NCAA needs investigative overhaul, former Infractions chair says

Attorney Gene Marsh, the NCAA Committee on Infractions chair from 2004-06, wants time to digest the NCAA’s botched Miami investigation before making an assessment.

But on the broader scope, something else is more clear cut, Marsh said: The NCAA’s need for change in investigative practices by staffers who are often underqualified and overmatched.

In some cases, the investigators on the ground have very limited legal experience and often aren’t forthright about where or how they obtain information, Marsh said.

"They are not prepared to deal with the kinds of decisions and to spot the ethical issues and conflict issues that a lawyer at a fairly high level would spot," said Marsh, who helped Penn State navigate its recent sanctions. "I know there are people in enforcement who just don’t have the experience to do it. I’m dealing with a person in enforcement that may or may not have a law degree."

The NCAA has launched an internal investigation after the organization placed the defense attorney of Nevin Shapiro, the Ponzi-scheming booster at the center of the Miami case, on the payroll as an independent contractor.

The NCAA used Shapiro’s lawyer to obtain information in the case that it otherwise wouldn’t have found. The NCAA does not have subpoena power, yet the lawyer still deposed witnesses under oath.

The NCAA was originally scheduled to deliver Miami’s Notice of Allegations on Tuesday.

With the NCAA pausing the case while it investigates itself, Miami has little chance to make the mid-June hearing date in front of the Committee on Infractions -- but that might not matter anymore.

The NCAA’s case has been jeopardized, likely to the relief of Miami and everyone else involved. It could be difficult to penalize Miami when the investigation can’t be trusted, even if NCAA President Mark Emmert said only a small fraction of the organization’s fact finding came from dealings with Shapiro’s attorney.

Worsening matters is the NCAA’s high-handed rhetoric about schools and coaches practicing "unethical conduct" or "lack of institutional control," Marsh said.

"You juxtapose that with this problem, and it’s more damning," Marsh said.  

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