CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The NCAA office that investigated Miami athletics believes the Hurricanes are "grasping at straws" such as making personal attacks against investigators in their efforts to get the case against them dismissed.
That stance, and others, are part of the response that was signed by Jonathan F. Duncan, the NCAA's Interim Vice President of Enforcement, in response to a motion Miami filed with the association's Committee on Infractions to have the case brought to an end.
"Overall, the enforcement staff believes that the institution is again grasping at straws in an attempt to disqualify members of the enforcement team with the most knowledge about the case," Duncan wrote in the response, a copy of which was obtained Sunday by The Associated Press.
In late March, citing impropriety by the NCAA throughout the investigation, the Hurricanes asked the Committee on Infractions — a group separate from the association's investigative arm — to throw out the case. Four former Miami coaches, including current Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith, filed similar motions.
Miami's motion to dismiss included allegations that the NCAA used "impermissible and unethical" tactics when interviewing Haith and former men's basketball assistant coach Jake Morton, that the association misled the school on other issues, and other claims of wrongdoing.
One of Miami's biggest questions about the investigation has revolved around why the NCAA did not interview former Hurricanes athletic director Paul Dee, who died in May 2012.
Dee was Miami's AD for much of the time that the former booster at the center of the scandal, convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro, was providing impermissible benefits to athletes, coaches and recruits.
Duncan's motion suggested that the NCAA was targeting June 2012 as the right time to interview Dee, who had battled health issues for many years.
"Because Dee's death was unexpected, the enforcement staff could not have predicted that he would not be available for an interview in June 2012," Duncan wrote. "Had the institution or enforcement staff known of Dee's condition or impending death, the enforcement staff would have exhausted all reasonable efforts to preserve Dee's testimony."
Duncan's response also strongly defended investigators Brynna Barnhart and Stephanie Hannah.
Miami alleged that Barnhart misled the school about the circumstances surrounding a February 2012 interview the NCAA conducted with former Hurricanes quarterback Kyle Wright, and that Hannah should have been disqualified from the case because the extent of her relationship with Shapiro attorney Maria Elena Perez was not revealed to the school.
"Not only are these personal attacks based on no evidence that would support the removal of Barnhart and Hannah from the case, they are also not a basis for dismissal of the case in its entirety," Duncan wrote.
Also, Duncan said that Miami was incorrect in its assertion that the NCAA was "incompetent, unprofessional, and uncooperative" in the timing of how basketball guard Durand Scott was declared ineligible on the very day the Hurricanes began play in the 2012 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Duncan's response included emails suggesting that the NCAA tried to rectify the Scott matter as fast as it could.
"While the enforcement staff acknowledges that the timing was unfortunate, nothing in the record indicates the enforcement staff intentionally orchestrated the timing to coincide with the ACC tournament," Duncan wrote.
There has already been one victory for Miami with regard to the motion to dismiss.
The AP first reported Friday that the enforcement staff made one concession that Miami wanted, that being the NCAA's decision to throw Wright's testimony out of the notice of allegations.
Miami argued that some things Wright was asked about by investigators in February 2012 stemmed from information the NCAA collected through depositions that Perez conducted under subpoena in Shapiro's bankruptcy proceeding. The NCAA does not have subpoena power.
Perez was paid by the NCAA after doing that work, though she contends that she never actually was employed by the association and that it was simply paying her for work that she conducted on Shapiro's behalf.
After the NCAA hired a firm to look into investigators' relationship with Perez, NCAA President Mark Emmert said that all the information that came in any way from clues or answers gleaned from those depositions was removed from the notice of allegations that Miami received in February. Wright was listed in that document with relation to claims of a half-dozen rules that the association said the Hurricanes violated.
The Committee on Infractions is scheduled to bring the case to a hearing June 14. Any sanctions against Miami would likely be decided weeks after that, unless the Hurricanes and the NCAA somehow resolve things beforehand.
Miami believes the Committee on Infractions has authority to dismiss the case, a stance the enforcement arm disagrees with.