COLUMBIA — Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith is reportedly close to facing serious charges from the NCAA that could put his job in jeopardy.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Citing an anonymous source close to the situation, CBSSports.com reported Monday that the NCAA — which could release a notice of allegations as early as this week regarding a lengthy investigation at the University of Miami — is expected to charge Haith with unethical conduct and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance.
The unethical conduct charge means Haith could face a multi-year show-cause penalty, an order that says NCAA penalties imposed on a coach involved in major rules violations at one university’s athletic program will remain in force if he is hired by any other NCAA school. Haith coached at Miami before joining the Tigers before the 2011-12 season.
“We do not have a comment at this time,” NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn said by email when asked about the case by The Star.
The MU athletic department released a statement, which said: “The University has been in communication with the NCAA regarding their ongoing efforts related to the University of Miami investigation. Coach Haith and the University of Missouri continue to cooperate fully. However, we are not atliberty to comment further out of respect for the NCAA process.”
Michael L. Buckner, one of Haith's attorney's, released a statement Tuesday morning saying the report was premature.
"Until my client, Frank Haith, receives a notice of allegations from the NCAA, the CBSSports.com report is premature," Buckner said in an email. "The NCAA’s investigation in the University of Miami enforcement case is ongoing. Thus, if the NCAA had completed its inquiry, then Coach Haith would have received a notice of allegations. However, as of the morning of January 22, 2013, Coach Haith has not received the notice of allegations. Any speculation or information attributed to anonymous sources cannot be relied on until the NCAA makes a final decision on the evidence and issues the notice to the University of Miami and any other persons at-risk in the case.
"It is unfortunate that CBSSports.com’s unnamed source believed violating the NCAA confidentiality rules was worthwhile. The report did not advance anyone’s interests (except the source’s) and is making a mockery of what is supposed to be a fair process. Nevertheless, based on the testimony of my client, the media reports of other persons’ statements and the voluminous records we shared with the NCAA, any allegations asserted by Nevin Shapiro against my client cannot be supported."
Haith said he checked with Buckner on Monday and repeated the claim that they still have not received a notice of allegations.
“We’re in constant conversation with the NCAA,” Haith said during his weekly Tiger Talk appearance at the Columbia Buffalo Wild Wings, “but I’m bound by confidentiality in this process, so it’s inappropriate to say anything other than that.”
CBSSports.com reported Haith could face a show-cause order even though the NCAA was unable to prove Nevin Shapiro’s 2011 allegation to Yahoo! Sports that Haith was complicit in a $10,000 payment to Miami recruit DeQuan Jones. Haith denied the allegation, and Jones was reinstated by the school after a brief suspension. Shapiro is in prison after being convicted of running a Ponzi scheme.
The source told CBSSports.com that Haith will be charged with unethical conduct because the NCAA did not believe his story that payments to his assistants intended for camp money did not wind up going to repay Shapiro, whose mother — the recipient of the money — verified the payment to the NCAA.
CBSSports.com also reported that Haith will be charged with failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance because of improper airline travel that was given to the family of two players from a member of his staff, and also the interaction between Shapiro and his players while on visits. Three Miami players, including Jones, were suspended for at least one game last season for receiving impermissible benefits related to the investigation.
The source told CBSSports.com that Jake Morton, Jorge Fernandez and Michael Schwartz — the three assistants previously on Haith’s staff at Miami — will each receive unethical conduct charges. Morton is an assistant at Western Kentucky, while Schwartz is an assistant at Fresno State. Fernandez abruptly left Marshall after last season.
If the allegations are handed down by the NCAA, a final decision on the exact penalties Haith and others involved could face remains months away. Those accused in the case are expected to have 90 days to respond in writing before a hearing is set with the NCAA Committee on Infractions, likely in June. After the hearing, it likely will take the committee at least four months to hand out the penalties.
The show-cause penalty is one of the harshest the NCAA can give out. In the past, coaches who have received it have had a difficult time finding another job because any school employing a coach with a show-cause order can face severe penalties if the coach commits another violation during the length of the order.
Schools can try to avoid the penalties imposed on a coach with a show-cause order, which include restricted recruiting activities, but must appear before the NCAA’s Committee of Infractions and establish why they should not be penalized for hiring the coach. Missouri athletic director Mike Alden has previously said MU was given no warning about Haith when Alden contacted the NCAA regarding the coach’s background during the hiring process in spring 2011.
While the aforementioned restrictions have made it difficult for those given show-cause orders, such as Clem Haskins (Minnesota), Kelvin Sampson (Indiana) and Bruce Pearl (Tennessee), to get back into coaching, there have been a few exceptions. Former Cal coach Todd Bozeman was found to have lied about paying for a player’s parents to watch their son play and was given an eight-year show-cause penalty in 1996, but he is now the head coach at Morgan State.
Currently, Bozeman is the only Division I head coach to land another job after serving a show-cause penalty, though former Indiana assistant Rob Senderoff, who made many of the impermissible calls that landed Sampson a five-year show-cause penalty, later became the head coach at Kent State after being given a 30-month show-cause penalty in 2008.
If Haith is given a show-cause order, Missouri could choose to terminate his contract for “cause,” which means MU would not owe Haith a buyout. Excluding bonuses, Haith is scheduled to make a minimum of $1.6 million per year through 2017. One such “cause” in his contract includes: “…any violation of any policy, role, regulation, constitutional provision, bylaw or interpretation of the NCAA … (that) may … reflect adversely upon the University or its athletic program, including any violation which results in the University being sanctioned by the NCAA or the Conference, including any violation which occurred during prior employment of the Employee at another NCAA member institution.”
Missouri also has the option of firing Haith without cause. But it would then be obligated to pay him his annual base salary of $350,000 for each year remaining on his contract.
The Star’s Blair Kerkhoff contributed to this report