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NCAA, after review, will go forth with Miami investigation, but is that fair?

Frank Schwab
Dr. Saturday

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NCAA president Mark Emmert (USA Today Sports Images)

NCAA president Mark Emmert had a conference call following the investigation into the various missteps the enforcement staff took part in during the Miami investigation. There have been personnel changes within the NCAA and Emmert spoke often about an overall issue of what investigative tactics the member schools want the enforcement staff to use.

However, the most pressing bit of information that matters most to college football (and basketball) fans is that the NCAA has scrubbed the "tainted" information about the Miami-Nevin Shapiro issue gathered by its enforcement staff, and will continue its investigation into the Hurricanes. While Emmert said overall changes will be made, the Miami investigation will go on as planned. Nothing to see here.

And with that, the controversy will start to gather steam. There is no way this ends up with all parties satisfied.

If Miami gets heavy sanctions for illegal benefits from Shapiro, there will be an uproar (and lawsuits?) from Miami and everyone involved that there was no way to un-see the information investigators got from a couple bankruptcy depositions gathered through Shapiro's defense attorney. That was a way to circumvent the NCAA's lack of subpeona power. It led to this external investigation and embarrassment.

On the other hand, if Miami gets off with a pretty light punishment after the NCAA scrubbed what Kenneth Wainstein, the attorney who conducted the review, estimated was 20 percent of the information from the case, others schools who have been punished for less significant misdeeds will not be thrilled that the NCAA botched the investigation and went forward to the NCAA committee of infractions without a strong case.

This seems like a classic mistrial situation, although Emmert said that simply taking out the evidence that was gathered improperly makes it fair.

"The point of the exercise of cleaning the evidence in this case … was aimed at making sure anything that goes forward in the process doesn’t in fact rely on anything that’s inappropriate," Emmert said. "It’ll be up to the committee on infractions … to determine the validity of the arguments put in front of them.

"There’s still a lot of information that’s available that has been in no way tainted by this incident."

There's no way you will convince anyone associated with Miami, if the sanctions end up being severe, that an investigation managed to separate tainted information from "good" information, even though there were three separate reviews to eradicate the improper evidence. On the conference call, Wainstein said that the NCAA was "conservative" in taking out possibly tainted information, eliminating everything it deemed to be even partially gathered through the improper channels. The NCAA erased 13 full interviews and portions of 12 others from the official record, for example. Yet, there will always be skepticism that the information excluded had no bearing on the final judgment, or that the line between what was gathered correctly and what was improper was properly drawn.

The Miami situation could end up with the NCAA member schools reorganizing what they want from the enforcement staff and how it goes about gathering information, something Emmert discussed often during the call, and could be a good step. It is a wake-up call for the enforcement staff to stay within its boundaries, after it had obviously started getting a little desperate to collect information and apparently frustrated because of its lack of subpeona power.

But the Miami situation specifically is a mess. No matter that the NCAA thinks it has fixed the issue and can go on in this case like nothing happened, there will probably be no satisfactory outcome in the Hurricanes investigation. The only thing left to determine is who will be most upset when it's done.

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