Sunday, February 24, 2013

Miami vs. NCAA Fight Will Get Ugly

Even by Miami’s high-minded standards, amid a moment of tumult and hell from a war with the NCAA, it’s been quite a fight. If she could, Donna Shalala would declare combat on the battlefield, a woman who is anxious to finish what a corrupted organization started. Might I suggest, perhaps as the everlasting event mounts, that the tension between the University of Miami and the NCAA will only get ugly?

Because, in truth, the news that centers the Miami athletic department for its dealings with booster Nevin Shapiro, a convicted Ponzi crook, is not shrinking and won’t disappear for a long time. This is not, as we all know, the first time the school has been in the middle of a scandal ever so horrifying and shameful. Except this time, it happens to be traded punches, not to mention swinging, jabbing and counterpunching, a nasty brawl between a university and the NCAA.

Earlier in the week, Mark Emmert, as the NCAA president should to salvage his damaged credibility, admitted that his organization bungled in its investigation of Miami athletic program. And, yes, I think we all can agree that Emmert is an idiot, a steward who has taken a prestigious job to his head, fast to punish a university and evidently is more about protecting his name from shame.

It would be appropriate to place all the blame on a vaunted program if there weren’t two sides to a story. But since there is, Emmert, no matter if he apologizes and tries to protect his name and the NCAA brand, should be just as culpable for his mistakes. When you look at it, from a certain standpoint, no second thoughts whatsoever, Emmert’s believability suffers among all people.

The more we talk about him, the more we are talking bad about him, not having anything nice to say about the guy simply when he is seeking power, and isn’t bothered by the fact that the NCAA needs to be reformed. The great American folks want him out.

It seems he’s the enemy in Miami, unable to crack down on slimy agents and athletes who would receive improper benefits to violate NCAA rules. It is dumb, at best, and credulous to believe that the NCAA will find the resources to catch athletes and coaches breaking rules, especially when a number of these coaches and athletes have not been caught for infractions.

Just when the news was beginning to die down, especially with all the noise regarding the messy Penn State sex scandal, it’s become awful again, in an instant. Still, before it reaches that point, Shalala is not afraid to challenge the NCAA to a fight. It takes a powerful woman, like Shalala, to stand up to a stained organization, but she is probably more powerful than Emmert and can even qualify for his position.

So Emmert is in for a rude awakening and cannot drop the hammer on Miami. And how proper for it to be the Hurricanes, so long in the aftermath of prior scandals and misdeeds, now the victims of the NCAA. It really takes heart and guts for Shalala, who is the Miami president and the former Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Clinton, to flex her political power and argue that you cannot believe what Shapiro tells the NCAA, even though he came clean.

Looking at it from this view, Emmert is weaker while Shalala is stronger, bringing out the NCAA unethical conduct. It turns out the NCAA is just as bad as the schools it has punished, if not worse. And Shalala knows it. Just like Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who is suing the NCAA because of its handling of the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State, is fighting back for the sake of her university and its athletic program.

Shapiro is not credible to most. He’s certainly not credible to Shalala, but she also knows Miami had a relationship with the sleazeball. It’s unfortunate that Miami penalized itself, and banned itself from bowl games for the last couple of years, a harsh penalty for a school when the allegations were uncertain and vague.

It won’t be long until Emmert will be done as NCAA president, quickly tearing down the organization’s brand, even after admitting to his blunders. It could happen soon, if he doesn’t stop botching investigations and doesn’t get things under control. He could provide a difference and reform an unbalanced system but Emmert is desperate, unskilled and unqualified, running a shaky organization that has picked its battles with a few prominent schools without accountability for its own actions, which seems far worse than the universities it has punished.

As bad as it seems that the program’s name keeps surfacing with the same old mess — Miami is guilty as charged for its outrageous involvement with Shapiro — it shed light on a grievous issue that has not been figured out. Shapiro, who is serving 20 years in prison for managing a $930 million Ponzi fraud scheme as a sleazy booster of the University of Miami’s athletics program, provided thousands of dollars in cash and illegal benefits to football players and the men’s basketball team.

Will Shalala win the battle peacefully?

This can’t be happening. Of course it can. This may yet be remembered as the craziest showdown in sports, crazier than the scandals in the past, more interesting than a game itself once Shalala is through with the NCAA. Standing up for her university, Shalala has swagger in a clash with the NCAA.

Months since the astonishing news where the NCAA bullied and shoved Miami around, Emmert and the people under him have not recognized that the Hurricanes can be a threat and a fatal storm to the organization. The NCAA, breaking its own rules, is no match for Shalala in the boxing ring or the Octagon. It looks as if we’re in for an endless struggle before these two parties reach an understanding.

But, in the meantime, Miami’s accuser is just as dirty as the NCAA, which is all the more reason Emmert and the organization sided with Shapiro, without knowing the actual facts. It won’t be surprising to see him dismissed for hypocrisy and the lack of institutional control.

So it should come as no surprise that he will be gone soon, considering that he cannot administer a system or enforce the rules. No one can trust Emmert when he admitted that his investigators, yes those working under him in the Miami case, gathered information erroneously to give its brand a bad name as critics are all over Emmert, calling for his job.

It’s bad anytime an organization has to pay almost $20,000 to Shapiro’s attorney to use her ability and power in Shapiro’s bankruptcy case. After those working under Emmert were breaking the rules, he was not holding himself accountable.

If it was up to me, I would fire him, but the NCAA executive committee has no intentions of dismissing Emmert.

The NCAA won’t ever go away, not until Emmert does.