INDIANAPOLIS – The NCAA’s home-grown scandal is hitting hard at headquarters.
President Mark Emmert announced Monday that Julie Roe Lach, the vice president of enforcement, is leaving and will soon be replaced by private attorney Jonathan Duncan after her role in the botched investigation at the University of Miami. He even suggested the NCAA’s board of directors and executive committee could hold him accountable for this mess, and it’s not over yet.
After releasing a 55-page report detailing how the NCAA violated its own practices and policies by paying the attorney for convicted Ponzi-schemer Nevin Shapiro thousands of dollars to help with the Miami case, Emmert spent more than an hour doing damage control on the latest black eye to hit the organization.
“I think the damage is, first of all, for those people who were already skeptical or cynics, this feeds into their cynicism,” Emmert told the Associated Press after a conference call with other reporters. “For those of us who have great confidence in all the people around this building, it’s painful to have to deal with an issue that fails to live up to our standards and expectations. I think that’s the challenge for all of us that work here.”
The report, written by attorney Kenneth L. Wainstein, details how now-former NCAA investigator Ameen Najjar appeared to manipulate the process by hiring Maria Elena Perez, Shapiro’s attorney, to help the NCAA obtain information from a bankruptcy proceeding – information that would have otherwise been unavailable. Shapiro has said that it provided improper benefits to dozens of football and basketball players at Miami.
According to the report, Lach obtained clearance for paying Perez, but the NCAA’s legal staff nixed the idea. Najjar then contacted Perez with what the report describes as a “way around” the road block.
The report said Najjar, who left the NCAA last spring, assured Lach and Tom Hosty, the managing director of enforcement, that the legal staff had approved the deal when it had not. Najjar did not return phone messages Monday.
The NCAA didn’t figure out what happened, the report said, until Perez billed the NCAA $57,115 for hours in August. By that time, the NCAA had already paid out approximately $10,500 to Perez in expenses.
Wainstein called Lach cooperative and said nothing the external investigators found called her integrity into question. Lach did not immediately respond to a message left by the AP on her cellphone.
“The actions we are taking today are clearly consistent with holding people accountable for their behavior,” Emmert said. “If the executive committee believes some disciplinary action needs to be taken toward me, then I’m sure they will.”
The incident has been an embarrassing blow to the NCAA, which is fending off a number of lawsuits and is the target of sharp criticism in some quarters for the penalties it handed to Penn State following the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. And Wainstein will now embark on the second part of the investigation, which could include looking into previous NCAA infractions cases and suggesting ways to prevent another rogue case.
“I don’t have any specific recommendations now,” Wainstein said. “But as President Emmert said, I’m a former prosecutor and I’ve managed prosecutions and investigations for the better part of 20 years, so I’m going to suggest some ideas that I import from that context.”
Emmert suggested perhaps add an ombudsman to the NCAA staff, noting an ombudsman, however, would need some power.