In sanctioning USC’s football program two weeks ago, the Chairman of the NCAA Committee in Infractions, former Univ. of Miami (FL) Athletic Director Paul Dee, oversaw the most severe penalties levied against a Division I football program since SMU was forced to drop football.
The USC penalties happened in large part due to a NCAA investigation into the school’s football program that was sparked by multiple reports by Yahoo Sports beginning in 2006. Those reports, authored by Jason Cole and Charles Robinson, detailed improper benefits received by USC running back Reggie Bush - among other NCAA-applicable improprieties.
For longtime NCAA observers, COI Chairman Dee’s decision to punish USC severely was ironic as he previously was immersed in a notoriously renegade football program: The Miami Hurricanes of the ’80s and ’90s.
In 1995, the Miami football program under Athletic Director Dee was heavily penalized by the NCAA for rules violations that NCAA Committee of Infractions chairman David Swank reported at the time indicated a “significant lack of institutional control.”
15 years later, Dee applied that same term to the USC football program in doling out harsh penalties to the Trojan football program.
Six months before the NCAA handed out its penalties to Dee’s Miami football program in ‘95, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s Alexander Wolff reported the problems at Miami to be so widespread that he argued the school should drop football altogether.
Perhaps not coincidentally, after the SI piece by Wolff, the NCAA ramped up its investigation of Miami - which reportedly began four years earlier. On Dec. 2, 1995, the Hurricanes received a one-year bowl ban, were stripped of 24 scholarships and placed on probation for three years. (Dee reported to the media on June 10 that Miami lost 31 scholarships.)
Much of Wolff’s SI piece came from citing investigative work by MIAMI HERALD reporter Dan Le Batard. On May 19, 1995, in addition to detailing outrageous off-field activities of Hurricane football players, Le Batard wrote of an incident involving Dee that had caught the attention of NCAA investigators:
Miami’s drug-testing controversy centers on Erickson’s interaction with Dee, or lack of it. Dee said Erickson didn’t inform him of positive tests and that he had an obligation to do so. Erickson said he did tell Dee - though sometimes he waited before doing so - and was not required to report results.
At issue: Dee, concerned about a strict policy that called for a one-game suspension for a second positive test and a year’s suspension for a third, suspended unspecified parts of the policy after taking over as AD in June of 1993 for (Former UM AD Dave) Maggard (who, frustrated about spending so much time on damage control, had resigned).
Subsequently, Erickson did not suspend any player who tested positive.
Le Batard on Dee’s response to NCAA investigators about Miami’s drug-testing policy:
And Miami Athletic Director Paul Dee yesterday reported his findings on whether the school adhered to its own drug policy. Dee reported that three athletes who tested positive for drugs “did not receive the appropriate sanctions under our program
This is the same Dee who Le Batard reported, “suspended unspecified parts of the policy after taking over as AD in June of 1993.”
David Hyde of the FT. LAUDERDALE SUN-SENTINEL added in ‘95:
Dee oversaw the drug-policy mess that allowed three players, including Warren Sapp, to keep on playing. The old policy was suspended. The checks and balances thrown out. The chain-of-command of drug test aborted.
All this was by Dee’s decision so that then-coach Dennis Erickson could keep playing his players. But give Dee some points: He convinced the NCAA this problem wasn’t intentional but a problem of “miscommunication.”
Despite taking over as Miami Athletic Director in ‘93, Dee was involved with the football program since ‘86. Le Batard:
During Jimmy Johnson’s tenure in 1986, after Time magazine called Miami “the best and most troublesome team in the country,” Foote convened a six-man committee to review team behavior and recommend stricter rules. The committee concluded Miami had integrity “on and off the field.” One of the committee members: Paul Dee.
Le Batard’s ‘93 report on the off-field, unregulated behavior by Miami football players between ‘89-’93 details unspeakable, appalling activities:
“GUNS, DRUGS AND SEXUAL ABUSE have been as much a part of the University of Miami football story as touchdowns and championships, both before and during Dennis Erickson’s six years as coach. The latest revelations come to light just as the NCAA begins to investigate other alleged improprieties.”
Miami Athletic Director Dee on Hurricanes Football Coach Erickson to Le Batard in ‘93:
“Dennis tried to deal with his kids fairly,” said Dee, adding that he wouldn’t describe Erickson as lenient. “There was discipline in nearly every case.”
Erickson’s drinking problems in Seattle eventually helped lead to his ouster as coach. Le Batard reports Erickson had similar issues while coaching under Dee in Miami:
Erickson often drank to excess in public, according to eight sources who witnessed it on separate occasions. One ex-Miami coach said Erickson would get so “obliterated” that he was “walking on his knees.”
“How could he discipline players,” the coach asked, “when he didn’t have discipline in his own life?”
Erickson was arrested last month in Marysville for driving while intoxicated. His blood-alcohol reading was .23, more than twice the legal limit. Erickson agreed to two years of treatment to defer prosecution.
In penalizing Miami as it did, the NCAA cited lack of oversight of Miami’s drug-testing policy and a massive case of Pell Grant fraud within the athletic department that involved dozens of athletes.
Wolff of SI on the Miami Pell Grant fraud before the NCAA penalties:
Fifty-seven players were implicated in a financial-aid scandal that the feds call “perhaps the largest centralized fraud upon the federal Pell Grant program ever committed.”
Randall Mell of the FT. LAUDERDALE SUN-SENTINEL on the unbelievable scale of the fraud:
More than 40 current and former Miami Hurricanes football players are among the targets of a federal investigation into Pell Grant fraud, federal prosecutors said for the first time Friday.
Close to half of last year’s national championship team - including several starters on this year’s team - are among those being offered a deal by the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Hyde of the Sun-Sentinel on Dee’s response to the Pell Grant scandal after the NCAA handed down its penalties in ‘95:
On Friday, Swank, (UM President) Foote and Dee made it sound like UM was on the straight and narrow after a series of documented violations, starting with the Pell Grant scandal engineered by former academic department aide and current federal prisoner Tony Russell.
There’s just a few problems in buying Miami as Reform U. One is that Anna Price, who was Russell’s boss, who was singled out for her role with Russell in the NCAA’s report and who received a letter of reprimand from the university, isn’t just still on the job.
She has been promoted!
Speaking of promotions, Erickson bolted Miami for Seattle before the NCAA dropped the hammer on his Miami football program. His destination may be familiar to USC fans: The same Seattle Seahawks Pete Carroll bolted USC for before the Trojans were saddled with NCAA sanctions spearheaded by COI Chairman Dee.
As for Dee’s background, is it unreasonable to think that the NCAA could’ve found someone without direct involvement in one of the most notorious college football programs in history to serve as its top policeman charged with enforcing NCAA rules?