Miami's over, Washington looms; is NCAA enforcement boss near end?
When Jonathan Duncan took over as interim NCAA enforcement director, his department was churning through high-profile (think Miami) cases. With his run due to end in September, his future -- and that if NCAA enforcement -- is uncertain as another potential powderkeg (Washington football) takes shape.
You have not heard much from Jonathan Duncan. That's probably best for everyone inside and outside the NCAA, including Jonathan Duncan.
Being the NCAA's enforcement director is kind of like being an umpire. The less you're noticed, the better.
It was not that way a year ago when the walls were closing in on former director Julie Roe Lach. Once part of Mark Emmert's inner circle, Roe Lach came to the NCAA as an intern and rose to enforcement director in 2004. She was fired Feb. 18. The blame landed on her in the Miami investigation scandal that involved a third-party attorney improperly obtaining information for the NCAA.
Duncan took over on an 18-month interim basis on March 11. Among his charges were restore faith in the enforcement division. That interim label ends one way or another in September.
"I honestly don't know [about the future]," Duncan said in a one-on-one interview with CBSSports.com. "I don't know if it's entirely up to me."
The final consideration on his end, Duncan says, will be his family, which includes two young children. Last year Duncan left the Spencer Fan Britt and Browne law firm in Kansas City where he had, since 1998, helped the NCAA on various legal cases.
Now that he is the head man in Indianapolis, Duncan has mostly been that unnoticed umpire. Scandal has died down the past nine months. The enforcement department/staff has become less of a lightning rod. Inside the NCAA, Duncan is getting high marks, according to sources.
Outside of his office, he refuted anecdotal evidence that cases have piled up and that processing them has slowed. A year before he took office NCAA officials told media at a mock enforcement hearing that the average case was being processed in 11 months.
"I don't know if [I agree] it has slowed," Duncan countered.
Nevertheless, in the past 18 months, the enforcement division has lost a load of talent and institutional knowledge. The latest to leave, earlier this month, was enforcement director LuAnn Humphrey. In June, managing director of enforcement Rachel Newman-Baker left to become compliance official at Kentucky. Investigator Ameen Najjar was fired in the middle of the Miami investigation.
Three senior members of his division now include enforcement officers Tom Hosty, Stephanie Hannah and Duncan's secretary, all who have been with the NCAA at least two decades.
"We feel it," Duncan said when asked about the loss of veterans. "We still have a lot of institutional knowledge left."
Despite the losses, Duncan says the enforcement division is fully staffed -- 55 to 60 people. New hire Chris Howard is back for his second tour of duty at the association. He previously was in compliance at LSU and Kansas.
"Assuring consistency between cases," Duncan noted.
The critics will be glad to hear that one. Inconsistency has been one of the biggest criticisms of enforcement. One player, Reggie Bush, took down USC. <span data-shortcode= State" data-canon="Ohio Bobcats" data-type="SPORTS_OBJECT_TEAM" id="shortcode0"> got off with a lighter sentence despite the involvement of several players and what seemed like a flat-out conspiracy to hide information by former coach Jim Tressel.
Booster Nevin Shapiro was allowed to operate at will inside the Miami football program for the better part of a decade. The final penalty in the partially botched case was the loss of a few scholarships. Officially, the committee on infractions adopted the school's two bowl bans as its own.
Then there are the unprecedented sanctions slapped on Penn State. But enforcement had nothing to do with that one. The NCAA executive committee and board of directors relied on the Louis Freeh report and interpretation of the NCAA constitution to hand down the crippling penalties.
What the public doesn't largely understand -- and Duncan would like to point out -- is that enforcement investigates and brings charges. It's up to the infractions committee to accept those charges and decide penalties.
The Miami investigation was halted about a year ago and 20 percent of the information unearthed was thrown out because of perceived misconduct by enforcement.
We'll see, then, if the Duncan's office looks into alleged wide-ranging agent scandal that involved five SEC players at three SEC schools, including Alabama. In a separate story, there is the alleged intrusion by a disassociated booster at Alabama. (That disassociated booster, Tom Al-Betar, recently told CBSSports.com's Jeremy Fowler there's "nothing to worry about.")
Duncan would not comment directly on the Alabama Al-Betar situation saying, only, "We have to look at all the factors and all the circumstances and get to the truth of what happened before we decided whether to continue with an investigation or -- once it's begun -- whether to bring allegations or it's purely an eligibility issue that gets processed."
A high school coach of a former Washington recruit told the Seattle Times he was speaking to the NCAA about alleged improprieties by former UW assistant Tosh Lupoi. Lupoi, according to the coach, paid $4,500 for tutoring sessions for the recruit. The player did not qualify academically.
If Lupoi is found to have been involved, that could lead to a suspension of former Huskies' head coach Steve Sarkisian (now at USC). New penalty guidelines that went in effect Aug. 1 place more blame on the head coach if it is found an assistant committed NCAA violations.
Sarkisian said last week he has not spoken to the NCAA.
"I can't speak directly to it, but I'm not worried," Sarkisian said. "If or when the day comes that the NCAA wants to talk to me we'll be prepared. I'm confident that we promoted an atmosphere of compliance."
Duncan pointed out that any case developed since Nov. 1, 2012 would be eligible for the enhanced penalties (coach suspension).
"I think they [new penalties] will have teeth," Duncan said. "[The idea] was to change the risk reward analysis and create a disincentive."
Ironically, post-NCAA Roe Lach is now in private business helping schools navigate their way through that new penalty matrix. She calls herself the "lead author and architect" of the new penalty structure.
"One of the major points of the [rule] was that coaches need to be on the hook when their staff crosses the line," she said. "In the past as we all have seen, they cross the line and the assistants pretty much fall on the sword.
"The idea was see no evil, hear no evil, do no evil by the head coach."
The future has a whatever-will-be feel to it for Duncan. Part of the new governance change may include the BCS conferences (Pac-12, Big 12, SEC, ACC, Big Ten) having a hand in restructuring enforcement. There have been few details but SEC commissioner Mike Slive is on record wanting more agent interaction with athletes. Duncan says that would be "a sea change" in some sports, notably men's basketball and football.
"I've heard what you've heard [regarding rules changes]," Duncan said. "I'm not sure my opinion matters. The bylaws belong to the members. They give them to us. If they care stronger about agents, we'll enforce those. If they don't, then we won't."
As for the full time position that could be his by September, the interim guy reiterates, "It's interesting work, but first and foremost I've got to consider my family."
New staff added under Duncan
Mark Hicks, Managing Director (Development and Operations): Attorney, college coach, high school coach, national office experience with Academic and Membership Affairs and Eligibility Center.
Chris Howard, Director (football): Attorney, former college player, prior experience in enforcement, compliance at LSU, administration at Kansas.
Clint Hangebrauck, Director (Quality Control): Heads Quality Control Group. National office experience in internal auditing.
Charlie Jackson, Assistant Director (football): Former college player, former college assistant, former NFL assistant (Denver).
Vic DeNardi, Assistant Director (football): Prior experience in NFL league office.
Libby Harmon, Assistant Director (Investigations and Processing): Attorney, former student-athlete, former NCAA enforcement intern, compliance at Michigan.
Darin Van Vlerah, Assistant Director (Basketball): Attorney.
Todd Shumaker, Assistant Director (Investigations and Processing): Attorney.
Aaron Hernandez, Assistant Director (football): Attorney, former NCAA enforcement intern.
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