Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Ex-Miami coaches in limbo at new schools
Marshall and Western Kentucky say they did their due diligence before hiring former Miami assistants Jorge Fernandez and Jake Morton, respectively.
Both schools' head coaches -- Marshall's Tom Herrion and Western Kentucky's Ken McDonald -- said they went through the proper protocol, as did their compliance offices. That means an email or phone call to the NCAA enforcement to see if there are any violations, even if they are secondary, on the record of the individual.
But what is not given up is whether there is an ongoing investigation.
"We've never received information like that," said Marshall's Derek Gwinn, the school's associate director of athletics for compliance. "It's always been that they won't comment on ongoing investigations."
Bob Williams, the NCAA's vice president of communications, confirmed as much.
"What we do is tell schools who have secondary or major violations," Williams said. "If there is an investigation ongoing, they won't say the individual is under investigation because of the confidentiality clause."
The NCAA has said it's been investigating Miami for five months, while Yahoo! Sports spent 11 months on its investigation. The allegations broke by Yahoo! on Fernandez were that Miami booster Nevin Shapiro witnessed him having impermissible contact with Miami football players in 2008 and entertaining then-AAU-coach Moe Hicks (now on the St. John's staff).
The allegations against Morton were more serious. Shapiro alleges that Morton was aware a family member of then-recruit and current senior DeQuan Jones wanted $10,000 for a commitment to Miami and that Shapiro agreed to front the money. The allegation is Morton met Shapiro to pick up the cash and Morton returned the money after Shapiro went to prison.
Former Miami head coach Frank Haith didn't take Morton and Fernandez with him to Missouri.
So far, according to Marshall and Western Kentucky, neither Morton nor Fernandez has spoken to NCAA investigators. That sort of leaves them in limbo, but Herrion and McDonald are sticking with their new assistants and have been told by each that the two men didn't do anything wrong. Both coaches say the cases have to run their course before any judgment can be reached. Both coaches will remain on staff and continue to recruit.
Meanwhile, Haith isn't allowed to comment on the case as he waits to be interviewed by the NCAA for his alleged role in knowing about a payment for Jones. Haith is being kept in limbo as well since the NCAA investigation will likely last into 2012 since it also involves football. That means Haith will have a shadow over him for quite some time, forcing Missouri to decide if it is going to stick with him or cut him a negotiated settlement (which would likely be in the millions) before any investigation is complete. Haith has publicly professed his innocence in a statement but can't speak anymore on the subject, making it harder for him to defend himself.
The former assistants are in a similar situation, but with a much dimmer spotlight on them. Yet, like Haith, both are at new institutions, and that makes it more difficult since neither has built up any equity at his new job.
More news and notes from around the country:
• Herrion said Marshall has signed up to play at Syracuse this season for a $100,000 guarantee. The Thundering Herd, which fancy themselves contenders with Memphis for the Conference USA title, will play two other notable Big East teams -- at Cincinnati (a return game in 2012-13 will be in Charleston, W. Va.) and the annual rivalry game against West Virginia in Charleston. MAAC favorite Iona is going to Huntington, as is MAC contender Akron. Marshall is also playing an in-season home-and-home against a Belmont team that won 30 games last season and returns nearly everyone. Games against Ohio, UNC Wilmington and High Point are also on the schedule as Marshall looks for one more game.
• The NCAA is expected to resolve outgoing UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway's situation as incoming chair of the men's basketball tournament committee in weeks, not months, according to a NCAA spokesperson. The Big East would like to see Hathaway in the same role and trust his due diligence on the committee, even if he's not employed at a member institution. He will, after all, be technically paid by one during his year as chair since UConn reached a settlement with Hathaway.
• Williams said you can expect a number of the actions discussed at the presidential retreat to be enacted at either the next board of presidents meeting in October or in January at the NCAA convention. Williams said the new cut score for the APR (930) will likely be adopted and that teams will start missing the NCAA tournament if they don't average at least that number over a four-year period. Williams said it wouldn't affect the 2012 tournament since the schools need time to adjust to the new score. It'll kick in for the 2013 tourney at the earliest, but likely later.
• The Big East hopes to finish its conference schedule sometime around Labor Day. And that means Connecticut will know who its opponents will be for the first three Big East games that coach Jim Calhoun will have to miss due to an NCAA-imposed suspension. The Big East traditionally is the last conference to publish its league schedule as it works with a number of NBA and NHL arenas on scheduling dates.
• The MAC's decision to advance the top two teams to the semifinals of its league tournament was a much-needed change. The MAC had to do something to protect the best teams and give them the best chance to advance to the NCAA tournament then win a game. This is the same move that a number of leagues, notably the WCC, have made recently.
• Texas A&M to the SEC makes sense with the conference getting into the Houston market and dipping into a state that certainly loves its football. Leaving Texas and its natural rivalries would be a sacrifice worth taking for the more lucrative payday and passion within the Southeastern Conference. But figuring out the SEC's 14th fit -- if it comes to that -- is a bit trickier. If the SEC schools were to block out schools from their own states, that eliminates Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Clemson.
Virginia Tech would seem a natural, but the Hokies like their competitive position in the ACC and there are also the political ramifications to "breaking up" with rival Virginia. If there is one school that's a dark horse, it's West Virginia. The Mountaineers certainly could hang in both major sports (football and men's basketball) and compete at a high level. The SEC offers a lot more stability than the Big East in football and WVU's passion for its sports teams is akin to the SEC.
The problem of course is that the media market is small and doesn't deliver much to the SEC in terms of number of households. West Virginia can dip into the Pittsburgh area and that wouldn't hurt. The school would also likely have the least resistance politically of any of the other candidates. From a hoops standpoint, adding Bob Huggins to the mix and renewing an old rivalry with his old pal John Calipari would be entertaining for all.