Wednesday, August 10, 2011

NCAA still investigating Ohio State?

Sources tell ESPN’s Pat Forde that the NCAA is still investigating Ohio State University for “other issues” involving its football program.

image INDIANAPOLIS -- Although Ohio State is heading into its meeting with the NCAA Committee on Infractions on Friday, the school's dealings with the NCAA over problems within its football program will not end there.

According to multiple sources, the NCAA notified Ohio State by letter last week that it is still investigating other issues involving the football program. The result could be a second notice of allegations and a second trip through the NCAA justice system.

Ohio State has not publicly disclosed the existence of the letter.

On July 14, the NCAA notified the school that it would not face a more serious "failure to monitor" charge at its hearing Friday, and that there would be no additional allegations beyond what the school was faced with last April. That news was greeted with exultation from Ohio State fans who believed that the worst of the investigation by the NCAA's enforcement staff was over.

But that could prove to be a premature reaction. The NCAA's enforcement department is still at work.

Forde cites “multiple sources,” meaning he believes he’s done his homework and that the information is solid. If it is, then this would represent a fairly radical departure from standard NCAA enforcement procedure. This is not how that organization typically conducts business.

Enforcement likes a single investigation to be a complete, all-encompassing examination of the school’s athletic programs for potential violations. To my knowledge, they have never worked under the auspices of multiple letters of inquiry or multiple notices of allegations. It creates all sorts of problems, and bureaucrats hate problems. For example, the NOA always references the Notice of Inquiry that launched the investigation and it specifically addresses the matters believed to be potential violations. New violations can always be uncovered between the issuance of the NOI and the NOA, but that too is rare, especially if enforcement did its “due diligence” in the review phase prior to issuance of the NOI and identified all of the issues it wanted to investigate.

The legislation allows them the latitude to issue a second NOA, but the bureaucratic nightmare of differing timelines mean that they’d only do so in extraordinary situations. The fact that they never have (again, to my knowledge) says plenty.

Another angle worth watching is how the university addresses today’s news. Ohio (unlike Alabama), has some fairly strict open records laws and most of the documents you’ve seen in the various news stories were produced by the school after specific requests were made. Forde says the school has not yet released the latest letter. However, in recent months the school has bowed up and refused to provide records requested by ESPN, prompting a lawsuit against the school.

Stay tuned. This one ain’t done yet.

UPDATE: Cecil Hurt tweeted me (in response to my question) to note that the Michigan Fab 5 case was closed in 1997, then reopened in 2002 on new evidence. So while a similar chain of events does have historical precedent, I also note that the Fab 5 case was one of the most notorious.

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