The NCAA is enduring another barrage of criticism for how it handled another high-profile case.
Executive committee Chairwoman Lou Anna K. Simon said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that the botched probe of Miami’s athletic department should lead to change, but not at the top of the governing body.
Less than a week after NCAA President Mark Emmert got a vote of confidence from the executive committee, Simon insisted no one in a position of power is ready to push for a new leader.
“The committee, by and large, understands that this is a very messy and complex business,” Simon, Michigan State’s president, said in a telephone interview. “What the Miami case showed was that there is an embedded culture and set of processes and approaches that need to be changed.”
The NCAA is alleging that former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro was responsible for providing about $170,000 in impermissible benefits to Hurricanes athletes, recruits, coaches and others between 2002 and 2010, according to a person who spoke Wednesday to the AP on condition of anonymity because neither Miami nor the NCAA has publicly released the allegations.
The NCAA, though, has acknowledged it can’t use some ill-gotten findings in the probe of Miami because investigators working the case obtained information through depositions taken under subpoenas.
“The NCAA has an interesting way of behaving in enforcement cases that has been there for a very long time,” Simon told the AP. “They try to create walls among people within the organization to make sure the investigation is not viewed as being controlled by the executive office. I am not sure that is a correct way to do it because it raises the question about who really is looking over (the enforcement staff), which is a legitimate set of questions to raise.”
On the same day last week that Miami received its notice of allegations, which included a charge it lacked institutional control, Emmert announced NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach would be replaced.
“Obviously, this is an outcome that nobody wants to see on their watch or anyone else’s,” Emmert said Feb. 18. “This is something that’s an embarrassment to the association and our staff.”
University of Miami President Donna Shalala has called the NCAA’s probe of the Hurricanes “unprofessional and unethical.” Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford has publicly supported the school in its dispute with the governing body. And Mountain West Conference presidents have questioned Emmert’s leadership.
Attorney Kenneth Wainstein, who oversaw the review that found major missteps made during the Miami investigation, has begun looking at ways to prevent another botched case as part of the association’s attempt to change.
“We believe that if some of reforms we were trying to accomplish had been in place, we wouldn’t be talking about some of these issues,” Simon said.
Simon said the executive committee is trying to change the way the NCAA operates in many ways, but the governing body can only move as far or as fast as member institutions allow. Simon said the schools that make up the NCAA need to demand integrity and to have a greater sense of urgency to reform quickly.
“Some of the criticisms I hear are things that the reform agenda was designed to address,” Simon said. “We’re trying to keep focus on the reform agenda, to try to get through that, and then to make an assessment of whether the NCAA is in the right place.”
Emmert’s job — it seems — is safe for now.
“He is moving in the direction that the executive committee, and the other boards individually, have asked him to move,” Simon said. “It has been a very bumpy path. And just like coaches in a rebuilding cycle, there are some things that work out well and some things that don’t.
“But what you’re doing is focused on the rebuilding cycle, the change cycle, and we have confidence Mark can lead us through that.”
The way the Miami probe was foiled from within was only the latest embarrassing setback for the NCAA, which is fending off a number of lawsuits and has been the target of sharp criticism by some for how it handed penalties down to Penn State following the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.
Simon said the Penn State situation has a set of circumstances that are “extraordinarily unusual” and will be written about a lot with the benefit of hindsight. Simon added the NCAA shouldn’t allow itself to get sidetracked by the latest flurry of jabs while it deals with the “messy and difficult process” of change.
“We can’t get deflected from the reform efforts or we’ll be having these same conversations case after case, year after year,” Simon said.
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Coral Gables, Fla., contributed to this report.
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