NCAA staff’s tasks won’t get any easier
by Dan Wolken, USA TODAY Sports
The final judgment on Ameen Najjar, the former investigator whose actions led to one of the biggest embarrassments in NCAA history, is that he was motivated “out of a genuine interest in finding the facts” related to allegations against the University of Miami.
That’s how he was characterized Monday in a report by attorney Ken Wainstein detailing how the NCAA’s handling of the Miami case became, in the words of NCAA President Mark Emmert, a “debacle.”
Najjar, who was fired last year, undoubtedly wanted the truth. The problem is he become so desperate to get it, he simply ignored the advice of the NCAA’s legal staff and built an investigative strategy that fell outside the limits of the association’s investigative powers.
And the question that now hovers over the entire NCAA, as it emerges with significant long-term questions about what kind of enforcement arm it wants to maintain, is whether Najjar was a rogue agent whose good intentions went too far or was part of a much more troubling investigative culture where the “gotcha” matters more than the organization’s own boundaries.
“I’ve maintained for years and years that this process has operated out of any type of control or ethics or in many cases morals,” said David Ridpath, an associate professor of sports administration at Ohio University and critic of NCAA enforcement practices. “These investigators are poorly supervised, I’ve felt, and sometimes even drunk on power where they’ve done things outside of what they were allowed to do. I think it has gone on for a long time.”
That’s the perception Emmert is now going to have to fight, despite the NCAA’s best effort Monday to isolate this not as an overarching failure of integrity, but rather a series of bad decisions made by individuals on this case.
“Is there pressure on the enforcement staff to try and make cases? Of course there is,” Emmert told USA TODAY Sports in an interview following his teleconference Monday. “But in any enforcement or regulatory process there’s a right way and wrong way to get that evidence, and we have to be as starkly clear … [For more on NCAA enforcement staff's tasks won't get any easier, click here.]