University of Missouri

NCAA suspends Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith five games

Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith
Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith

Missouri men’s basketball coach Frank Haith wanted closure.

That, in a nutshell, explains Haith’s decision not to fight a five-game suspension, which the NCAA handed down Tuesday in announcing rules violations stemming from a two-plus-year investigation into the University of Miami athletic program.

“What my family’s been through the past 27 months, I cannot tell you what we’ve had to endure,” Haith said of his daughter, Brianna; son, Corey, who plays for the Tigers; and wife, Pam.

“This morning when my daughter wakes up and my wife tells her what we’re going through — not specifics, but generalized things — and to see her crying again, I don’t want to put her through that, or my son any more than what we’ve already been through.”

Haith said that the decision to abide by the NCAA’s ruling was “not an admission of guilt, because I do not agree with the findings of the NCAA.”

The NCAA ruled Haith, who coached the Hurricanes from 2004-11, did not “promote an atmosphere of compliance” and “failed to meet his responsibilities as a head coach when he did not monitor the activities of his assistant coaches, and attempted to cover up” former booster and convicted felon Nevin Sharpiro’s “threats to disclose incriminating information.”

Miami’s football program also committed violations and the school was found to lack

institutional control

, but the NCAA accepted Miami’s self-imposed penalties.

Haith will be suspended Nov. 8-25, and will miss Missouri’s first five regular-season basketball games — against Southeastern Louisiana, Southern Illinois, Hawaii, Gardner-Webb and IUPUI.

Each game is in Columbia except for the Hawaii game, which is at the Sprint Center. He will return to the bench Nov. 28 when the Tigers play Northwestern at the Las Vegas Invitational.

Britton Banowsky, the Conference USA commissioner who chairs the NCAA Committee on Infractions, said the NCAA’s mismanagement of the investigation, including unethical evidence-gathering practices in conjunction with Shapiro’s attorney, had no impact “with respect to deciding the penalties.”

Missouri athletic director Mike Alden and chancellor Brady Deaton both affirmed their support for Haith in statements released by MU.

During the afternoon news conference, Alden said, “We’re supportive of Coach Haith and we’re supportive of the job he’s doing with our basketball program at the University of Missouri. We, too, are looking forward to closure on this. We have a bright future ahead of us and continue to have a bright future ahead for our basketball program at Mizzou.”

According to the NCAA report, Shapiro was in financial trouble and asked Haith to loan him money or return a $50,000 donation. Haith refused, but former Miami assistant coach Jake Morton loaned Shapiro $7,000.

After Shapiro was sent to prison in 2010, he began to threaten Haith and Morton, demanding money or else he would tell the athletic department that he entertained the coaches at a strip club and once provided them with $10,000 to facilitate the recruitment of a player.

Shapiro said in a 2011 Yahoo Sports report, which triggered the investigation, that Haith was complicit in a $10,000 payment to a family member of player DeQuan Jones with Morton serving as the primary liaison in the deal. Haith and Morton deny Shapiro’s claim, which was not proven in the NCAA report.

However, the infractions committee ruled Haith and Morton worked together to make sure Shapiro received $10,000, by way of a payment to his mother, to end the threats, instead of investigating Shapiro’s claims of potential NCAA violations or reporting the matter to Miami’s compliance department.

The NCAA’s evidence — a series of phone calls and three checks Haith wrote for $3,200 written to his three assistant coaches as a camp advance, which were cashed on the same day at the same bank — was largely circumstantial.

The NCAA report also states Haith told more than one account of the threats and what he did to stop them, deeming his story of the events not credible.

“Frankly, it was difficult for the committee and maybe even members of the enforcement staff to know precisely what really was going on with the basketball program given all of the conflicting information in the record,” Banowsky said.

But in the end, “He was only charged with failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance, which is a responsibility every coach has. We were able to determine that he did not meet that responsibility,” Banowsky said.

Asked about the inconsistencies in his story, Haith said, “I was truthful in my communication with the NCAA.”

Pressed to explain the discrepancies from the three interviews, he said, “If I wasn’t truthful, I think I would have been hit with unethical conduct.”

Haith, who asked for a third interview during the investigation, initially told the NCAA he did not become aware of Shapiro’s involvement with the basketball program until September 2008, but later recalled earlier interactions.

In one prior instance, Haith asked Shapiro to recommend an attorney for a player. Haith and coaches also previously met with Shaprio for lunch and dinner and, at one point, discussed how difficult it was to recruit high-profile players.

In an interview with the NCAA enforcement staff, Haith shared his opinion on college basketball recruiting.

“Did we win enough games for the Miami supporters? You read the papers, I don’t think they felt that great about what we did there. I didn’t recruit, I didn’t get the five-star guys. And let’s, like I said, let’s don’t be naïve about the level,” Haith said. “Our business is corrupt and how we got to deal with these guys at the high level kid.”

One of Haith’s former assistants at Miami, Jorge Fernandez, received a two-year show-cause penalty for unethical conduct, essentially banning him from college coaching for two years. According to the NCAA, Fernandez provided false information during his interviews about making personal airline points available for a flight to a prospect and his high school coach.

Morton did not receive any penalty. The Miami basketball team will also lose one scholarship during the next three seasons. Haith also must attend a NCAA regional rules seminar after this academic year.

Haith, who is 53-16 at Missouri with two NCAA Tournament appearances in two seasons, said he hasn’t made a decision on which of his assistants will serve as acting head coach.

Missouri was seeking final clarification of what role, if any, Haith could have with the program during his suspension. The expectation is that he won’t be allowed to attend practice or work with players in any capacity, but Haith said he will still be allowed to recruit.

He did, however, indicate that he’ll donate a portion of his salary to the Boys Girls Club of Columbia during his suspension.

Shapiro also claimed he spent millions between 2002 and 2010 on football and men’s basketball recruits, athletes and coaches.

But Miami’s football program will not receive an additional bowl ban. Instead, it will lose three scholarships over the next three years. Miami skipped the last two postseasons as a self-imposed penalty. This year the Hurricanes are 6-0 and ranked No. 7 in the BCS standings.

Banowsky said the infractions committee hoped to resolve the case in six to eight weeks but it “had a lot of complexities to it that were extraordinary.”

“Our first responsibility is to do the best we can to understand the case record and to get it right,” he said.

The Star’s Vahe Gregorian and wire services contributed to this report

Related stories from Kansas City Star