NCAA releases report detailing missteps and lack of oversight in bungled Miami investigation

NCAA president Mark Emmert speaks during a press conference at the NCAA Headquarters with NCAA Executive Committee chair Ed Ray standing behind him to announce corrective and punitive measures against Penn State University for the child abuse committed by former Penn State Nittany Lions assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. He has since been forced to deal with a failed investigation into infractions at the University of Miami. (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

The NCAA recently called off its investigation into alleged infractions at the University of Miami after their investigation committee improperly obtained evidence in the case. The announcement on the part of college sports’ governing body was a massive embarrassment and a huge black mark on the legitimacy of every ruling the NCAA has made both before and since.

[Related: NCAA opens investigation into itself following 22-month long Miami debacle]

On Monday, the external Enforcement Review Report was released by Kenneth L. Wainstein, a partner with the law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP. NCAA president Mark Emmert enlisted Wainstein’s services following his Jan. 23 admission of conduct issues with his enforcement program.

First things first, Wainstein found wide-ranging and very basic infractions on the part of NCAA officials.

Select NCAA enforcement staff acted contrary to internal protocols, legal counsel and the membership’s understanding about the limits of its investigative powers in the University of Miami case.

Further, Wainstein’s investigation found that select members of the NCAA enforcement committee violated a number of other rules, according to

  • Knowingly circumvented legal advice to engage Nevin Shapiro’s criminal defense attorney.
  • Violated the internal NCAA policy of legal counsel only being retained and monitored by the legal staff.
  • Paid insufficient attention to the concern that engaging the criminal defense attorney could constitute an inappropriate manipulation of the bankruptcy process.
  • Did not sufficiently consider the membership’s understanding about the limits of the enforcement staff’s investigative powers.
  • Did not violate a specific bylaw or law.

Additionally, the report found:

  • Enforcement leadership exercised insufficient oversight of the engagement of the criminal defense attorney.
  • The legal and enforcement staffs took appropriate action to rectify the situation once they realized select enforcement staff members had engaged the criminal defense attorney.

Wainstein found that the NCAA did not do too many things wrong in its investigation of Miami. Once infractions were discovered, the NCAA took the proper steps in blaming themselves. In the end, however, the fact that improprieties existed forces the NCAA to totally re-examine how it goes about governing college sports.

“This report is an important first step in responding to the issue at hand,” said Wainstein. “For an organization with an oversight function like the NCAA, its credibility and reputation for fair-dealing are always more important than its ability to prove the allegations in any particular case. This episode is a reminder of the problems that arise when investigators resort to expedient but questionable tactics.”

MORE: Miami may now be set to sue the NCAA following the longstanding ordeal