Capitals

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.

Quick Links

Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

The Capitals managed to earn a point on Friday in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, but the game felt like a missed opportunity for Washington. After giving up four goals in the first period, seven power plays including two 5-on-3s, and two power play goals, the Caps knew they had no one to blame but themselves for the loss.

“We were still not quite there maybe emotionally,” Lars Eller said.

At least not for the first period. The Caps allowed four goals in the opening 20 minutes to dig themselves into a 4-1 hole. Each goal came from the slot as the Caps had no control over the front of their own net.

“Just tough to start that way, to kind of dig ourselves a big hole,” Brett Connolly said. “Obviously, it’s good to come back and get a point but we don’t need to do that to ourselves. It takes a lot of energy to get back in that game.”

Washington battled back to tie the game at 4, but penalties ultimately derailed their momentum, allowing Florida to retake the lead.

After scoring three straight goals, the Caps took three minor penalties in the final three minutes of the second period.

Alex Ovechkin was called for interference on Aaron Ekblad as he made no attempt to play a loose puck that trickled past the Florida defenseman. He was clearly focused on delivering the hit and nothing else.

Less than a minute later, Eller was caught on the ice a tad early, and Washington was called for too many men.

“I see Backy coming for a change, they had full possession,” Eller said. “I don't see behind my back, I think the guys are telling me he has one skate over so I think it was an unnecessary call, but what am I going to say? It's a tough one.”

With 1:15 of a two-man advantage to work with, Jonathan Huberdeau scored the go-ahead goal late in the period.

Even after a furious comeback, the Caps could not escape the second with the score tied because of the penalties.

Just 43 seconds after Huberdeau’s goal, Washington went right back to 5-on-3. Evgeny Kuznetsov was tossed from a faceoff by the linesman and argued the call, eventually earning himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“He said something he shouldn't have said to the referee,” Reirden said of the call.

The Caps' penalty problems were exacerbated by the continued problems of the penalty kill.

Heading into Friday's game, Washington was only killing off 72.2 percent of the power plays they faced. They allowed another two power play goals Friday as they continued to struggle when facing the extra man.

“We have room for improvement for sure,” Reirden said of his penalty kill. “It’s a new system, new with the way we’re killing, its new personnel. We’re learning. We’re missing a key guy in Tom on that as well. It’s not easy, either, when you’re 5-on-3 when they’ve got talented players that can convert in that spot. It’s definitely a work in progress and I didn't expect it to go smoothly to start with. That’s one of the areas that we knew was gonna be new to our team this year and it’s gonna continue to take some work. It’s something that definitely is a work in progress.”

Mistakes put the Caps down 4-1, they put them down 5-4, they cost them a valuable point against a previously winless Panthers team before a four-game road trip through Canada, and they are ultimately why the defending Stanley Cup champions are only 3-2-2 to start the season.

And they know it.

“We’re still trying to find our game,” Connolly said. “Would we have liked to have picked up where we left off? Yes. But it’s not easy. We played a lot of hockey last year and a short summer and you come in here and there’s a lot of distractions, a lot of that kind of stuff. We’ve done some good things and we’ve done some not so good things.

"I think if you look at last season we weren't very good either at the start. We weren't at our best. Just take the positives and know that we can overcome that. It hasn’t been disastrous. We’re still getting points, we’re still above .500 right now with a tough couple back-to-backs to start the year. So not the worst start, but obviously we have another level.”

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

The Florida Panthers played over half of Friday’s game with five defensemen after a hit from Alex Ovechkin ultimately knocked Mark Pysyk out of the game.

Early in the second period, Ovechkin attempted to enter the offensive zone with the puck, but it was swept away at the blue line back to Pysyk. Pysyk quickly chipped the puck away and then was on the receiving end of a hit from Ovechkin.

In real time, the hit did not appear to be a big one. It wasn't even the biggest hit Ovechkin delivered in the game, as in the third period he sent Aleksander Barkov flying with a shoulder hit. But Pysyk went down to the ice after the hit and left the game soon after.

After the game, Florida head coach Bob Boughner did not mince words.

“Pysyk got a high hit to the head,” he said.

When asked if he thought the league should review the hit, Boughner said, “I hope they do because if you see the replay, it's high. It's a head shot. And the league's trying to clamp down on that. Whether there's no call, I don't blame the refs. Maybe they missed it. That happens. But those are the kind of plays that need to be reviewed.”

Based on the replay, it is hard to determine if the principal point of contact was the head. Ovechkin does not launch himself, but does appear to take an upward trajectory into Pysyk. Still, it seems like a hard sell to say Ovechkin was targeting the head.

But the hit did send Pysyk out of the game, and in today’s NHL, when head hits are a big topic of conversation and when a player is injured on a play, the NHL has shown it takes those plays more seriously.

Pysyk returned to the game for one more shift after receiving the hit, but left the game after and did not return.

“Right now we're still getting him checked out, but we'll see more in the morning,” Boughner said.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: