily a fireable offense. I may be in the minority on that, but I’d like to see him get the opportunity to dig out from this and see what direction he’s going to take the NCAA in the future.
BL: Assuming the investigation of Miami does go forward, what do you expect it to turn up?
You know, we know that Frank Haith, who was the basketball coach who’s now at Missouri was charged with failure to monitor and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance, which is a lesser charge than he was going to be charged with before the NCAA nuked its own case. But in the football program, you know, there are charges there. There still could be significant penalties ahead for Miami or they could get off scot-free. I really have no idea where this thing’s going to end up.
BL: I wonder if the result beyond Miami will be for lots of people at various colleges and universities to be saying, “Well we can go ahead and break all the rules we want because the NCAA’s gonna be awfully careful about who they come after in the future.”
PF: This is a classic chilling effect kind of thing on NCAA enforcement and probably will embolden schools out there to think that this is a weakened governing body. We have a lot more leeway to do what we want.
This segment aired on February 23, 2013.