NCAA Fires Head of Enforcement After Violations in Miami Probe

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s head of enforcement was fired after an independent review said internal protocols were violated during the organization’s investigation into the University of Miami.

Julie Roe Lach was replaced by Jonathan Duncan yesterday as the vice president of enforcement for college sports’ governing body. NCAA President Mark Emmert declined to comment further on Roe Lach’s status within the NCAA.

Roe Lach’s ousting came after New York law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft released the results of its 27-day review of the NCAA’s investigation into possible improper benefits provided to Miami athletes. The review, published yesterday on the NCAA website, found that while the NCAA did nothing illegal, staff members disregarded legal advice while using outside counsel and a federal bankruptcy process to obtain information.

“This is something that is an embarrassment to the association and our staff,” Emmert said yesterday on a conference call to discuss the findings. “It’s something that is contrary to all of the activities and directions that we’ve been engaged with and all the things that we espouse.”

The NCAA has expunged any information obtained through these actions from its examination of Miami and will continue with its investigation, Emmert said. University of Miami President Donna Shalala said yesterday that the school was “wronged” and urged the NCAA to close the issue.

Emmert called for the review in January after announcing that former NCAA enforcement staff members worked with a criminal defense attorney for Nevin Shapiro, a Hurricanes booster who has said he provided cash and benefits to at least 72 Miami athletes, to obtain information for their investigation of the university.

Subpoena Power

The NCAA doesn’t have subpoena power, meaning it doesn’t have the authority to compel testimony during investigations. Staffers in the organization’s enforcement department used subpoena authority through Shapiro’s bankruptcy proceedings to obtain information that wouldn’t have been available otherwise, Kenneth Wainstein, a partner at Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft said on the conference call.

The technique, proposed by Maria Elena Perez, Shapiro’s attorney, was approved by two supervisors in the enforcement department, despite vocal concern from the NCAA’s legal staff, Wainstein said. Perez was paid to depose two people in Dec. 2011 using questions proposed by the NCAA, according to the report.

Perez said in a telephone interview that she was never told that her work with the NCAA was in violation of their own rules and that she felt “enormously betrayed” by the NCAA.

“I played by the rules, to the letter, and I wish they had done the same thing,” Perez said.

Outside Counsel

The actions violated an NCAA policy that says only its legal staff is allowed to hire outside counsel, Wainstein said. He added that while it was not illegal, it could be perceived as a manipulation of the bankruptcy process, and that it showed disregard for the expectations of the NCAA’s membership.

Roe Lach was named a director of enforcement for the NCAA in 2004 and was promoted to vice president two years ago, according to the New York Times. Ameen Najjar, who oversaw the NCAA’s Miami investigation, left the NCAA in 2012, Wainstein said.

The 52-page independent review looked solely at the actions of NCAA staff members, Wainstein said, and did not address any facts regarding Miami’s conduct, or the actions of people not associated with the NCAA. He said the NCAA cooperated fully with the review.

No Bowls

Miami declared itself ineligible for bowl play for the second straight football season in November as the NCAA’s investigation continued. Emmert, who said there is still a lot of information that was not tainted by the review’s findings, did not have an estimate on when a ruling will be announced.

“I wouldn’t characterize this as a case of corruption,” Emmert said. “It was certainly a case where there was some bad judgment and some bad decisions made, but it shouldn’t over the long run diminish the ability of the NCAA to govern itself.”

Miami believes its self-imposed sanctions have been sufficient punishment, Shalala said in a statement.

“The lengthy and already flawed investigation has demonstrated a disappointing pattern of unprofessional and unethical behavior,” Shalala said. “Regardless of where blame lies internally with the NCAA, even one individual, one act, one instance of malfeasance both taints the entire process and breaches the public’s trust.”

Emmert said the NCAA will soon start a second review phase by surveying its member institutions to see what kinds of investigations and techniques they would like NCAA staff members to examine.

“We need to get much greater clarity as to what it is the membership wants and expects and sees as appropriate,” he said. “What techniques, what policies, what practices do you want the staff to engage in on your behalf.”

-- Editors: Michael Sillup, Erik Matuszewski

To contact the reporter on this story: Eben Novy-Williams in New York at enovywilliam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.