Friday, August 19, 2011
Mizzou: No red flags in Frank Haith hire
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The University of Missouri intends to wait for the results of an NCAA investigation into pay-for-play allegations and other possible rules violations at Miami before making any decisions about the future of new coach Frank Haith, the school's chancellor said Friday.
Haith spent seven years at Miami before his surprise hire at Missouri in April. Former Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports that Haith was aware of an alleged $10,000 payment to recruit DeQuan Jones via a Miami assistant coach in 2008.
Shapiro, who is in federal prison after being convicted of running a massive Ponzi scheme, claims to have provided cash, cars, prostitutes and other impermissible benefits to 72 Miami football players and other athletes between 2002 and 2010 with the knowledge of at least six coaches and as many as 10 athletic department employees overall.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton said the school was asked by the NCAA earlier this week to not undertake its own inquiry but instead await the results of the broader investigation. Deaton said he assured NCAA president Mark Emmert that Missouri will "cooperate fully."
"These kinds of allegations we hear about are very disappointing for all leaders in higher education," Deaton later said at a Friday afternoon news conference as part of the first public comments by school officials beyond an initial one-paragraph statement issued three days earlier. "We're waiting for the NCAA process to carry itself out. We're obviously very concerned."
Deaton said that Haith "called me and apologized for this having happened." He otherwise didn't mention the coach by name.
Haith has not commented except for a statement issued earlier this week.
"I am more than happy to cooperate with the national office on this issue and look forward to a quick resolution," he said. "The NCAA has instructed me not to comment further at this time in order to protect the integrity of their review. ... The reports questioning my personal interactions with Mr. Shapiro are not an accurate portrayal of my character."
The NCAA investigation into Miami began five months ago, before Missouri athletic director Mike Alden disappointed many Tigers faithful by tapping Haith -- who in seven years at Miami had a losing record in the Atlantic Coast Conference and made the NCAA tournament just once -- to replace Mike Anderson, who left for Arkansas.
But Deaton said Missouri's coaching search turned up no evidence of any potential wrongdoing at Miami by Haith, whose high character was highlighted by both Deaton and Alden when the new coach was introduced in Columbia. Missouri's background check involved more than 20 people familiar with Haith, including NCAA and ACC officials, Deaton said.
"Everything came back very clear, very positive," he said. "Left us reassured that this was an individual that would provide the leadership we desire at the University of Missouri. We feel good about the process."
University of Missouri system interim president Steve Owens, a lawyer who while in private practice represented several college coaches embroiled in NCAA investigations, concurred that the school found no red flags in its coaching search.
"We talked to the right people," he said. "I feel good about the due diligence that was done."
Owens and Deaton spoke after the regularly scheduled meeting of the university's Board of Curators, who as a group did not discuss the Haith situation. But the board routinely meets in private to discuss personnel issues under an exemption to the state's open meeting laws and was scheduled to meet behind closed doors late Friday and again Saturday morning.
Those discussions included interviews with candidates for the university system's presidency, a job Owens is filling until a permanent replacement is found. Alden did not attend the meeting, though in the past he has met with curators from afar by teleconference.
Board chairman Warren Erdman declined comment, saying "inasmuch as it's not a board matter" -- even though the board has previously discussed coaching hirings and firings. Curator Judy Haggard, though, said she is withholding judgment until the school learns more from the NCAA.
"We can't act when we don't know," she told the AP. "Give the man the benefit of the doubt. That's my thinking."
The extensive report by Yahoo! Sports on Shapiro's claims includes two photographs of the disgraced booster with Haith -- one at a swanky Miami Beach restaurant and the other showing the pair with Miami president Donna Shalala at a bowling alley accepting what Shapiro said was a $50,000 donation to the school's basketball program.
The website also obtained records showing 85 phone calls or text messages between Shapiro and Haith between 2005 and March 2010.
Haith's five-year contract at Missouri pays a base salary of $1.5 million per season with an automatic one-year contract extension effective May 1, 2012. The contract, however, includes language that states the school can terminate Haith because of "any behavior of the employee that brings him into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule or any behavior that is unfavorable to the reputation or moral or ethical standards of the university."
The contract also states transgressions that occurred prior to being hired also can result in termination.