Sun Sentinel Columnist
6:33 PM EST, February 20, 2013
The words ring loud and livid as the righteous leader of a proud university brings her full office to bear on a flawed NCAA investigation approaching its endgame.
The NCAA, "violated its own policy," the university statement approved by Miami president Donna Shalala reads. It also, "failed to interview many essential witnesses of integrity."
And: "Many of the charges brought forth are based on the word of a man who made a fortune by lying."
Tough words. True words. But here's a question amid the fans' hosannas for Shalala for the way her statement attacked the NCAA's leadership like a declaration of war:
Where was such strong leadership when it was needed most? Where was it for all those years the school's football coach and compliance officer warned of a rogue booster running through the department? When players were introduced to the slime of Nevin Shapiro?
Here's where: It was naming the players' lounge after him. It was meeting him at a bowling alley to accept a donation. It was listening to the wrong people and ignoring those who could have spared the university this embarrassment.
"Leadership" is one of those cliché words in sports. Teams are asked about it. Players are asked to play the part. But when it came for the supposed leaders in the collegiate world to define it, everyone was lacking in this episode. Miami officials. NCAA officials. Everyone.
Shalala played her final, brazen card with this statement. She wants to bring media and public opinion down on the NCAA in a maneuver that will reduce the coming punishment.
Maybe it works on the NCAA's ruling body, the Committee of Infractions. Maybe it backfires.
"We deeply regret any violations," Miami's statement reads, "but we have suffered enough."
Thirteen football players and three basketball players missed varying amounts of games. Two football bowls and an ACC Championship game were forgone. Football scholarships and coaches' home visits to recruits limited this year.
Isn't that enough? Can't we all move on?
Who knows, the way the NCAA works? Who even understands how the NCAA works after this chapter? The drape was pulled back to reveal the governing body has as much in-fighting as a family reunion, as the national media is gleefully reporting now.
The media is Shalala's great ally now. She is savvy about that. The media can fan the flames of righteous indignation to help Miami's cause and perhaps sway the NCAA to back down. The well-worded statement is succeeding on getting the media aboard, too.
"Has Miami Suffered Enough," was a headlined debate Wednesday on ESPN's Around The Horn."
Two years ago, the same show's debate was framed differently: "Does Miami Deserve The Death Penalty?"
The media rarely does nuance or perspective well. That's another lesson from all this. Maybe it doesn't even do facts. The NCAA enforcement staff couldn't confirm many of the original Yahoo! report's most salacious allegations.
"The fabricated story played well — the facts did not," Miami's statement read.
As you view this smelly episode with the wide-angle lens of perspective, only two people exit with reputations intact. Randy Shannon, the former Miami football coach, read Shapiro to be a con man and warned higher-ups. David Reed, the school's compliance officer, did the same.
Both warnings weren't heeded. Both men work for different schools now. So they didn't even get what they wanted out of this, either.
Only one person seems to leave with exactly what he wanted: Shapiro. His athletic Ponzi scheme ruined lives and reputations in a similar manner to the nearly $1 billion he bilked in the Ponzi scheme that sent him to prison.
You get involved with slimeballs, don't complain when you get slimed. The NCAA reportedly blamed Miami for a "lack of institutional control" in its report. Miami was just as quick in its statement to throw the same idea back at the NCAA.
And they're both right. Because they're both wrong. Both Miami and the NCAA needed strong leaders at defining times. Both, unfortunately and unmistakably, came up lacking.
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