Press Box: After easy NCAA penalty, Haith needs to be quiet

News Tribune Sports Commentary

If you ever wanted to see the definition of “Can’t leave well enough alone,” you got Exhibit A recently in the form of Frank Haith.

First, a little bit of background. Last week, after a 27-month investigation, the NCAA finally levied some punishments against the University of Miami for a scandal that involved rule-breaking by the school’s football and men’s basketball programs.

The allegations and misdeeds are too lengthy to go into here, but what’s important to area sports fans is Haith, the current Missouri men’s basketball coach, was involved.

Haith, who was the Miami coach at the time of the scandal, was cited in the judgment for lying to NCAA investigators about unusual payments he made to assistant coaches that helped him create $10,000 to give to a booster.

The punishment? A paltry five-game suspension and Haith’s mandatory attendance at an NCAA regional seminar.

It’s about as good a result as you could hope for if you were in Haith’s shoes. Instead, the guy in those shoes chose to complain about it. Here are some of his comments, followed by my retorts.

Haith: “I strongly disagree with the report.”

Me: That’s your right. But it’s not going to change the report.

Haith: “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 signifies closure. We can move forward.”

Me: But you’re not moving forward. Moving forward would be taking your medicine and leaving things be.

Haith: “Understand this is not an admission of guilt, because I do not agree with the findings of the NCAA.”

Me: What a nice way of dealing with things. Does that mean every convicted felon can say he doesn’t agree with the findings of the court and think he’ll suddenly be declared innocent? What color is the sky in your world?

Haith (when pressed for further explanation about why the NCAA concluded he lied): “I was very truthful.”

Me: Be more specific. That could mean you were very truthful one time, and not on another occasion. Which is exactly what you got in trouble for.

Why would you poke the bear if you’re Haith? And make no mistake, the NCAA is a pretty big bear with pretty sharp claws. Just accept the ruling.

And it’s not like it’s very punishing, that punishment. It’s 18 days off. Haith will have to sit out Missouri’s home games against Southeastern Louisiana and Southern Illinois, a game in Kansas City against Hawaii, followed by two more home games against Gardner-Webb and IUPUI.

That’s a favor, not a punishment — he doesn’t have to sit through games against Southeastern Louisiana, Southern Illinois, Hawaii, Gardner-Webb and IUPUI. If the Hawaii game had been in Hawaii, that might have been bad. This is nothing.

So leave well enough alone and let’s get to actually moving forward.

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