On August 15, 2011, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson reported the “NCAA is investigating claims that convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro gave gifts and services — such as use of a yacht — to Hurricane football players while they were attending UM, according to a source with knowledge of the investigation and Shapiro’s attorney, Maria Elena Perez.” According to the article, Perez has been in contact with the NCAA for several months and has informed them that Shapiro claims to have given up to 100 former or current University of Miami football players gifts and other benefits that would be a violation under NCAA rules. NCAA extra-benefits legislation states that “an extra benefit is any special arrangement by an institutional employee or a representative of the institution’s athletics interests to provide a student-athlete or the student-athlete’s relative or friend a benefit not expressly authorized by NCAA legislation. Receipt of a benefit by student-athletes or their relatives or friends is not a violation of NCAA legislation if it is demonstrated that the same benefit is generally available to the institution’s students or their relatives or friends or to a particular segment of the student body (e.g., international students, minority students) determined on a basis unrelated to athletics ability.”
One of the interesting aspects of this case is whether the NCAA’s statute of limitations will be triggered. A statute of limitations sets the maximum time after an event that proceedings based on that event may be initiated. The NCAA’s statute of limitations reads as follows:
“NCAA 32.6.3 Statute of Limitations: Allegations included in a notice of allegations shall be limited to possible violations occurring not earlier than four years before the date the notice of inquiry is forwarded to the institution or the date the institution notifies (or, if earlier, should have notified) the enforcement staff of its inquiries into the matter. However, the following shall not be subject to the four-year limitation:
(a) Allegations involving violations affecting the eligibility of a current student-athlete;
(b) Allegations in a case in which information is developed to indicate a pattern of willful violations on the part of the institution or individual involved, which began before but continued into the four-year period; and
(c) Allegations that indicate a blatant disregard for the Association’s fundamental recruiting, extra-benefit, academic or ethical-conduct regulations or that involve an effort to conceal the occurrence of the violation. In such cases, the enforcement staff shall have a one-year period after the date information concerning the matter becomes available to the NCAA to investigate and submit to the institution a notice of allegations concerning the matter.”
As applied to this case, the NCAA enforcement staff will first need to determine what, if any, violations occurred at UM. If the NCAA determines that violations did occur, they will need to determine whether these violations occurred not earlier than four years before the date the notice of inquiry was forwarded to UM or the date UM notified (of, if earlier, should have notified) the enforcement staff of UM’s inquiry into the matter. If it is determined that the violations occurred outside of the four-year window the exceptions to the general rule will be applied. The NCAA will look to: (1) involvement of a current UM student-athlete; (2) facts indicating a pattern of wilful violations by UM that began outside of the four-year window but continued into it; (3) facts indicating a blatant disregard for the NCAA’s fundamental recruiting, extra-benefit, academic or ethical-conduct regulations; and (4) facts indicating an effort to conceal the occurrence of the violation by UM.