By The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS—Missouri men’s basketball coach Frank Haith has been suspended for five games by the NCAA, which announced Tuesday that he had inadequately monitored his former assistants’ interactions with a disgraced Miami booster and then tried to cover up a five-figure hush money payment to keep potential violations hidden.
The NCAA released the findings of its two-year investigation into convicted felon Nevin Shapiro’s relationship with Miami athletics and said that Haith, the former Hurricanes basketball coach, failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance with its rules.
The investigation found that Haith and Miami assistant coach Jake Morton provided Shapiro $10,000 after he <!–more–>threatened to expose previous improper contact with high school recruits and amateur coaches, as well as other unflattering details involving a booster now serving a 20-year prison term for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme.
Shapiro, who had basketball season tickets with a courtside seat and had donated an estimated $500,000 to Miami, initially demanded a large loan from Haith after he experienced financial trouble or the return a $50,000 donation from a benefit bowling tournament he had hosted. The coach refused.
Morton, who joined Western Kentucky as an assistant coach in 2011 but resigned in April as its director of basketball operations, then loaned Shapiro at least $6,000, which he later repaid. The NCAA also said that Haith helped Morton and two other assistants pay $10,000 to Shapiro’s mother and “attempted to cover up the booster’s threats to disclose incriminating information.”
Missouri plays four of its first give games this season at Mizzou Arena, starting with Southeastern Louisiana on Nov. 8. Haith will also miss home games against Southern Illinois, Gardner-Webb and IUPUI, as well as a Nov. 16 game against Hawaii in Kansas City. He also must attend an NCAA rules seminar next summer.
In a statement released by Missouri, Haith said he “strongly disagree(s)” with the NCAA Committee on Infractions’ report “and the inference on how the program was run at the University of Miami” but won’t appeal the findings.
Nor will Missouri, which was not penalized. Haith’s statement was accompanied by supportive statements from Chancellor Brady Deaton, athletic director Mike Alden and the university’s top compliance officer.
“After all this time, Coach Haith, his family, the University of Missouri, our student-athletes and our fans, deserve closure,” Alden said. “I’m proud to have Frank Haith as our men’s basketball coach.”
Haith came to Columbia in 2011 after seven years at Miami, with the allegations from his time in Coral Gables surfacing several months after his surprise hire from a .500 program that never reached the NCAA tournament under his watch.
While much of the 102-page report focuses on the far more successful Miami football program, the NCAA inquiry also opens a rare public window into the seamier side of cultivating big-money boosters – even those, like Shapiro, with substantial baggage.
Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports that he steered a $10,000 payment to secure recruit DeQuan Jones’ commitment to Miami in 2008 with Haith’s knowledge. The NCAA said it found no conclusive evidence to support that claim, though it noted multiple phone calls among Haith, Morton and an unidentified “high-profile prospect” on the same day Shapiro’s mother was paid.
The report also said an associate athletics director in charge of fundraising guided Shapiro toward the Miami men’s basketball program after the booster became disenchanted with the football team’s losing 2007 season under first-year coach Randy Shannon. Haith and Morton told NCAA investigators they shared several meals with Shapiro, attended a concert together and visited a strip club “to create donor relationships.” Haith also sought legal advice from Shapiro when one of his players got into trouble.
The report found that Haith provided inconsistent answers during multiple interviews with NCAA investigators, including conflicting accounts of when he reported Shapiro’s shakedown attempt to athletic director Paul Dee.
“Because of the many inconsistencies the former head men’s basketball coach reported during his interviews with the enforcement staff and the institutions, the committee does not find his version of events to be credible,” the report concludes.
Infractions Committee Chairman Britton Banowsky, who is also Conference USA commissioner, reiterated those concerns.
“It was difficult for the committee, and maybe even the members of the enforcement staff, to know precisely what really was going on in the program, given all the conflicting information,” he said.
In Haith’s three interviews with NCAA investigators between October 2011 and September 2012, he provided three different explanations as to why he paid his assistants $3,200 advances that they normally would have had to wait to receive from summer basketball camps. Haith requested the third interview soon after his second sit-down, citing concerns that he had given “inaccurate” information and was “confused about the timing of what (he) knew and when (he) knew it.”
He also offered some candid insights into the pressure to win, even at a football-first school like Miami.
“Did we win enough games for the Miami supporters?” Haith said in an NCAA interview. “You read the papers. I don’t think they felt great about what we did there. I didn’t recruit, I didn’t get the five-star guys … Let’s don’t be naive about the level. Our business is corrupt.”
Beyond Haith’s penalties, Miami’s football team will lose a total of nine scholarships and the Hurricanes’ men’s basketball team will lose three over a three-year period starting in 2014. The school will also serve three years of probation. Two former Miami football assistants and one ex-basketball assistant received two-year show-cause bans, which effectively keep the penalized parties out of the college coaching ranks.
Former Haith assistant Jorge Fernandez was penalized for redeeming airline frequent flier miles on behalf of a player’s mother.
NCAA report: http://tinyurl.com/msydfxl