So when the NCAA did its investigation,
I actually represented him in my first
Committee on Infractions hearing. I treated
it just like a trial. Like a trial lawyer, I had
an opening prepared, I had an argument
prepared, I put him on as a witness and had
a closing prepared. I think the Committee
on Infractions was very informal at that
point, and they didn’t have any protocol for
presentation. They were sort of taken aback
at my approach. We tried the case, and my
friend was exonerated.
One of my friends at Syracuse [also] had
NCAA issues and hired me. The coach was
exonerated there, so that sort of made my
career take off.
Q: Has it since become more of a formal
A: Extremely. The NCAA has always had
an enforcement staff, but it has heightened
attention now. They conduct an
investigation, and then you have a chance
to be with your client when your client’s
interviewed. Then, if the enforcement staff
feels that there are sufficient allegations,
they’ll publish what they call a notice of
allegations, and you have an opportunity
to respond to that and make your own
submission. Then you can appear before
the Committee on Infractions, and that’s
conducted just like a hearing.
Q: How does this compare to
representing clients in a court of law?
A: Well, it’s much more difficult, with
respect to the Committee on Infractions
hearings. But representing clients in a
court of law does give you the skills to
be an advocate in the Committee on
Infractions hearings. So you learn how
to give an opening statement, you know
how to present arguments, you know how
to present witnesses, and you’ve learned
how to deal with an adversary—the
Q: The phrase I keep seeing in connection
with these matters is “violations of
NCAA bylaws and legislation.” What
are the specific violations that are being
A: It could be anything from providing
extra benefits to recruiting violations or
academic fraud. Those are the basic ones.
The most feared situation is an unethical
conduct violation, where any coach is at
risk because he or she allegedly either
knowingly did a major violation, or was less
than truthful in conducting the interviews.
Q: Why is that the most feared situation?
A: It takes your client out of collegiate
sports for a period of time. Once that
unethical conduct violation is ascribed to
a particular individual, it’s hard, even after
that time period is exhausted, to get back
into the college game.
Q: Does being a former collegiate athlete
give you any advantage?
A: It does to the extent that it teaches
you discipline. You have to learn the
rules, you have to work hard, you have
to be there for your clients, and you have
to like the competition that’s involved in
defending your client. I think that goes over
not only to the NCAA proceedings, but
any proceeding—any trial that you have,
whether it be a bench trial, a jury trial or an
administrative hearing situation.
Q: Can you take me through a typical
matter of this sort?
A: In the University of Miami situation, I
[represented] two assistant basketball
coaches and an assistant football coach.
Mr. [Nevin] Shapiro, [a Miami football
booster] was in jail [for orchestrating a
multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme]. He had
professed that he was very angry with the
school and the coaches; because after he
was in jail, they wanted nothing to do with
him. So he decided to go to the NCAA and
say all sorts of accusations against the
coaches in the school.
From there, the NCAA will interview the
at-risk coach. Before that’s done, the at-risk
coach will generally get in touch with me or
some other lawyer. [I’ll] sit down with that
at-risk coach, find out what his side of the
story is, caution him about making sure you
tell the truth, going through all the pitfalls
that there may be with the allegation and
get them prepped for the interview. And you
sit through the interview.
It’s important to conduct the interview
not unlike a deposition—knowing your
client has rights, making sure the questions
are fair, making sure the answers are clear.
Because if you don’t have a clear answer,
you can be accused of being less than
candid, and then you get into unethical
conduct violations against you.
From there, the enforcement staff
of the NCAA will decide whether
they’re going to do an investigation of
infractions of a bylaw or legislation.
They’ll publish what’s called a notice of
allegations, and the at-risk coach then
has an opportunity to respond.
From there, [if] the enforcement staff
continues to pursue the allegation, there’ll
be a Committee on Infractions hearing, at
which point the NCAA presents its position,
the school presents its position, and the
coach presents his or her position.
Q: If you could change one thing about
the process, what would it be?
A: I’d like to have the opportunity to
cross-examine the people that have
accused the at-risk coach. You really
don’t have that opportunity. Many
times, the enforcement staff will have
discussion and interviews with people
on which they base the allegations, and
then give a report to the Committee on
Infractions. Those people may or may not
even speak with you. It would be better
to, like in a court of law, face the accuser,
have an opportunity to cross-examine.
You just don’t have that opportunity
under the protocol used by the NCAA
and the Committee on Infractions.
Q: Do you think that will ever change?
A: It hasn’t in a whole bunch of years.
For example, we had a situation with
the University of Miami where, because
of the improprieties engaged in by the
enforcement staff, we filed a motion
to dismiss all the notice of allegations.
The committee said they were going to
listen to it. We filed it, spent a whole lot
of time, whole lot of money, whole lot
of resources in putting it together. And
we kept asking to present that motion
before the committee heard evidence.