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Was federal law violated during the Nate Miles investigation?

Mar 5, 2013, 1:12 PM EDT

Jim Calhoun

When the news first came out that the NCAA had violated their own regulations in investigating the Miami, my first recommendation went out to any school that had been the subject of a recent NCAA investigation.

Go back and look at what they dug up to see if there were any rules broken.

UConn, apparently, heeded that advice. According to a report from CBSSports.com on Tuesday morning, a federal law may have been broken during the NCAA’s investigation of Nate Miles. If you’ve forgotten the name, Miles was a UConn recruit that barely lasted two months on campus, but violations committed during his recruitment got two assistant coaches axed, got the program put on probation and stuck with a number of recruiting restrictions, and put an official stain on Jim Calhoun’s legacy.

But according to the report from CBS, some of the information that the NCAA used to punish the Huskies may have been gathered in violation of federal law. The NCAA deemed that Josh Nochimson, a former UConn student manager who became a booster for the program and, eventually, an agent, paid for foot surgery for Miles in 2008. The NCAA called it an extra benefit, but mentioned contacting both the doctor that did Miles’ surgery and an administrator at the Tampa Bay Bone and Joint Center in their report. This would be a violation of HIPAA, as Dennis Dodd explains:

While NCAA investigators apparently did not violate federal law, they were able to extract information to assist in the case that led to major penalties against UConn and former coach Jim Calhoun. Health care attorneys Frankie Forbes of Kansas City and Jill Jensenof Omaha offered their opinions after examination of documents in the UConn case obtained by CBSSports.com.

“If the physicians agreed to the [NCAA] interview and the subject matter was their patient and [they] did not have authorization from the patient, that would be a problem,” Forbes said. “If the subject matter at all was the patient, and the patient didn’t authorize it, that’s an issue … That’s a violation of the HIPAA privacy right.”

To comply with HIPAA, the doctors would have needed permission from Miles to discuss his surgery and the payment for it. And, as Miles told Dodd, he did no such thing.

“I never told anybody to share anything,” Miles said. “I just couldn’t believe they did. I thought they couldn’t. I lost everything.”

There’s not much that can be done here. The restrictions have more-or-less run their course, Calhoun has retired, Miles’ is long past being a collegiate basketball player and UConn’s current troubles stem from the APR and conference realignment, not some NCAA sanctions.

But the NCAA still isn’t painted in the greatest light. From John Infante:

If the NCAA obtained information that should not have been released according to HIPAA, the NCAA would be at the very least guilty of some degree of negligence in determining whether it should have the information. At worst, the NCAA induced someone to commit a violation of federal law to obtain information it knew it should not have access to.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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