COLUMBIA — The first game of the rest of Frank Haiths coaching career was ugly. Coyote ugly. Brick after brick, a talented Missouri basketball team struggling to win a home game it shouldve breezed through, the injured star Laurence Bowers stuck in shirt-and-tie, clapping his hardest.
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star
And, really, a too-close 71-65 win over South Carolina is the least of the Tigers concerns.
My attorneys have not received a letter of any allegations, Haith said, and thats a sentence every coach would rather not have to say in a postgame news conference.
Haith has gone from national Coach of the Year awards to his professions endangered species list after a CBSSports.com report that indicates he will face serious NCAA charges from a scandal at his previous job in Miami, and it raises more questions than anyone can answer at the moment.
But while most are focusing on the obvious questions Will MU fire Haith? Should MU fire him? the most important ones are largely ignored.
Like, how did the report surface before Haith has even seen what hes charged with? What is the sources motivation? And are we really in a place where a man should lose his job over something his accuser reportedly says it cant even prove?
This puts Mizzou in an entirely unfair position. A promising basketball season is being rocked by something it had nothing to do with that took place on a different campus years ago that it could not have known about or acted upon all regarding potential charges that were unethically leaked under questionable circumstances.
If its proved that Haith broke rules at Miami, he did his job no worse than the NCAA.
This all stems from a Yahoo! Sports investigation fueled by an imprisoned source and focused on the football team. Haith is caught in the crossfire, far from an innocent victim if he lied about infractions, but also something like a loitering bystander taken in for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So for the rest of the season, Haith is coaching with a metaphorical lion in the room that he cant say much about. Once he receives the charges, he has up to 90 days to respond before a hearing is set, likely this summer. He will have his day in the NCAAs kangaroo court, in other words, and there is a bit of a hopeful new undercurrent around Columbia that he can be persuasive enough to keep his job.
An infractions committee will presumably examine the motivations of the leak, because its not hard to imagine the NCAA putting this out there in order to turn up public heat in a case it knows is light on evidence.
Mizzou sports seem to have an unbreakable connection to never-ending drama, and this is the story that isnt going away soon. But unlike a lot of it, this one isnt MUs fault.
Yahoos report was still four months away when Haith was hired at Mizzou, and athletics director Mike Alden whos in China on business has said the NCAA gave him no hint of any wrongdoing when he was researching Haiths background.
The NCAA has emphasized sticking punishments with coaches more than schools, and if its proved Haith cheated, and especially that he lied about it, then he has earned the punishment.
But we should also keep in mind that in the world of college basketball, these accusations essentially translate to a speeding ticket maybe in a work zone. Haith just had the misfortune of being at a school with a football program under investigation by a relentless reporter.
Whats interesting is that the Miami investigation isnt the only major change for Haith in the last 17 months. He also won 30 games last year, so even with more recent struggles at least some fans want to see more of him.
In the end, whether Haith is retained will depend on more than just what the NCAA can prove. This is big business, after all, so Haith still has about two months to make his case through basketball. If the NCAA leaked the allegations to turn up public heat in what might be a flimsy case, Haith has his argument, too.
The Tigers play Vanderbilt on Saturday. They think Bowers might be healthy. Haiths fight to retain his job will be televised.