The NCAA's investigation of the University of Miami athletic program has dragged on for over a year since former UM booster Nevin Shapiro's allegations against the program were made public by a Yahoo! Sports report. To expedite the investigation and in hopes of convincing anyone involved in the scandal to answer Shapiro's allegations, the NCAA sent a strongly-worded letter to scores of former Canes giving them an ultimatum.
The Miami Herald reported Wednesday that the NCAA has given former players until Friday to speak with investigators, or else the organization, in the wording of one letter leaked to the Herald by a player's attorney, "will consider the non-response as your client's admission of involvement in NCAA violations."
In short, the NCAA is saying it will take the word of Shapiro, a convicted felon who orchestrated a $930 million Ponzi scheme, if players do not speak to investigators. Because the NCAA has no subpoena power, it cannot compel anyone except current student-athletes and coaches to cooperate with investigators.
Former UM players named in Yahoo's report have not come forward, so the NCAA is making one last attempt to change their minds about cooperating.
The Herald spoke with several former players (all unnamed), saying most have not yet decided whether they will speak with the NCAA.
The NCAA is taking a major risk with this move, though. If it imposes heavy sanctions against UM based on Shapiro's claims (some of which, like his tale of paying for an abortion necessitated when a former player impregnated a stripper, have not been corroborated at all), it could lose credibility with member colleges and universities.
More importantly, unless the NCAA gets corroborating evidence from anyone else besides Shapiro (who provided the NCAA with plenty of paper records of his exploits, but little beyond cell phone and financial records), it could come under legal fire. It is not hard to imagine UM requesting an injunction from a federal court if the NCAA simply accepts every Shapiro charge without corroboration.
It is possible the NCAA is bluffing. It only takes a few of the 114 players Shapiro alleged committed violations to roll on the whole lot and provide plenty of damning evidence. But if no one comes forward, the NCAA could be forced to overreach or else look toothless.