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NCAA announces problems with Miami investigation

NCAA announces problems with Miami investigation

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) After nearly two years, the NCAA has finally announced some of the wrongdoing discovered during the investigation of Miami's athletic compliance practices.

The alleged rule-breakers: former NCAA employees.

NCAA President Mark Emmert revealed Wednesday that the Miami investigation is on hold after the governing body for college sports in this country discovered ``a very severe issue of improper conduct'' - specifically that the attorney for former booster and convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro was used to ``to improperly obtain information ... through a bankruptcy proceeding that did not involve the NCAA.''

The NCAA does not have subpoena power. At least one of the people deposed by attorney Maria Elena Perez - who represented Shapiro - as part of his bankruptcy case appeared under subpoena, and his testimony would not have been otherwise available to NCAA investigators. The investigators who were involved are no longer with the NCAA, Emmert said.

``How in the world can you get this far without it being recognized that this was an inappropriate way to proceed?'' Emmert asked.

That's the question that the NCAA wants answered, and fast.

Miami has been bracing for the arrival of its notice of allegations - the charges it will have to defend itself against during the sanctioning phase of the NCAA probe.

Those allegations are now on hold until an outside review of the NCAA's procedures, specifically in this case, are completed.

``As we have done since the beginning, we will continue to work with the NCAA and now with their outside investigator hoping for a swift resolution of the investigation and our case,'' Miami President Donna Shalala said.

It was part of a stunning day for Hurricane athletics: The 25th-ranked men's basketball team beat No. 1 Duke later Wednesday, 90-63.

Emmert said the NCAA was trying to find out why part of the investigation was based on depositions specific to the bankruptcy case against Shapiro, who will have to repay $82.7 million to his victims as part of his sentence. One of those depositions was given Dec. 19, 2011 by former Miami equipment-room staffer Sean Allen - who has been linked to Shapiro and many of the allegations that he made against the university.

During that deposition done as part of Shapiro's bankruptcy proceeding, the phrase ``University of Miami'' was uttered at least 58 times either in questions or answers. Miami was not part of the Ponzi scheme that led to Shapiro's legal downfall.

And the timing of this also is curious. Several people who were to be named in the NCAA's notice of allegations against Miami have been told that the document was in the final stages of preparation - and one person who spoke with AP said at least one person who was to have faced a charge of wrongdoing was told the letter was scheduled for delivery to Miami on Tuesday.

Now it's anyone's guess when that will happen.

``We cannot have the NCAA bringing forward an allegation that's predicted on information that was collected by processes none of us could stand for,'' Emmert said. ``We're going to move it as fast as possible, but we have to get this right.''

Emmert spoke angrily at times during a half-hour conference call to discuss the findings, in which he revealed that he briefed the NCAA's executive committee and the Division I board presidents with some information about the Miami matter. He said he developed a better understanding of what went on in the days that followed, which led to the hiring of Kenneth L. Wainstein of the firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP to conduct the external review of what happened.

Wainstein, Emmert said, will begin his probe on Thursday, with the NCAA hoping that he can finish within two weeks.

``We want to make sure that any evidence that's brought forward is appropriately collected and it has the integrity that we expect and demand,'' Emmert said.

Perez, a Miami graduate, did not immediately return a request for comment from the AP on Wednesday. A person in Perez's office said that the attorney was working in New York and that she would be forwarded all messages.

Emmert said the NCAA learned of the alleged misconduct, in part, through legal bills presented by Shapiro's attorney for work that was not properly approved by the organization's general counsel's office. Emmert did not specify Perez by name, only referring to the attorney as ``she,'' and the NCAA refused to confirm that Perez was the attorney in question.

``One of the questions that has to be answered, unequivocally, is what was the nature of that contractual arrangement and what was all the activity that that individual was involved with,'' Emmert said. ``There is some uncertainty about all of that and it's one of the first orders of business for the firm that we've hired to investigate.''

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, who is serving a 20-year term in federal prison for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme.

Miami has self-imposed two 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.

This would figure to be another significant issue for the NCAA and its enforcement department. Among the others pending:

- A California case filed by former Southern Cal assistant football coach Todd McNair, who said the NCAA was ``malicious'' in its investigation into his role in the benefits scandal surrounding Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frederick Shaller said he was convinced the actions of NCAA investigators were ``over the top.''

- Earlier this month, the NCAA was sued by Pennsylvania Gov. Thomas W. Corbett, who claimed the sports governing body overstepped its authority and ``piled on'' when it penalized Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky scandal last summer. The governor asked a federal judge to throw out the sanctions, arguing that the measures - which include a four-year bowl ban and $60 million fine - have harmed students, business owners and others who had nothing to do with Sandusky's crimes.

And now comes Miami, an investigation that has taken a most bizarre turn.

``In my two-and-a-half years I've certainly never seen anything like this, and don't want to see it again,'' Emmert said.

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The Bradley Beal All-NBA Dilemma: How NBA execs would handle the big question facing the Wizards

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The Bradley Beal All-NBA Dilemma: How NBA execs would handle the big question facing the Wizards

“How do you get a player better than Brad if you trade Brad?”

That brain-busting question from a current NBA general manager came before the February 7 trade deadline when rumors involving Wizards guard Bradley Beal swirled.

Another migraine-inducing conundrum is forthcoming whether Beal receives All-NBA honors or not.

Should the league’s upcoming announcement of its first, second and third team include the two-time All-Star, the Wizards may have no choice but to break up the backcourt pairing with John Wall that fueled the franchise’s most sustained success since winning the 1978 title.

