Fate of Louisville men's basketball in the hands of 'The Cleaner' as NCAA eyes penalties

Andrew Wolfson
Louisville Courier Journal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — He is called "The Cleaner" — for cleaning up messes left by collegiate sports programs accused of being dirty.

And no one has cleaned up more of those messes than Mike Glazier.

The soft-spoken lawyer from Overland Park, Kansas, has defended more than 100 intercollegiate sports programs, and nobody has appeared more often before the NCAA Infractions Committee.

The Sporting News once named him the 63rd most influential person in sports, and he has saved programs caught in the biggest academic and recruiting scandals.

Now, the University of Louisville hopes Glazier can help spare its men’s basketball program from harsh punishments and possibly the death penalty for its role in improperly enticing all-American recruit Brian Bowen II while the school already was on probation for providing dancers and strippers to players and recruits.

First you may want to read this:Louisville basketball is under investigation by the NCAA. How did the Cards get here?

The man who saved U of L's bacon - twice

It won’t be Glazier’s first go-around with Louisville.

In 1996, he helped the Cards avoid expected serious sanctions after The Courier Journal reported that star center Samaki Walker was driving around in two vehicles owned by a booster.

U of L got two years’ probation but no postseason ban. Then-Courier Journal columnist Rick Bozich wrote that Glazier deserved to be named "player of the game."

Three years later, when the NCAA did impose a post-season ban on the Cardinals, for paying for a hotel room for a player’s father, it looked "pretty bleak," then-athletic director Tom Jurich said later. “I don't think anybody ever thought it would be overturned.”

But Jurich hired Glazier, and in the first such reversal ever, he got the ban overturned on a technicality — the school hadn't received adequate notice that it was facing a major violation and could be charged as a repeat offender.

Admirers say nobody knows NCAA rules better than Glazier, who spent seven years on its enforcement staff before he co-launched the nation’s first law firm dedicated exclusively to defending programs in trouble.

“He knows the process inside out,” said B. David Ridpath, a professor of sports management at Ohio University. “And he brings instant credibility when he walks into the room.” 

Also:Louisville basketball may be mirroring its NCAA defense to Kansas' with same lawyer on board

Why cooperation doesn't always work

He doesn’t come cheap.

The University of Minnesota paid Glazier's firm $920,000, Kansas $480,000 and Ohio State $511,000, according to news accounts.

The Oregonian reported he billed $330 an hour — and that was seven years ago. 

Glazier said he doesn’t talk about current clients and declined a request for an interview, refusing to even say if he’s ever been to the KFC Yum Center. 

But in the past, he has said that sweeping violations under the rug only makes the penalties worse.

"Hiding something is probably a more serious rule violation than what you started out with in the first place," he said. 

His strategy of cooperation failed him last year, however, when he represented the University of Missouri, where a former tutor was found to have done homework for athletes in three sports.

The NCAA slapped Mizzou with postseason bans in football, softball and baseball and refused to lighten those penalties on appeal, despite the school’s cooperation. 

A chagrined Glazier said afterward that he would still recommend that clients cooperate, but when they ask, "'Am I going to get credit?' my answer is going to be … probably not.” 

Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk declined to comment.

The man who 'sells coaches down the river'

Glazier, who is 67, isn’t universally admired, though most of the criticism he has faced is ancient.

Former University of Pittsburgh football coach Mike Gottfried, later an ESPN analyst, told Sports Illustrated in 1994 that Glazier was a “bounty hunter” who sold out coaches to the NCAA to save his clients — the universities. 

Steve Beckett, an attorney for former Illinois basketball star Deon Thomas, who was accused of accepting improper inducements, was quoted in the same story saying Glazier "sells coaches down the river to make schools look good."  

And then-Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins told the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1998 that Glazier’s firm, Bond, Schoeneck & King, prolonged a player investigation to earn an extra $250,000 in fees.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins didn't have nice things to say about attorney Mike Glazier when Huggins coached at Cincinnati.

Glazier wouldn’t comment on that then or now and through a spokesman, Huggins, now head coach at West Virginia, declined to amplify on his assertion.

