ST. LOUIS — Missouri coach Frank Haith was suspended for five games by the NCAA on Tuesday after it was found that he 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 Committee on Infractions report also found that Haith provided inconsistent answers during multiple interviews with investigators, including conflicting accounts of when he reported the shakedown attempt by since-imprisoned felon Nevin Shapiro to Hurricanes athletic director Paul Dee.
In a statement released by Missouri, Haith said he “strongly” disagreed with the report “and the inference on how the program was run at the University of Miami” but won’t appeal the findings. He told reporters in Columbia he plans to donate 18 days’ worth of his salary from his suspension to the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia. His base annual salary is $450,000, though he earns a guaranteed $1.6 million each year.
“I was truthful in my communication with the NCAA,” Haith said. “If I wasn’t truthful, I think I would have been hit with unethical conduct.”
Instead, the two-year NCAA investigation found that Haith, the former Hurricanes basketball coach, failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance.
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, the NCAA said.
Shapiro, who is now serving a 20-year prison term for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, had basketball season tickets with a courtside seat and had donated an estimated $500,000 to Miami. He 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.”
Haith’s statement was accompanied by supportive statements from Chancellor Brady Deaton, the university’s top compliance officer and athletic director Mike Alden, who also joined Haith at a previously scheduled preseason press conference.
“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.”
“We’re looking forward to working together for a long time,” added Alden, who hired Haith in 2011 after the former Texas and Wake Forest assistant spent seven years at Miami in his first head coaching job.
The allegations from Haith’s time in Coral Gables surfaced several months after his surprise hire by Alden from a .500 program that had reached the NCAA tournament just once under his watch.
While much of the 102-page report focuses on the 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. 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.
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.”
The committee concluded that Haith’s “version of events (is not) credible” due to “the many inconsistencies the former head men’s basketball coach reported during his interviews with the enforcement staff and the institutions.”
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.
Haith was strikingly clear on at least one point: the intense 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.”
Missouri plays four of its first five 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.