ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri coach Frank Haith has been suspended for five games by the NCAA, which found 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 on Tuesday 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 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, 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 Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, as well as a Nov. 16 game against Hawaii at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. He also must attend an NCAA rules seminar next summer.
Haith has 15 days to appeal the Committee on Infractions’ penalties, which don’t affect Missouri as an institution. School officials did not respond to several requests for comment, though Haith, who came to Columbia in 2011 after seven years at Miami, was scheduled to meet with reporters later Tuesday. His Florida-based attorney did not immediately respond to an interview request.
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 evidence to support that claim.
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.”
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.”
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.
Follow Alan Scher Zagier on Twitter at http://twitter.com/azagier
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