The NCAA’s Witch Hunt Involving Frank Haith Is Full of Holes

Frank Haith’s coaching career in Columbia will likely be short-lived, if only because of a purported infraction the NCAA can’t sufficiently prove.

The Missouri head basketball coach is expected to face a notice of allegations—subject to public disclosure as soon as this week, according to CBSSports.com—charging him with “unethical conduct” and “failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance.” The pending charges stem from a sweeping accusation made by Nevin Shapiro, a former University of Miami booster and Ponzi scheme convict who alleges Haith indirectly paid $10,000 to former Hurriances player DeQuan Jones (pictured right) while Haith was at the school.

Feb 5, 2012; Durham, NC, USA; Miami Hurricanes head coach Jim Larranaga talks with Miami Hurricanes guard DeQuan Jones (5) as he goes in to the game against the Duke Blue Devils during the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Miami beat Duke 78-74 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA could tag Haith with a multi-year show-cause penalty as it did in the case of Bruce Pearl, who received a three-year penalty for lying about a secondary violation that took place at his home. The punitive punishment, designed to discipline the rogue coach without outright penalizing the school he’s at, would effectively preempt Missouri to fire its head coach after two seasons with the program.

And that would be criminal.

You see, there’s a gaping hole in the NCAA’s wobbly case: it doesn’t actually have proof that Haith or his staff slipped Jones and his family $10,000. All the governing body has to go on is a hunch Haith is twisting his story, a suspicion he’s not telling the truth. Good luck with that in a court of law.

It gets worse. The NCAA’s go-to witnesses are a grand-scale scam artist currently in prison and the mother of the aforesaid scam artist currently in prison. Let me guess, the NCAA has a used car salesman ready to testify on-call. Whoever could doubt those airtight sources?

This 18-month-long witch hunt reeks of baseless assumptions and non-sequiturs. Even the NCAA has its misgivings. The organization, according to the CBS Sports report, is withholding its notice of allegations until it can settle further procedural matters. Translation: we know this is an irresponsible gamble, but we’re going out on a whim anyway and praying this doesn’t backfire!

To be fair, Haith should be out as head coach anyway. A solid recruiter, he is nevertheless a poor defensive coach with subpar tactical acumen. His coaching flaws nearly earned him a pink slip at Miami—a program that isn’t in a position to fire worthwhile coaches—but a well-timed Missouri job offer spared him the stigma.

Frank Haith doesn’t look like the answer to Missouri’s enduring quest for a stable coaching presence. The NCAA could actually support that claim. But until the college governing body can do better than a gut feeling and a fraud as a source, there’s no reason to incriminate a feasibly innocent man while handcuffing an innocent program desperate for solidarity.

In the meantime, Michael Alden ought to get started on his newest head coaching search, whether the NCAA clenches its iron first or not.

Topics: Basketball, Missouri Tigers

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