Legislator seeks attorney general probe of NCAA investigation into Miami

By Michael Casagrande, Sun Sentinel
Posted Feb. 21, 2013, at 7:45 p.m.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — The University of Miami’s clash with the NCAA is getting political.

State Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, is requesting a full attorney general investigation into the NCAA’s “corrupt” probe of Miami athletics. Officials in Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office confirmed they were reviewing the request after receiving Abruzzo’s sharp-toned letter Thursday.

Copying U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Abruzzo took several swings at the NCAA and former Miami booster turned whistle blower Nevin Shapiro.

“NCAA Enforcement Staff violated its own rules and engaged in corrupt behavior in an attempt to manufacture misdeeds against the University of Miami,” the letter reads. “In doing so, the NCAA has demonstrated a lack of institutional control and may have engaged in unfair trade practices in violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.”

The NCAA reportedly used similar language in the official notice of allegations delivered to Miami on Tuesday. The school was charged with the serious “lack of institutional control,” resulting from the alleged decade-long run of improper conduct involving former booster Nevin Shapiro.

Abruzzo doesn’t appear to have strong ties to the University of Miami. He graduated from Lynn University in 2003, according to his webpage. He was elected to the senate last November after four years in the House of Representatives. He’s the vice chairman of the Commerce and Tourism Committee as well as the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee.

Bondi, a graduate of the University of Florida and Stetson law school, is reviewing the matter, a spokesperson confirmed. The letter, dated Wednesday, arrived in Bondi’s office Thursday.

Messages seeking comment from Abruzzo were not immediately returned Thursday evening.

In his letter, Abruzzo continued to slam the NCAA for the its improper handling of evidence gathering. As much of 20 percent of the case against Miami was thrown out after the NCAA learned of its origin. Enforcement staff members worked with the bankruptcy attorney representing Shapiro to ask NCAA-related questions to witnesses under oath. The NCAA has no subpoena power.

“Among other acts of wrongdoing, the NCAA was so desperate to gather evidence against the University of Miami that it made improper payments to a convicted con artist and his lawyer for information it was not allowed to obtain,” Abruzzo wrote.

Shapiro is currently serving a 20-year sentence for his involvement in a $930 million Ponzi scheme.

Abruzzo now wants justice for the collegiate athletics governing body.

“The NCAA’s admittedly corrupt investigation has now dragged on for more than two years, and the University of Miami has suffered through this abuse of power,” he wrote. “While the NCAA has been paying off a criminal and his lawyer for forbidden fruit, the University of Miami has tried to work cooperatively with the NCAA and has even self-imposed serious sanctions that included a two-year bowl ban and a conference football championship game.

“I strongly feel that the NCAA’s abuse of power and payoffs must be scrutinized to the fullest extent, especially considering the NCAA’s role as a regulatory institution of more than 400,000 students across the nation. Thank you for your consideration.”

Miami president Donna Shalala is asking the NCAA to punish the school no further since it has already sat out the last two football postseasons. She said the Hurricanes “have suffered enough,” in a long statement released after receiving the notice of allegations Tuesday.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/02/21/sports/legislator-seeks-attorney-general-probe-of-ncaa-investigation-into-miami/ printed on September 19, 2014