What NCAA’s Ultimatum to Miami Players Means

The NCAA is between a rock and a hard place with the Miami investigation. As the investigation has hit and passed the two-year mark (remember, Miami heard from Shaprio a year before the Yahoo! report was published), everyone is keen to see the case wrapped up. But the enforcement staff has clearly had trouble corroborating Nevin Shaprio’s story.

So the NCAA set a deadline of November 23rd and to enforce that deadline, broke out the stick rather than the carrot:

“If we do not hear back from you or your clients by that time, the staff will consider the non-response as your client’s admission of involvement in NCAA violations.”

To understand what that means, it is important to remember the NCAA is made of parts. That might not seem apparent when in an eligibility or secondary infractions case, and the separation between say the enforcement and student-athlete reinstatement staffs could be seen as a distinction without a difference.

But in a major infractions case, the roles are more defined. There are the defendants (the school and at-risk individuals), the prosecutor (the enforcement staff), and the judge/jury (the Committee on Infractions). It does not look exactly like the American criminal justice system (it actually looks more like a civil law court given the role of the COI) but the broad strokes are there.

So what does the letter mean? It means that if the former Miami players (defendants/witnesses) refuse to testify, the enforcement staff (prosecutor) plans to bring the case to the Committee on Infractions (judge) with the evidence they have. What evidence they have is hard to tell. It could be the bare minimum, the testimony of Nevin Shaprio. My guess is the NCAA has a little more, like Shapiro’s financial and phone records. What the enforcement staff would want is for the players to confirm the other side of the transactions or conversations.

It would still be up to the Committee on Infractions to weigh the evidence and make a decision about credibility. That’s bad news for Miami. Ignore for a second whether the players’ silence should be evidence of anything. The COI faced virtually the same situation (albeit at a smaller scale) in the USC case. This was the evidence the COI felt was credible enough to connect Michael Michaels and Lloyd Lake to Reggie Bush and prove the violations in the USC case occurred:

The committee concluded that agency partner A was credible in the information he provided with regard to the efforts to establish a sports agency centered on student-athlete 1, and with regard to the benefits provided to his family associated with those efforts. His account of what transpired was confirmed by members of his family, telephone records and compelling circumstantial evidence.

This is the standard the evidence has to meet in order to be the basis of finding Miami committed a major violation:

The Committee on Infractions shall base its findings on information presented to it that it determines to be credible, persuasive and of a kind on which reasonably prudent persons rely in the conduct of serious affairs.

I’ll let readers figure out whether testimony of a convicted felon, possibly some corroborating evidence, and possibly the silence of involved individuals meets that standard.