The final judgment on Ameen Najjar, the former investigator whose actions led to one of the biggest embarrassments in NCAA history, is that he was motivated out of a genuine interest in finding the facts related to allegations against Miami (Fla.).
That's how he was characterized Monday in a report by attorney Ken Wainstein detailing how the NCAA's handling of the Miami case became, in the words of NCAA President Mark Emmert
, a "debacle."
Najjar, who was fired last year, undoubtedly wanted the truth. The problem is he became so desperate to get it he ignored the advice of the NCAA's legal staff and built an investigative strategy that fell outside the limits of the association's investigative powers.
"I've maintained for years and years that this process has operated out of any type of control or ethics or, in many cases, morals," said David Ridpath, an associate professor of sports administration at Ohio University and critic of NCAA enforcement practices. "These investigators are poorly supervised, I've felt, and sometimes even drunk on power where they've done things outside of what they were allowed to do."
That's the perception Emmert is going to have to fight, despite the NCAA's best effort Monday to isolate this as not an overarching failure of integrity but rather a series of bad decisions made by individuals.
"Is there pressure on the enforcement staff to try and make cases? Of course there is," Emmert told USA TODAY Sports in an interview after his teleconference Monday. "But in any enforcement or regulatory process there's a right way and wrong way to get that evidence, and we have to be as starkly clear about that as we can."
It's worth nothing that the NCAA working with Maria Elena Perez, attorney for former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, is not inherently sinister. Because the NCAA has no subpoena power, it often relies on investigations that run parallel to legal proceedings so it can wring out as much information as possible.
"Their investigators are just going to have to get comfortable with the idea their enforcement process has significant limitations. And they just have to live with that and not get into the mentality of 'Let's go try this angle or that angle,'" said Gene Marsh, former chairman of the NCAA Committee on Infractions. "There are going to be some violations they are sure happened but they're not going to be able to get them.
"If you're going to do that line of work, you have to be comfortable with that."