UM’s Shalala goes on offensive against NCAA

Donna Shalala certainly packs a mean punch for someone 72 years old and slightly taller than 5 feet.

The University of Miami president fought back Tuesday night, hours after the NCAA delivered its notice of allegations to the school and accused the athletic department of “lack of institutional control.”

Shalala’s statement began by saying the school, “deeply regrets and takes full responsibility for those NCAA violations that are based on fact and are corroborated by multiple individuals and/or documentation.”

It’s her second paragraph that begins to attack the NCAA investigation.

“Yet despite our efforts to aid the investigation, the NCAA acknowledged on February 18, 2013 that it violated its own policies and procedures in an attempt to validate the allegations made by a convicted felon,” the statement read. “Many of the allegations included in the Notice of Allegations remain unsubstantiated.”

The “convicted felon,” as most UM fans know, is former booster Nevin Shapiro, who’s serving time for running a Ponzi scheme.

NCAA president Mark Emmert last month acknowledged his institution’s investigators were wrong to pay an attorney to obtain information via her subpoena power in a bankruptcy case involving Shapiro. Records show the NCAA paid Shapiro’s attorney, Maria Elena Perez, $19,000 for her work.

The result was 20 percent of the case against Miami being thrown out, and several NCAA employees reportedly no longer working at the organization. Those staffers include former vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach and former enforcement director Ameen Najjar.

Emmert’s revelation gave Shalala ammunition to fire away, and she did not hold back in her statement.

Shalala says via the UM press release:

— Many of the charges brought forth are based on the word of a man who made a fortune by lying. The NCAA enforcement staff acknowledged to the University that if Nevin Shapiro, a convicted con man, said something more than once, it considered the allegation “corroborated” – an argument which is both ludicrous and counter to legal practice.

— Most of the sensationalized media accounts of Shapiro’s claims are found nowhere in the Notice of Allegations. Despite their efforts over two and a half years, the NCAA enforcement staff could not find evidence of prostitution, expensive cars for players, expensive dinners paid for by boosters, player bounty payments, rampant alcohol and drug use, or the alleged hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts given to student-athletes, as reported in the media. The fabricated story played well – the facts did not.

— The NCAA enforcement staff failed, even after repeated requests, to interview many essential witnesses of great integrity who could have provided first-hand testimony, including, unbelievably, Paul Dee, who has since passed away, but who served as Miami Athletic Director during many of the years that violations were alleged to have occurred. How could a supposedly thorough and fair investigation not even include the Director of Athletics?

— Finally, we believe the NCAA was responsible for damaging leaks of unsubstantiated allegations over the course of the investigation. Let me be clear again: for any rule violation – substantiated and proven with facts – that the University, its employees, or student-athletes committed, we have been and should be held accountable. We have worked hard to improve our compliance oversight, and we have already self-imposed harsh sanctions. We deeply regret any violations, but we have suffered enough.

The university has already self-imposed penalties that have prevented the Hurricanes football team from going to bowl games the past two seasons and forfeited its chance to play in the 2012 Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. There also have been player suspensions.

Shalala said the university would prepare and submit an official response to the notice of allegations within 90 days and then ended the statement with one last dig against the NCAA. 

“We trust that the Committee on Infractions will provide the fairness and integrity missing during the investigative process,” she concluded.

Charlie McCarthy can be reached at or on Twitter @mccarthy_chas