This honor comes with a financial reward-- if extended to Beal by the Wizards --  in the form of a supermax contract worth approximately $193 million over four years that would begin in 2021-22. He still has two years and $56 million remaining on the valued five-year, $127 million deal he signed in 2016.

The issue is less about Beal’s hefty chunk of the Wizards’ salary cap, but combining it with Wall’s four-year, $170 million supermax deal that begins next season. Offer Beal the supermax and, should he accept, approximately 71 percent of the team’s future salary cap beginning in the 2021-22 season would be chewed up by two players.

Beal and Wall, when healthy, are All-Stars. They’re not Jordan and Pippen.

NBC Sports Washington spoke with over a dozen league sources in recent weeks including three current or former general managers, other executives, NBA coaches, and scouts, about Beal’s contract situation and the Wizards’ overall equation coming off a 32-50 campaign.

Some dutifully tried putting themselves in the mindset of Washington’s next front office leader knowing Beal’s contract status and other limiting or uncertain factors.

The executives shared opinions on whether to boldly hold or sell high on the Wizards’ best player. Regardless of their stance, their initial instinct almost unanimously landed in the same place as this current lead executive: “I have no idea what you would do.”

*****

There’s an incredibly strong argument for doing nothing. How do you get a player better than Brad if you trade Brad?

Several NBA sources largely acknowledge the choice almost gets removed from the Wizards front office should Beal receive the All-NBA nod. Even if Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson or Ben Simmons trump Beal in the voting, events from early February may effectively force the Wizards’ hand.

Washington faced its second consecutive luxury tax payment, diminishing playoff hopes and the knowledge that Wall would miss the rest of the season with a heel injury.

Despite those negatives and salary cap concerns with only five players catapulting the team over next season’s salary cap, big picture hope existed. The headliners -- Wall, Beal and Otto Porter -- previously put the Wizards in a playoff contender mode. “We're not trading any of those players,” Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said at the time.

There’s a good reason to believe Leonsis meant what he said. Then life intervened and forced change.

Wall’s left Achilles ruptured during the first week of February. The recovery time means an entire calendar year and perhaps the full 2019-20 season. Those negatives, especially with the salary cap, were now amplified.

Washington dealt with that financial scenario two days after the Wall status update by trading Porter and Markieff Morris to slide under the luxury tax.

Another life event requiring a financial decision could happen this week.

*****

There’s no debating whether Beal is worthy of the All-NBA accolade. Some believe he is a favorite to snag one of the two guard spots on the third-team.

The dilemma is can the Wizards justify offering a contract with those hefty terms knowing what’s already on the books, plus the upcoming challenges.

Pass and the likelihood of trading Beal at peak value becomes a leading option. Hold Beal regardless and his trade value effectively decreases over the next two seasons with the possibility he leaves as a 2021 free agent without compensation.

“The Wizards is a hard job right now,” a former GM told NBC Sports Washington. “There’s a lot to figure out. Timelines can’t be certain with John Wall in particular. For Bradley Beal, that's a decision… Hard to walk in [to those interviews) with a specific plan.”

Leave the supermax contract off the table and the human element arises. Those familiar with Beal’s mindset do not see a Robin to Wall’s Batman. Co-headliners, cool, but then pay and appreciate accordingly. Maybe folks could start referring to the pair as Beal and Wall once in a while.

Forget the money, which isn’t Beal’s driving motivation. As one source familiar with Beal’s thinking stated, “Brad needs to be in the playoffs. He’s not disruptive...Brad just wants to win.”

The Wizards might not be in playoff position next season even if Beal maintains his All-NBA level. It's a near lock they won't if the 2012 first-round pick is traded.

Beal averaged 30.9 points in February, the same month he dropped a season-high 46 at Charlotte and his All-NBA buzz soared. Beal joined 2019 MVP finalist James Harden as the only players this season to average at least 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.5 steals.

The wing guard’s leadership kept Washington tangibly in the playoff race until realities of the undermanned roster kicked in.

“I think [Brad is] an all-NBA player in my eyes,” said Wall, an All-NBA selection in 2016. “You know how tough it is to make that team? It’s always tough. The year he’s had speaks for itself.”

How do you trade that player especially one groomed by the organization since selecting him third overall in 2012? You can't -- but the Wizards might not have a choice.

Nobody recognizes this more than Bradley Beal.

"Honestly, I’m here until I’m not here," Beal told NBC Sports Washington earlier this month. "I’m not thinking too strong on it. My personal desire is to be here and see the direction we go. Hopefully, the correct direction.

"I keep hearing the possibility of rebooting, trading Brad and getting assets back. It’s a business. I understand both sides of it. I can’t be mad at it."

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Bradley Beal rooted for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, so now he deserves to see his hometown team win it this year

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Bradley Beal rooted for the Capitals to win the Stanley Cup, so now he deserves to see his hometown team win it this year

The St. Louis Blues defeated the San Jose Sharks Tuesday to reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1970, where they were eliminated by the Boston Bruins.

They will look to even the odds, as they will be taking on the Bruins yet again on Monday night.

Blues fan and St. Louis native Bradley Beal will hope that his hometown squad will take the cup from the reigning champs, the Washington Capitals, and win the matchup against the Bruins.

Beal cheered on the Caps just a year ago and is ready to show out for the surging Blues.

To really put it into perspective how long it has been since the Blues played for the Cup, take a look at the number one song in the country when these two teams faced off 49 years ago. 

The Blues besting the Bruins will be a challenge, and Beal will be ready to root for his squad until the final buzzer.

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