INDIANAPOLIS -- Pete Carroll fielded dozens of questions Friday afternoon at the NFL Scouting Combine, but the topic that seemed to get him more fired up than anything was when he was asked for his reaction to the uproar surrounding the NCAA's botched Miami investigation.
"I really think it's time for this to be opened up and examined and understood how the NCAA has operated," said the former USC coach about an organization whose reputation is at an all-time low after details came to light earlier this week that among other things in its Miami investigation the NCAA enforcement staff acknowledged to UM that if convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro said something more than once, it considered the allegation "corroborated" and that the NCAA didn't even interview Paul Dee, the former Miami athletic director, as part of the investigation.
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Such revelations also have brought other recent NCAA investigations back into focus, including the one at Carroll's old program, USC, which was hammered by the NCAA soon after the coach was hired by the Seattle Seahawks following an 83-19 run that included two national championships and seven consecutive top-four finishes. In the USC case, the testimony of a felon helped take down the Trojans as the NCAA concluded that running backs coach Todd McNair had knowledge of Reggie Bush's improper benefits. McNair is suing the NCAA for defamation of character in a potentially explosive case with his lawyers saying the NCAA violated its own rules and procedures in investigating their client. The NCAA is seeking to keep sealed potentially more embarrassing evidence detailing its enforcement process.
Dubious methods in what has always been a murky process seems to have become a by-product of a broken system, not just evidence of it: "I think our case was a great illustration of that," said Carroll, "as is what is happening down in Miami. And the NCAA's rush to judgment that happened over at Penn State may have been as big a travesty as any of them. Not because of the incident itself but because of the way the NCAA handled it. Due process? The process with Penn State was terrible. Then you have this expedited process at Ohio State. How did that one possibly happen? It happened at Auburn. There are just so many questions. The inconsistencies and time frames are so varied it begs for concern. Why does (the NCAA justice system) operate like this? Why would our case take five years? And they got one guy?
"It's just so out of whack," added Carroll, whose son Brennan is a Miami assistant coach. "It's so obvious that it is. It's just a matter of, will somebody pursue it and go after it? This has been an institution that has operated under some level of respectable protection for so many years. That's not OK any more. They have to do something about it."
The "they" ideally would be member institutions coming together to protect each other from a process so flawed and inconsistent, he said.
Asked if he sees hypocrisy in how the NCAA has been operating by charging schools for "lack of institutional control" when it seems like no one is watching over the NCAA and exerting control, Carroll said, "The whole system needs to be re-evaluated.
"It's just not right, and it's not OK for an NCAA to take down institutions of higher learning. That's not how this should go. That should not be the target. There should be other ways to go about it. To do what they've done to Penn State and to do what they've done to other schools and what they've been doing to Miami after all of that mess with the NCAA's investigation of its own investigation and it coming to light how the NCAA staff has operated, it begs for deeper investigation and a big-time investigation.
"We didn't know anything (about the NCAA's investigative process). I hadn't talked to those guys in years. We hadn't heard from those guys. They never talked to us. It was around three and a half to four years before I heard from them. People were like, 'Why weren't you in the know of what has happening?' It's because they never talked to us. We didn't know what to do about it."
Earlier in the week, NCAA president Mark Emmert was asked on a teleconference if the NCAA would feel compelled after firing three of its top enforcement people, to go back and investigate previous cases to make sure there weren't more dubious actions in their process. Nah. Emmert dismissed any such notion of other possible wrongdoing by the NCAA.
That attitude, in light of everything that has gone on at the NCAA, just a few blocks down the street from where the NFL combine is taking place, is causing many, Carroll included, to shake their heads.
"I think if they went back and looked at our investigation, it is very likely that there would be a lot of these kinds of inconsistencies that would arouse suspicions," he said, before alluding to the McNair lawsuit. "There's a big case going on and maybe there'll be some information that'll finally come out because of that.
"I just hope the process was carried out well. It certainly didn't feel like it was."