The NCAA has found what it calls "a very severe issue of improper conduct" committed by former members of its own enforcement program during the University of Miami investigation, and will not deliver the long-awaited notice of allegations against the Hurricanes until an external review is completed.
"I am deeply disappointed and frustrated and even angry about these circumstances," said NCAA President Mark Emmert, who also described it as "a shocking affair."
Former NCAA enforcement staff members worked with the criminal defense attorney for Nevin Shapiro to improperly obtain information through a bankruptcy proceeding that didn't involve the NCAA, the NCAA said.
UM President Donna Shalala said she is “frustrated, disappointed and concerned” by Emmert's announcement that the integrity of its investigation into the school may have been compromised.
"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," Shalala said in a statement.
The NCAA said its enforcement staff was able to gain information through the bankruptcy proceedings that would not have been accessible otherwise. 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.
"I have been vocal in the past regarding the need for integrity by NCAA member schools, athletics administrators, coaches, and student-athletes," Emmert said in a statement. "That same commitment to integrity applies to all of us in the NCAA national office."
He added that he was disappointed in the findings.
"To say the least, I am angered and saddened by this situation. Trust and credibility are essential to our regulatory tasks," Emmert said. "My intent is to ensure our investigatory functions operate with integrity and are fair and consistent with our member schools, athletics staff and most importantly our student-athletes."
During a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Emmert said he has commissioned an external review of the enforcement program that he expects will take no longer than two weeks.
"We're gonna move as fast as possible but we just have to get this right," Emmert said.
The NCAA won't move forward with a notice of allegations in the Miami investigation until all the facts surrounding the latest issue are known.
Meanwhile, John Infante, a former compliance officer at NCAA schools who covers such issues on his Bylaw Blog, said the notice of allegations were expected to be delivered any day.
“I was pretty surprised that something like this would come up pretty much at the 11th hour," he said.
But it would have been bad to deliver the notice without the information disclosed Wednesday, and then pull it back, Infante said.
“Then they would have looked even worse, in the sense that how did you not check this? How did you not include this?” said Infante. He said he wrote his blog on a part-time basis on the NCAA website from October 2010 to March 2012 before he was hired by athleticscholarships.net to continue it there full-time in June 2012.
Many people who expected to be named in the notice of allegations had been briefed in recent days about what charges they may face, and the NCAA and Miami had reviewed some draft, or preliminary, findings.
Shapiro, a former UM booster, is serving a 20-year sentence for his role in masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme.
The allegations against UM were made public in August 2011, when a Yahoo! Sports article was published in which Shapiro claimed he provided dozens of Miami athletes and recruits with impermissible benefits between 2002 and 2010.
No sanctions have been handed down but Miami's football team has already self-imposed a bowl ban for the past two seasons in response to the investigation. Head coach Al Golden is also holding back some scholarships from the 2013 roster.
"Since the University first alerted the NCAA to the possibility of violations more than two years ago, we have been cooperative and compliant with the NCAA and, I believe, a model for how institutions should partner with NCAA staff during investigations," Shalala said. "In addition to encouraging current and former staff members and student-athletes to cooperate with investigators, we have provided thousands of documents to the enforcement staff."
Emmert didn't say whether the issue would ultimately work in UM's favor.
"I don't know whether it helps or hurts any of these cases and candidly that's not my concern, my concern is that the policies and procedures and behaviors inside the national office and especially in the enforcement program are consistent with our values," he said. "Whether it produces good information or no information, it's got to be information that's gathered appropriately, there's no way to cut corners on this."
Infante said he expected that the NCAA would not re-open its UM investigation. He added that he expected the organization to use the information it received legitimately in the Miami case, while throwing out information that was obtained improperly through the attorney and not try to obtain it another way. That would help the university, he said.
Some broader impacts could be that the NCAA may decide to create a formal internal affairs department, outsource more of its investigative work, or clean house in a review of its investigative personnel, Infante said.