REAL Tiger Trouble: Missouri Coach Frank Haith Under Investigation

Jan 22, 2013 at 2:28 pm
Oh, sure, I could have used a picture of him in Missouri gear, but he just looks so much more sinister in orange, don't you think? 
Oh, sure, I could have used a picture of him in Missouri gear, but he just looks so much more sinister in orange, don't you think? 

Missouri Tigers head coach Frank Haith is currently facing allegations of improper conduct and "failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance." The NCAA is, according to various reports, planning on notifying him of the allegations soon. Which is just as mysterious and confusing to me as it is to you, trust me. 

The good news? The allegations relate to Haith's time at the University of Miami, where he served as head coach before being hired by Mizzou. So, Missouri isn't directly under any sort of investigation at the moment. I'm hoping "at the moment" doesn't become the key phrase here in the near future. 

The bad news? Pretty much everything else about this. 

The allegations against Haith, somewhat unsurprisingly, all point back to Nevin Shapiro, the former Miami booster who made the news in a rather enormous way back in the summer of 2011. When the scandal first broke, with details of benefits provided to student athletes throughout the Hurricanes program, one of the names most prominently connected was, you guessed it, Frank Haith. 

I wrote about it at the time, in fact; the circumstances really didn't seem like they could have been any worse. Haith had just been hired to replace the departing Mike Anderson, and here came scandal attached to him. The fanbase was already decidedly lukewarm toward the hiring to begin with, and having NCAA violations being tossed around with the new coach's name was just the icing on the cake. I was worried back then this would turn into a bigger story and potentially get very ugly for all parties involved. 

Of course, things are quite a bit different now. Haith has actually coached for the University of Missouri now and in fact led the program to one of its most successful seasons in recent memory last year, first-round tourney exit notwithstanding. Not nearly as much angst surrounding a guy when you win, you know? 

But even so, this is the absolute last thing in the world Mizzou needs. Why? Because look at the headline of this article. Or, hey, go to any sports site you want, and search around to find the story about Haith. Read that headline if you like. Read the first lines off whatever articles you find. You'll discover they all have something in common. 

The common theme? None of them have Frank Haith listed as, "former Miami basketball coach." They all say, "Missouri basketball coach." Which, of course, makes sense, right? After all, that is his current job. And therein lies the problem. Every headline, every story, ever news report on ESPN, all of them, when mentioning Frank Haith and the allegations against him, include the word Missouri. And, whether you like it or not, fairly or unfairly, that means Mizzou is getting dragged into the mud right along with him. It doesn't matter if the allegations are from his previous job. Frank Haith is under investigation, and Frank Haith is the head basketball coach at the University of Missouri. 

Missouri has done a pretty remarkable job avoiding scandal on their way to the upper echelon of college athletics. The worst was Gary Pinkel's DUI, and while I don't mean to downplay the seriousness of drunk driving, that's not exactly a scandal scandal, you know? It's an ugly circumstance, yes, but it's just...different. Maybe it shouldn't be, but it is. 

Something like this, though...this could haunt the school in the coming years. Yes, winning will solve pretty much whatever ills there may be, but what if just one recruit's family remembers the news report about Haith being under investigation, and decides they just aren't going to bother going down that road at all? Maybe the Tigers are a good enough team in the near future a little thing like that won't matter. Or, maybe they really really need that one kid whose family is a little on the fence about a coach who took all those photos with a convicted felon. 

Then again, I'm not sure what, if anything, is actually going to happen because of all this, at least in a tangible sense. The NCAA levies fines and sanctions and takes away bowl games and all that stuff against schools; they don't do much of anything to coaches. Hell, I'm kind of unclear what they even have on the books for coaches. Haith is probably in the clear. 

Well, except for that whole reputation thing. That part of it, both Frank Haith and the University of Missouri are just going to have to live with, I'm afraid.