NEW YORK (AP) — NCAA President Mark Emmert said Wednesday that new rules allowing the use of information from legal proceedings will help in the investigation of college basketball corruption, though he cautioned that the inquiry is unlikely to be done before the men’s tournament begins in March.
The first federal trial in the case in October resulted in the conviction of three men for wire fraud after testimony that implicated several schools, including Louisville, Arizona and Kansas, of being involved in payments to high school players. The trial was held in New York.
“There’s been, I think, some confusion out there where some people have said the Southern District has now given you a green light to race forth and engage and that’s a bit of a simplification to say the least,” Emmert said during an interview at the Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum.
Emmert did not attend the trial, though he said the NCAA had representatives in the courtroom. The NCAA is using an outside law firm to communicate with the FBI and federal prosecutors.
“There’s still ongoing trials. There’s still investigatory work being done by the U.S. Attorney’s office. We have to be very respectful of that process,” Emmert said.
Former Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person and another man are scheduled to go on trial in February and former Arizona assistant Emanuel Richardson, former USC assistant Tony Bland and former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans are defendants in a trial that is scheduled to begin in April.
“We don’t want to inadvertently obstruct any of that justice process. We’re moving forward as assertively as we can, while still having to respect that process,” Emmert said.
Even before the NCAA dives into the information gleaned from the FBI investigations and the trials, there is work to be done internally.
Among the many reforms recommended early this year by a commission led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a new independent body that would adjudicate major infractions cases. Emmert said “business leaders, former politicians (and) high-stature people the public will have confidence in” are likely to be on the panel.
Emmert said the new enforcement body could be in place as soon as August.
In the meantime, few schools have taken action to discipline players or coaches who have been implicated publicly.
“We need to make sure that schools are fulfilling their role and holding everybody accountable,” Emmert said. “But the NCAA as an association of member schools is built upon the notion of collaboration and collegiality, and there’s a notion among the schools that they will all hold themselves accountable. So to the extent that doesn’t happen, I think all of the members are not happy with that.”
Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Bray, during an interview session at the forum, said the lack of action has been notable.
“As a profession, coaches look at it and say, ‘Wow, that’s interesting,’ maybe there should be more ineligible guys,” Bray said. “But I sense that is coming.”
By RALPH D. RUSSO
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