NCAA top cop has 18 months to reform group
Jonathan Duncan has 18 months to prove he can run the NCAA's enforcement department effectively, efficiently and within the rules.
The NCAA's interim director of enforcement said Thursday that his charge is to restore confidence in the investigative staff and process."I would like presidents to know when enforcement shows up on their campus, they may not agree with the findings, but they will feel they have been treated fairly," Jonathan Duncan said. Duncan, who said his role is for at least 18 months, succeeds Julie Roe Lach, forced out in the wake of an independent report that concluded information was improperly obtained during a University of Miami investigation.
"When you read a report like that, it presents an opportunity to stop and look at practices and procedures and tactics and tools and decide which are fair and appropriate and then to revisit the concerns," Duncan said. "We intend to do that."
Duncan has practiced at a Kansas City law firm, Spencer Fane Britt & Browne, since 2003 and spent the previous five years at another Kansas City law firm, Husch Blackwell.
He also understands how the NCAA works. He first represented the NCAA in litigation in 1998 and has provided counsel to a variety of NCAA committees and working groups while also working on reinstatement cases over the past 15 years.Duncan would not comment on specifics of the Miami case, such as whether the Committee on Infractions plans to hear the school's case in June. It is unknown how the revelation that the NCAA arranged to employ the attorney of Miami's accuser -- convicted Ponzi scheme artist Nevin Shapiro -- will affect the upcoming penalty phase. NCAA president Mark Emmert told reporters Feb. 18 that the case would proceed.
Miami president Donna Shalala has argued the Hurricanes already have suffered enough with self-imposed penalties and that the school should not face any additional NCAA sanctions.Nonetheless, the NCAA's enforcement staff is in turmoil, with two key division leaders and two investigators leaving within the past year. "We understand we need to restore the confidence in our work, and I am confident we have the resources and the talent to do that," Duncan said. "We want to remind our staff we are all to work with integrity. We will enforce and reinforce that. My personality is to stand alongside these people and equip them and encourage them to do it with excellence and integrity." Duncan said he understands there is room for improvements. He plans to solicit input from the NCAA Executive Committee, NCAA staffers, attorneys who practice in the area of NCAA litigation and even outspoken critics of the enforcement staff. Without subpoena powers, Duncan said the task for an NCAA enforcement employee is challenging. But he said the group must use the cooperative effort of universities as well as "developing the relationships between our staff and the folks out there with information." Duncan said it's important for staffers to "use the tools in our toolbox" while also making sure "not to compromise the mission of the department." In the Miami investigation, it was concluded that although no laws or NCAA bylaws were broken, the enforcement staff stepped into an ethically gray area by corroborating with the attorney of an accuser to obtain information in a bankruptcy hearing to which it otherwise might not have had access. "I don't want to lose sight of the good things the enforcement staff does," Duncan said. "The vast majority of cases are resolved without incident. We must deal with concerns but also focus on the tools that are fair and effective and focus on the many strengths of the enforcement staff." Emmert has said its members must consider how and to what extent they want to be held accountable.
"I think they want that accountability," Duncan said. "I think they want the rules enforced."Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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