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College Sports, Division I, Education

NCAA Investigation of Miami: What is Limited Immunity?

The national media has covered the NCAA enforcement investigation of the University of Miami athletics program with great interest since last week. Yahoo! Sports reported Nevin Shapiro, a former Miami booster who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for operating a $930 million Ponzi scheme, allegedly provided impermissible benefits to approximately 72 UM football student-athletes and other student-athletes between 2002 and 2010. Among the student-athletes named in the report were former UM football student-athletes who have since transferred to another institution and former UM football prospective student-athletes who chose to attend a different institution. One interesting aspect of this story is while the current UM football student-athletes have not yet had their eligibility determined, many of the student-athletes who left or chose not to attend UM have been declared eligible by their respective institutions.

On August 22, 2011, Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com offered insight into what may be happening. According to Dodd, during an exclusive interview with CBSSports.com, NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach stated “the enforcement staff has been given, by the membership, a pretty important investigative tool.” What Roe Lach may have been referring to was NCAA Bylaw, which provides limited immunity for current and prospective student-athletes when particular circumstances apply. Specifically, the bylaw states, “at the request of the enforcement staff, the Committee on Infractions may grant limited immunity to a student-athlete or prospective student-athlete when such an individual otherwise might be declared ineligible for intercollegiate competition based on information reported to the enforcement staff by the individual or a third-party associated with the individual. Such immunity shall not apply to the individual’s involvement in violations of NCAA legislation not reported or to future involvement in violations of NCAA legislation by the individual or to any action taken by an institution. In any case, such immunity shall not be granted unless the relevant information would not otherwise be available to the enforcement staff.”

What this essentially means if applied to the UM case is that the players who chose to leave UM or the recruits who chose not to attend UM could remain eligible regardless of whether the allegations against them prove to be true in exchange for providing information to the enforcement staff. Thus far, there has been no confirmation by Roe Lach or the NCAA that limited immunity has been provided in this case.

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About Justin P. Sievert, Esquire

Bar Admissions (North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee) Practice Area (College Sports Law)

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