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Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Donna Shalala, Miami not backing down

By Heather Dinich


On Tuesday night, while at the Miami men’s basketball game against Virginia, Miami president Donna Shalala was protected by a school media relations official and a police officer, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Shalala, though, isn’t the one who needs to be on guard anymore.

It’s the NCAA that might want to hide from big-guns Shalala.

This is a woman who served in Iran as one of the country’s first Peace Corps volunteers. She was appointed by former President Bill Clinton as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, a position she held for eight years, becoming the longest serving HHS Secretary in U.S. history.

And she seems mad. Very mad.

You think Shalala's gonna back down from NCAA president Mark Emmert and his Notice of Allegations?

Puh-lease. Let the arm-wrestling begin.

For two years, Shalala and everyone else at Miami -- including coach Al Golden and three different athletic directors -- have remained quiet about this NCAA investigation. In fact, Shalala hasn’t granted any media interview requests in about two years, according to a school spokesman, and she declined another one by ESPN.com on Wednesday through a spokesperson. Her past two statements, though, have echoed throughout the entire collegiate landscape loud and clear: Miami is ready to wash its hands of this NCAA investigation. Done. Finished. Kaput.

“We deeply regret any violations,” she said, “but we have suffered enough.”

Shalala fired back at the NCAA on Tuesday night, saying that “many of the allegations included in the Notice of Allegations remain unsubstantiated.” She wondered how, after two and a half years of investigations and interviews, the NCAA could not find time to interview former athletic director Paul Dee, who has since passed away.

“How could a supposedly thorough and fair investigation not even include the director of athletics?” she stated.

Miami fans should be cheering for her as loud as they’re cheering for Jim Larranaga right now, because regardless of what’s in that Notice of Allegations, and regardless of whether or not Shalala is right or wrong in her public disdain for the NCAA’s handling of the situation, the university at least now has a clear leader who is willing to fight on its behalf. The only thing fans have been hearing to this point were Nevin Shapiro's claims, and the NCAA's tap dance around its major mess. The NCAA's side of this story is unfortunately tucked away in the Notice of Allegations, which has not been made public, and the NCAA did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Shalala's recent statements.

This time, it's Miami doing the talking, and it sounds like an unprecedented comeback by a university president against the NCAA.

The NCAA has long been a bully, taking its time with investigations that literally last years and punish coaches and players who weren’t even part of the original transgressions. If the NCAA needs to make an example out of Miami, do it with the coaches who were involved, not innocent players like quarterback Stephen Morris, who just wants to graduate and win an ACC title.

But this isn't about whether or not Miami is guilty or innocent, or whether the Canes have paid their price or not. This is about the university finally pushing back.

According to the Associated Press, Miami has been charged with a “lack of institutional control.” On the contrary, look no further than the president’s office to see at least one person in this mess who has finally asserted complete control.