NCAA investigation: Michigan has spent a half million dollars and counting
According to invoices from the law firm Lightfoot, Franklin and White released this week as part of an open-records request, Michigan has paid $446,951 in legal fees and other expenses since contracting attorney Gene Marsh and others to handle its internal investigation last September.
The payments are for services rendered through April, and do not include a busy May, when the university released its findings and self-imposed penalties in response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations.
University spokesperson Kelly Cunningham wrote in an email that Veritas Insurance Company, under the university’s Educators Legal Liability coverage, has paid all invoices thus far.
In a late-May press conference, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said the cost of the investigation was “not relevant to me at this stage.”
“The reality is we wanted to get the strongest and best advice and representation we could to do a good job protecting the interests of our employees, protecting the interests of our department and our investigation,” Brandon said. “And whatever it costs, it costs.”
Brandon did not respond to an e-mail seeking additional comment.
Cunningham said by e-mail Michigan’s expenses to date are in line with the university’s expectations.
But other recent cases have cost schools considerably less.
Alabama paid the firm Bond, Schoeneck & King $188,422 in legal fees during a 2008-09 investigation of its football program, according to the Mobile Press-Register.
UConn paid the same firm $338,000 in legal fees from April 2009 to April 2010 to investigate improprieties in its basketball program. The university asked in May for approval to spend another $337,000, according to the Hartford Courant.
Indiana, using the firm Ice Miller, spent $460,840 through the first 17 months of an investigation into its basketball program, according to the Bloomington Herald-Times.
And Florida State paid a Kansas-based consulting group almost $229,000 to assist its investigation into academic fraud and the Gary Robinson law firm another $60,000 to handle its appeal, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Michigan, in a letter dated Sept. 15, 2009, agreed to pay Marsh, the former head of the NCAA Committee on Infractions, $350 an hour to lead its investigation. Other attorneys were billed at $300, and paralegals $130 an hour.
The contract outlines steps to keep costs in check, including prior approval for expenses over $1,000 and using overnight mail only when absolutely necessary.
While the monthly invoices are heavily redacted to hide individual expenses, Michigan spent more than $50,000 in four of the eight months it’s been billed.
Last September, when the investigation started, Michigan spent $97,268 in fees and disbursements. In March, a month after receiving the Notice of Allegations, the university spent more than $64,000, and in April the university spent $82,650.
Lightfoot, Franklin and White will continue to represent Michigan in a pre-hearing conference later this month with the NCAA enforcement staff and at a hearing before the Committee on Infractions Aug. 13-14 in Seattle.
Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez also has a personal attorney at his own expense.
Dave Birkett covers University of Michigan football for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at 734-623-2552 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.