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Still, when Emmert, who came to the NCAA from the presidency of Washington, talks with former peers about cases, he's speaking with members at whose pleasure he serves. And it exemplifies one of two clear ways enforcement work has differed under Emmert from his predecessors—and both changes bear out what Shapiro cites as Najjar's concerns. Gone are the days of NCAA founder Walter Byers's hanging up the phone after simply telling an inquiring school that if it had done nothing wrong, it had nothing to fear from an investigation. There is no evidence that deals are being made, but several ex--enforcement staffers confirm that, as Johanningmeier puts it, "you were more aware that there was an interest from the [NCAA] president's office in the cases than in the past." Another former enforcement rep says that a recent case involving the recruitment of UCLA basketball player Shabazz Muhammad entailed president-to-president communication. "It was very new to us to have those conversations going on above your head," the ex-investigator says.
Second, there has been more pressure to hurry cases since Emmert's No. 2, Jim Isch, began judging all NCAA departments by what he calls "business performance metrics." Upon opening an investigation, a staffer must assign it one of four codes for difficulty, and even the most daunting case is expected to take no more than 12 months to resolve. If a case takes longer, a new quality control directive requires the employee to justify the overrun. As Johanningmeier puts it, the imperative to "Get these things done, [and in] a measurable period of time," routinely ran up against the messiness of the real world—and the Miami case was one he considered to be a two-year undertaking. "We don't make widgets in enforcement," another former investigator says. "We process cases. It takes as long to do a case as it takes."
Though interim enforcement chief Jon Duncan says that "any suggestion that the [enforcement] department is in crisis or on its heels is absolutely not true," numerous current and former NCAA staffers tell of a division full of people desperate to leave, using words like instability, distrust and tension to describe the atmosphere. They point out that, since April, the unit has lost three of its most productive and respected employees. Some of that discontent can be traced to controversial episodes beyond the Miami embarrassment. Enforcement rep Abigail Grantstein was an investigator on UCLA's recruitment of Muhammad, and in August 2012 her boyfriend was overheard boasting on a plane that the NCAA would be finding violations. As a result the NCAA abandoned the case, reinstated Muhammad and ultimately fired Grantstein. Then there's the USC case in which the NCAA sanctioned the school in 2010 after finding that Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and basketball star O.J. Mayo had received impermissible benefits. After reviewing internal NCAA documents, a California judge recently found enough evidence that NCAA staffers had shown "ill will or hatred" toward Todd McNair, an assistant USC football coach implicated in the case, that he permitted McNair's defamation suit to go forward. And the NCAA's punishment of Penn State after the Jerry Sandusky scandal—it imposed go-directly-to-jail sanctions that included a $60 million fine, a five-year probation, a four-year postseason ban and 40 lost scholarships—was regarded as overreach by many NCAA staffers as well as much of the public, because the enforcement division never conducted an investigation.
Until now it has been inconceivable that an athlete would share incriminating information with the NCAA, only to reverse field nearly two years later to claim that an investigator had "coerced" him into doing so. Last week Miami redshirt senior defensive lineman Dyron Dye filed an incident report with the Coral Gables police department alleging that Johanningmeier "threatened Mr. Dye's football eligibility if he did not cooperate with the investigation" when he sat for the NCAA. To be sure, Johanningmeier has his detractors: In 2002 two Alabama coaches named him in a defamation suit against the NCAA, only to have Johanningmeier dismissed from the complaint; another case, tied to a 2003 investigation of Mississippi State, is still pending. But he says he simply asked Dye to sign a standard NCAA form, presented by a university-hired lawyer, agreeing that he'd be subject to losing his eligibility if he failed to tell the truth.
That's what it has come to: When an enforcement staffer tries to use his most basic tools, the carrot of competition and the stick of ineligibility, he gets reported to the cops. Whether the NCAA's current straits are the result of conspiracy or favoritism, or simply mismanagement or incompetence, the organization has never been so disrespected in so many quarters.
BEFORE EMMERT appointed Julie Lach to head the enforcement division in October 2010, the NCAA circulated among enforcement staff an electronic "applicant packet" with profiles of the four finalists for the position. The documents inadvertently included salary information showing Tom Hosty, an enforcement director, was making tens of thousands of dollars less than another in-house candidate, Lach, who had four fewer years' experience and less time as an on-the-ground investigator.
The steep career trajectories of the 37-year-old Lach, as well as those of such other young, female staffers in the enforcement division as Grantstein, Angie Cretors and Rachel Newman-Baker, touched off jealousy among some colleagues. The e-mail with the salary disparities seemed to confirm suspicions of management's preferential treatment for members of "the Sorority," as some male staffers called a group that included former college athletes and NCAA interns. Lach stressed the importance of tracking social media and data mining, and she began to hire more staff with law degrees, if not always experience working in college sports. Duncan says that 39% of his staff has experience on campuses or in athletic departments. "I remember one time some of my then colleagues at the copier couldn't name all the teams in the Big Ten," says Johanningmeier, a former Missouri State and Illinois College football coach known around the office as Coach. "The thing that really threw them was that there were 11 teams at the time."
In May 2011, the NCAA introduced to great fanfare a corporate sloganeering campaign: One Team, One Future. The new enforcement model would track the OTOF philosophy. After Johanningmeier finished his first interviews with Shapiro, at least five more people were cycled onto the Miami case. "One of the strong points under the old system was that we had a person who knew a case inside out," he says. "With ownership comes responsibility. These were no longer your cases. They were team cases."
Lach argues that the team approach was effective, and points to the Ohio State case that led to the ouster of coach Jim Tressel. She says that the very things Johanningmeier mocks—desktop investigators and the team approach—accomplished in seven months what would have taken one person 18. "The entire case was done," she says, "including the infractions decision, in less than a year."
Soon after an August 2011 summit with selected college presidents, Emmert began to stump for five major reforms. The membership chose to fully implement only the one addressing enforcement, which will take effect in August: more robust penalties to deter cheaters and an expanded committee on infractions to hear cases more quickly. Although recent defections have brought its head count down slightly, the enforcement staff had expanded from 45 to 59 since Emmert took over and began making his presence felt throughout the unit. "Julie is a good person but lacked good direction once she got the job," says a person with knowledge of the infractions process. "I don't think Julie blew her nose without checking with Mark Emmert or Jim Isch."