The NCAA was supposed to be investigating the University of Miami Athletics Department for improper conduct, but instead of releasing the results today, the NCAA dropped a bombshell of its own: it admitted its own investigators had illegally obtained evidence during the investigation.
Shapiro's attorney, Maria Elena Perez, "improperly" got information to investigators by deposing witnesses in Shapiro's bankruptcy case. She even ended up on the NCAA's payroll, NCAA president Mark Emmert says.
"This is obviously a shocking affair," Emmert told reporters.
The NCAA national office has uncovered an issue of improper conduct within its enforcement program that occurred during the University of Miami investigation. 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 proceedings, enforcement staff gained information for the investigation that would not have been accessible otherwise.
"I have been vocal in the past regarding the need for integrity by NCAA member schools, athletics administrators, coaches, and student-athletes," said Association President Mark Emmert. "That same commitment to integrity applies to all of us in the NCAA national office."
Emmert has now commissioned an external review of his own enforcement program.
In comments to reporters after the announcement, he admitted the Perez had used her power as Shapiro's attorney to depose and subpoena witnesses for the NCAA's purposes.
The NCAA, of course, has no power to issue subpoenas and can't make anyone talk other than current players or coaches; by bringing Shapiro's bankruptcy case into the fold, Emmert says they tried to force witnesses to confirm the Ponzi schemer's allegations under oath.
Yeah. That's messed up.
So what does this mean for the Miami Hurricanes? It turns out the school will have to wait even longer to receive its notice of allegations. One has to imagine that any information obtained illegally would have to be thrown out, and even if they don't the school now has a lot of leverage to fight charges. Update: Apparently the external investigation will take 7 to 10 days, because the NCAA prefers having speedy investigations carried out on itself as opposed to carrying them out on others.
This does however mean even more time waiting for the results of an investigation that has dragged on since 2011 for a school that would desperately like to put the issue behind them as the specter of scandal certainly hurts recruiting.
Though, the good news here is that apparently the NCAA hadn't been able to confirm all of Nevin Shapiro's allegations legally, and now certainly is not in any sort of position to take a moral high ground and make an extraordinary example out of the program.
Incidentally, about that Shapiro attorney that worked with enforcement staff to "improperly" obtain information: She's the one and same Maria Elena Perez who sent New Times one of the silliest lawsuit threats we've ever gotten after our feature story on Shapiro's Ponzi scheme and playboy lifestyle, including this amazing opener:
"In my opinion, New Times is not a newspaper or even a leaflet, as it offers nothing which is noteworthy, newsworthy or reliable, and it similarly serves to cast Miami, the city which generates income for New Times, in a negative light when it refers to South Florida as a Ponzi capital and when it describes the 'black depths of Biscayne Bay.'"