NCAA hands Missouri head coach five-game suspension

Missouri head men’s basketball coach Frank Haith was suspended for the first five games of this season by the NCAA.

Missouri head men’s basketball coach Frank Haith was suspended for the first five games of this season by the NCAA. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA — After 27 months of investigation, the NCAA finally levied its punishment against Missouri head basketball coach Frank Haith for his role in the University of Miami scandal.

It all amounted to a slap on the wrist.

The NCAA suspended Haith five games for a failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance within its rules, and required the third-year Missouri head man to attend an NCAA regional seminar.

The NCAA report states Haith lied to the organization about making unusual payments to his assistant coaches while he was the head coach at Miami, which created $10,000 to give to disgraced booster Nevin Shapiro to keep quiet about a number of things, including allegations Shapiro funneled cash to former recruit Dequan Jones in order to ensure his commitment to Miami.

“Obviously the last 27 months have been really difficult for me and my family and the university and our student-athletes and our community,” Haith said Tuesday afternoon at Mizzou Arena, as he was joined by athletic director Mike Alden to speak about six hours after the NCAA Committee on Infractions announced his suspension.

“I strongly disagree with the report. ... I’ve chosen not to appeal the process, and it’s this reason. I care a lot about this university and their support they’ve had for me, I care about our student-athletes, and first and foremost I care about my family. What my family’s been through the last 27 months, I cannot tell you what we’ve had to endure.

“This morning when my daughter woke up and my wife tells her what we’re going through, not specifics but generalities, and to see her crying again, I don’t want to put her through that, or my son who’s been very supportive, of any more than what we’ve already been through. Nor do I want to put the university through any more.

“This signifies closure. We can move forward. Understand this is not an admission of guilt, because I do not agree with the findings of the NCAA.”

When pressed why the NCAA concluded his story wasn’t consistent, Haith delivered a curt response: “I was very truthful.”

As much as Haith disagrees with the NCAA’s views, he’s just glad it’s finally over with. So is Alden.

“Certainly we understand that this has had an effect on coach Haith, had an effect on our program, because of the fact that coach is our coach,” Alden said. “He and I have worked together for almost three years now, and we’re looking forward to working together for a long time.

“... The University of Missouri will also not appeal this to the NCAA. We certainly are supportive of coach Haith, 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.”

Haith’s five-game suspension begins when the Tigers open the regular season Nov. 8 against Southeastern Louisiana, and concludes Nov. 25, when Missouri hosts IUPUI. The three games in between are against Southern Illinois-Carbondale, Hawaii and Gardner-Webb.

During those 18 days, Haith will not be allowed to coach practices. He will, however, be allowed to recruit.

“Because of my inability to coach those five games, I wanted to donate a portion of my salary back to the community that’s been really good to me and my family,” Haith said. “We’ve chosen to continue to be supportive of the Boys and Girls Club here in Columbia.”

Haith has yet to decide who will replace him as the acting head coach during that 18-day span.

“We have three great coaches on our staff — Tim Fuller, Dave Leitao and Mark Phelps — I haven’t decided how we will utilize their strengths and what we do in terms of deciding who is the acting head coach. We have great choices in those three guys.”

Haith, at the time of the press conference, hadn’t yet had the opportunity to talk with his players, something he was planning on doing later Tuesday. Players were not made available to the media.

Haith believes had he not spoken the truth to the NCAA, he would have been hit with an unethical conduct penalty, which likely would have carried stiffer penalties. He added it bothered him the NCAA concluded his story wasn’t credible because of conflicting reports.

The inconsistency of the NCAA’s application of the rules came up, with former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl’s three-year show cause penalty a prime example, after he lied to the NCAA about hosting a barbecue at his house in attempt to lure recruits to play for the Volunteers.

Alden chimed in on that question, taking a shot at the governing body.

“There are national concerns with the governance of the NCAA, the consistency with how they apply or not apply rules or regulations,” he said. “... The NCAA is doing an extensive review of all of that. If you take a look the application of ramifications of rules violations or the applications of competitive equity or the applications of recognition of BCS-level conferences and other conferences, which is probably why they’re going under extensive review of restructuring.”

Now Haith, Alden and the Tigers can move on without this cloud hanging over their heads.

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