Gottfried didn’t respond to a request for comment, while Beckett said his opinion of Glazier has softened.

"The guy is gifted," he said.  

Glazier has made no secret that his client is the university — not the players or coaches — and he will report only to university presidents, rather than athletic directors. 

Glazier's track record of success

His record in major cases has been notable. 

In 1999, after a tutor at the University of Minnesota in 1999 was found to have done coursework for 18 players — in what to that point was the biggest academic scandal ever — with Glazier's help the Gophers lost just one more scholarship than the university imposed on itself and wasn't banned further from postseason play.

In 2000, Glazier helped University of Nevada, Las Vegas, avert the death penalty for illegally recruiting star Lamar Odom.

In 2003, he got the NCAA to reverse the second year of a postseason ban for Michigan for the largest payment ever by a booster. 

In 2013, he negotiated what Sports Illustrated called a "wrist slap" for Oregon football, for paying $25,000 to a Texas talent scout. The Oregonian named him the most influential person in Oregon sports that year for saving the Ducks millions of dollars in revenue that would have lost from a bowl ban. 

Infuriating sports fans everywhere except in Chapel Hill, his firm helped North Carolina skate completely in 2017 on academic fraud charges for letting athletes take more than 1,800 sham classes over 12 years.

The NCAA accepted the argument of Glazier and his partner Rick Evrard that Tar Heel athletics shouldn’t be punished because the classes were open to all students in a decision derided by many sports pundits. 

Then in 2018, Glazier persuaded the NCAA to impose no penalties on Michigan State for staff Dr. Larry Nassar’s sexual assaults on at least 25 student-athletes who were among the hundreds of girls and women he preyed on for more than 20 years.

Glazier argued the attacks were reprehensible but not NCAA violations. 

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Larry Nassar

Glazier's ties to Indiana University

Glazier doesn’t always win, of course, especially when it comes to penalties, said Wilkinson, the former infractions panel member.

In one of few instances where Glazier represented a coach, rather than a school, he was unable to save former Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson from a five-year coaching ban for making hundreds of impermissible phone calls to recruits. 

Glazier said at the time he made an exception to defend Sampson in part because IU was his alma mater. 

Glazier was born in Neosho, Missouri, near Joplin, the son of a football coach for whom he played in high school. 

After a couple of stops at other schools, Glazier transferred to IU, where he played quarterback in his junior and senior years — a span over which the Hoosier were a dismal 3-19. 

Glazier roomed for one year with Chuck Smrt, later the NCAA’s enforcement director and after that, U of L’s adviser in the stripper scandal.

Smrt, who some Cardinal fans still blame for not defending Louisville more aggressively, said he couldn’t talk about Glazier because he still represents U of L on NCAA matters. 

Former U of L consultant Chuck Smrt.

Glazier started most of his junior year in Bloomington but largely rode the bench as a senior. 

“I was tall, skinny and slow,” he told Sports Illustrated. 

He was good enough to win a free-agent contract with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1975, but he was cut in the preseason. 

“The best football decision I ever made,” he told the Oregonian nearly 40 years later, “was to go to law school.”

Andrew Wolfson: 502-582-7189; awolfson@courier-journal.com; Twitter: @adwolfson.  Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/andreww.

The Glazier File 

  • Born: Neosho, Missouri
  • Age: 67
  • Undergraduate degree:  Indiana University, Bloomington
  • Law school: John Marshall, Chicago
  • NCAA enforcement staff: 1979-86
  • Attorney, Slive/Glazier Sports Group, Coffield, Ungaretti, Harris and Slavin, Chicago
  • Managing partner, sports law practice of Bond Schoeneck & King, a Syracuse-based law firms with 270 lawyers in 11 offices in four states 

What is University of Louisville charged with this time?

The most serious allegation is that the university was complicit with Adidas when shoe company executive James Gatto and others paid recruit Brian Bowen II $100,000 to attend Louisville in exchange for him signing with the shoe company after his college career. The NCAA has said that Adidas and its employees were in effect boosters and agents of the Cardinals program. 

The NCAA also has charged U of L with lesser violations alleging that two former assistant coaches provided impermissible benefits and that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance