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Senior College Football Columnist

Hey NCAA, why don't you just give it up and let Miami go

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The Miami case is now tainted beyond reason. We know that now. Mistrial. Throw it out, NCAA. Move on, NCAA. You've lost face -- and perhaps the credibility to ever investigate anyone again.

Now the overarching question after Wednesday's staggering news of NCAA impropriety in the Miami case becomes: Is the enforcement process, as we know it, done? Dead? Kaput?

Is it time to outsource the most controversial department of a highly controversial non-profit, tax-exempt -- though extremely powerful -- giant?

The answer would seem to scream, yes. The NCAA paid for the services of Nevin Shapiro attorney Maria Elena Perez to conduct depositions in a federal bankruptcy case in order to get evidence of NCAA violations, a source told CBSSports.com. That's not only improper, it's possibly illegal.

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"This is obviously a shocking affair ...," Emmert said. "It is stunning this has transpired."

The worst day in the association's 62-year history of enforcement may signal the end of days for NCAA cops.

Connecting the dots, it seems that Elena Perez was hired as a mole. She became a de facto NCAA investigator while the NCAA was investigating her client. Hey, anything to find dirt on Miami. Conventional laws don't apply to the NCAA. It doesn't have to use conventional due process, which has led to some wildly unconventional outcomes.

This places the Penn State and USC cases -- for starters -- in a whole new light. Emmert used unprecedented -- and unknown -- powers to eviscerate Penn State football as punishment for a creep former assistant coach being allowed to prey on young boys. The NCAA already is fighting two lawsuits on that front.

The association is also being sued by former USC assistant Todd McNair for defamation of character. McNair was blamed by the NCAA for knowing about Reggie Bush's improper benefits. McNair's lawyers say the NCAA violated its own rules and procedures in investigating their client. The NCAA is seeking to keep sealed possibly damning information that would detail that enforcement process.

Now this incredibly complicated, embarrassing and possibly game-changing issue for the NCAA.

"It was a matter who she [Elena Perez] was representing in the case at that point in time," Emmert said Wednesday during a conference call.

Exactly. In its -- let's say zeal -- to prosecute Miami, the NCAA seemingly played both ends against the middle. The association may have also improperly involved itself in a federal bankruptcy proceeding. Shapiro is broke and sitting in jail, guilty of an elaborate Ponzi scheme. That looks practically tame compared to what's going on in Indianapolis at the moment.

Emmert may be getting a call from the Justice Department soon.

The Miami case was increasingly flawed. Yahoo! Sports basically did the NCAA's work for it 1½ years ago. It had Shapiro from jail with boxes of records and receipts ratting out Miami. Why in the name of Paul Dee did the NCAA have to go any further? You may question Shapiro's credibility in damning Miami to the depths of NCAA hell, but the joke was once made: The association could rely on the testimony of a ham sandwich if it helped their case.

Pass the mustard. Using a convicted felon (Lloyd Lake) in the USC case almost seems acceptable by comparison.

The association has played the bully in the past. This time it just played dumb.

There are those of you snickering right now knowing the enforcement process has been flawed for decades. But in this case alone, an NCAA investigator has been fired. An NCAA official wrote a letter to former Miami players basically threatening to blackmail them if they weren't forthright with information. Now, it is discovered that the NCAA has the attorney of the case's central figure on retainer.

And no one at the NCAA knew about it?

Blow it up. Start over. The NCAA contracts out for its drug testing. Why not do the same thing for enforcement? Emmert started an external review of enforcement Wednesday by retaining a high-powered corporate lawyer. Maybe Kenneth Wainstein's firm would be interested in establishing an NCAA enforcement wing.

Obviously oversight is lacking. Emmert is ultimately responsible. How can you not know the ongoing details of the most high-profile case in the organization? Emmert said the wrongdoing came about in December 2011 and January 2012. The NCAA found out months later when expense reports were turned in.

"It immediately raised a question, where the heck did this come from," Emmert said.

I asked who would have signed off on such a move. Emmert said the office of general counsel Donald Remy. But, Emmert added, the issue never reached Remy's desk.

That suggests that for a period of months an investigator at the NCAA was allowed to go cowboy and hire Elena Perez without oversight. Wouldn't we all love that expense account?

"I've only been here 2½ years, but in my 2½ years I've never seen anything like this and I don't want to see it again," Emmert said.

He may not have to. There have been wheels in motion now to change the process. Let's start in Washington, D.C., where Congress might be interested in that tax-exempt status. Wednesday was too much. The enforcement was flawed before. Now it's wrong, mean-spirited, perhaps in this case even flirting with breaking the law.

Miami should be free to go, because the NCAA overseeing enforcement has to go.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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