NCAA miscues don't mean UM is in the clear

NCAA miscues don't mean UM is in the clear

Published Jan. 23, 2013 6:03 p.m. ET

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — One can’t blame University of Miami fans for celebrating after hearing the news: An NCAA investigation into possible violations by the Hurricanes football and men’s basketball programs had been put on hold while the association’s enforcement program undergoes an external review.

That was announced Wednesday because NCAA investigators inappropriately obtained some information.

Did that news mean Miami now was in the clear?

Would the two-year NCAA investigation be thrown out?

Could the university sue the NCAA to recover money lost by self-imposing two bowl bans?

At least one expert on the inner workings of the NCAA warns Miami fans against claiming victory just yet.  

“The best-case scenario, considering the NCAA looks like they went forward with something … sounds like they found something … the best-case scenario, even with this information being excluded in the violations is that there’s still a major infractions case here to be had,” said John Infante, a lawyer who also is the NCAA expert for “But, it’s substantially smaller; anything you can knock out of the case it is going to help some.

“The worst-case scenario is that some athletes and some money given to them is knocked out of the case because this information can’t be used, but it’s not enough to substantially change what Miami would have been punished with.”

Even if the investigation were erased, Infante doubted the school would sue to recover money from missing two bowl games. He cited the courts require that all administrative remedies be exhausted, and that Miami, by all accounts, has been extremely cooperative with the NCAA investigators.

However …

“If the NCAA comes back with harsh sanctions despite all this, then you might see a different side of Miami, and then we could see this used as the basis for a lawsuit,” said Infante, who worked at Loyola-Marymount and Colorado State as compliance officer.

If Miami were to be found guilty of major violations, the school would be under an intense microscope for at least five years.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever see the Death Penalty again,” Infante said. “If it wasn’t used for the Penn State case, I don’t think it’ll ever be used.

“Miami is going to be under the Repeat Violators Statute, which runs for five years from the day the report comes out, which at this point, is now going to be delayed. Starting in August, there’s going to be a brand new enforcement program with a brand new set of penalties that are much harsher. And being on under the Repeat Violators Statute is certainly one of the things that could lead to the highest level of penalties.”

Although the investigation into Miami’s association with booster Nevin Shapiro has been compromised by NCAA investigators improperly obtaining subpoena power, Infante said NCAA President Mark Emmert should be commended.

“As bad as it looks for the NCAA, it is still better for it to happen this way. It’s still an improvement than being sued down the road,” Infante said. “Kudos to them for being public about it. Let’s hope that continues through the investigation.”