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Is the NCAA using a loophole in their investigation into their Miami investigation?

Feb 6, 2013, 11:31 AM EDT

Mark Emmert AP

An interesting story was published by USA Today on Tuesday.

According to a source, the NCAA’s office of general counsel and its vice president of enforcement, Julie Roe Lach, approved the expenditure of up to $25,000 for services from the attorney of former Miami booster Nevan Shapiro.

If true, this is the opposite of what NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a telelconference when he formally announced that the NCAA would be investigating improper conduct by the NCAA’s enforcement staff during an investigation into Shapiro’s relationship with the university’s athletic programs. The NCAA does not have subpoena power, but the allegations in this case are that the NCAA had Shapiro’s attorney on their payroll in order to gain access to — and provide questions to be asked during — depositions given under oath.

The NCAA cannot do that.

And Emmert strongly denied that the office of the general counsel had knowledge of the arrangement with Shapiro’s lawyer, going as far as to say that “the General Counsel’s Office specifically told the enforcement staff – on at least two occasions prior to any arrangements being made with the attorney – that they could not use Shapiro’s attorney” in order to obtain depositions.

Someone’s not telling the truth here.

But that’s not the most interesting part of the report. You have to dig a bit for that:

The enforcement staff did not, the person familiar with the NCAA’s agreement with Perez said, pay for Shapiro’s attorney’s hourly work, because billable work was explicitly not approved. What was paid, the person said, were fees for transcription, copying, document handling and the use of a court reporter. The person said approval for such payments went through the NCAA’s general counsel and vice president of enforcement.

Though the alleged enforcement practices in the case have led to widespread criticism of the NCAA, enforcement guidelines in the NCAA Manual do not explicitly prohibit such arrangements with attorneys.

Does anyone else think this smells an awful lot like the NCAA finding a loophole to dig themselves out of this mess?

And would there be anything more ironic than the NCAA using a loophole in the rulebook to weasel their way out of punishment while under investigation for improper conduct?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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