Nevin Shapiro’s attorney said Thursday that she did nothing wrong during the former Miami booster’s bankruptcy proceedings, instead insisting that the NCAA’s problems during an investigation of the Hurricanes’ athletic department were self-inflicted.
Further, the attorney, Maria Elena Perez, said she’s one of the victims of the NCAA’s mistakes.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Perez said that the NCAA had representation present during two depositions in the bankruptcy case of her client, who is currently serving a 20-year prison term for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme. The NCAA said Wednesday that it has ordered an outside review of the Miami investigation after finding “a very severe issue of improper conduct” by former investigators working the Miami case.
“The NCAA continues to sit in the (depositions) that are relevant to them,” Perez said in a telephone interview. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’m not an employee of the NCAA. I’m not bound by NCAA rules. What I did was exercised in due diligence for my client, Nevin Shapiro.”
It has been two wild days for Miami athletics, starting Wednesday afternoon with the NCAA’s announcement that the Miami investigation would be reviewed, followed Wednesday night by the 25th-ranked Hurricanes’ stunning 90-63 win over No. 1 Duke, and then the hiring on Thursday of James Coley to be the new football offensive coordinator – luring him away from Florida State, no less.
So it’s business as usual at Miami. With the investigation, that’s not at all the case.
The revelations Wednesday mean the notice of allegations against Miami – the NCAA’s findings of wrongdoing, a document that was nearly completed and was expected to be released by the end of this week – will be delayed for at least a few more weeks, if not longer. The long-term ramifications could be more damning for the NCAA, especially if the outside investigator they have commissioned to look into the mess finds more problems.
And one of the things the NCAA wants to know is exactly what the nature of the agreement between Perez and former investigators was.
“I cannot discuss at this juncture my relationship with the NCAA,” said Perez, who added that she has retained her own counsel and plans to release her side of the story in the coming days.
Meanwhile, NCAA President Mark Emmert released a statement Thursday lashing out at reports that the NCAA General Counsel’s office approved what he called “the inappropriate use of Nevin Shapiro’s attorney to obtain depositions in the Miami case.”
“These reports are not true,” Emmert said. “In fact, evidence shows the General Counsel’s Office specifically told the enforcement staff – on at least two occasions prior to any arrangements being made with the attorney – that they could not use Shapiro’s attorney for that purpose. As a result, the external investigation is solely focused on the behavior within and the environment of the enforcement program.”
The NCAA said its investigation was based, at least in part, on information that it should not have had access to, the testimony of those who appeared under subpoena to be deposed in the bankruptcy case involving former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, one of the most notorious Ponzi scheme architects in history.
The NCAA does not have subpoena power. Shapiro’s attorney did, and used it to depose people she said were part of the bankruptcy proceeding. However, the deposition of one of those who appeared under subpoena, former Miami equipment-room staffer Sean Allen, showed a number of questions that were directly related to Shapiro’s involvement with Hurricane athletics.
“The dubious party is not me. What I have done is 150 percent above board,” Perez said.
The Hurricanes’ athletic compliance practices have been probed by the NCAA for nearly two years. Allegations of wrongdoing involving Miami’s football and men’s basketball programs became widely known in August 2011 when Yahoo Sports published accusations brought by Shapiro.
Miami has self-imposed two football postseason bans in response to the investigation. The Hurricanes also would have played in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game this past season, meaning they could have qualified for the Orange Bowl.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford on Thursday lauded the way Miami has cooperated with the NCAA throughout the inquiry, which started about two years ago.
“Miami’s cooperation throughout this process should be commended,” Swofford said. “They’ve been forthright and diligent in their efforts to fully cooperate with the NCAA. While it’s unfortunate and extremely concerning that this has transpired, we respect the actions taken by President Emmert to launch an external review of the enforcement process.”
Perez said she was upset with the speculation that she colluded with the NCAA against Miami.
“I don’t understand what all this madness is about,” Perez said. “This is much ado over nothing. … Everyone is going to know exactly what happened. I have not done anything that is not above-board. In fact, I will take it a step further. I am a victim of their enforcement staff’s misconduct. This is insane. This is ridiculous. This is outrageous.”