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Mizzou Basketball Coach Frank Haith Under Attack Before First Game Is Played

Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith is one of a number of current and former coaches and players cited in an investigative story by Yahoo Sports reporting on alleged major NCAA rules infractions at the University of Miami.

Frank Haith, head basketball coach at Missouri
Frank Haith, head basketball coach at Missouri

As if there weren't enough scandal and controversy surrounding college sports these days, now we learn of another major university, the University of Miami, that has been cited in a national news story of alleged improprieties within its athletic program conducted over an eight-year period.

The epicenter of the latest alleged wrongdoing in college sports and the heart of the ramifications certain to follow fall far from our area

Still three months before Missouri's first official game under new head basketball coach Frank Haith, their coach was one of several coaches and numerous current and former players cited in wide-ranging allegations of impermissible conduct in violation of NCAA rules between the University of Miami and a former booster of the school, according to in an investigative report published Tuesday by Yahoo Sports.

The report centers around former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, presently serving a 20-year sentence in federal prison for his involvement in a $930 million Ponzi scheme. Shapiro told Yahoo Sports that he provided unauthorized benefits to as many as 72 athletes at the University of Miami between 2002 and 2010, and he cited three football coaches and three basketball coaches in his allegations, including MU's Haith, who was head coach at Miami before accepting the coaching job at Missouri replacing the departed Mike Anderson.

Haith immediately denied the allegations reported in the Yahoo Sports story. "The reports questioning my personal interactions with Mr. Shapiro are not an accurate portrayal of my character," the Missouri coach said in a statement issued by the University of Missouri shortly after the Yahoo Sports story came out.

Presumably, Missouri athletic director Mike Alden has met one-on-one with his new basketball coach and asked Haith directly if any of the allegations made about him in Shapiro's comments to Yahoo Sports are true, and if Haith was involved in any way?

Given Haith's public denial, we can only assume that his answer to Alden was an emphatic "no."

Some are saying that Alden should distance himself (Haith was Alden's hire, after all) and the University of Missouri from this situation and dismiss Haith immediately, or at the least place him on administrative leave pending a thorough investigation of the matter. The case could be made: Look what happened to Indiana when officials at that school chose to overlook the NCAA violations committed by Kelvin Sampson when he was basketball coach at Oklahoma.

You can fault Missouri's athletic director, though, for standing by his man after being told face-to-face by Haith that he is innocent of the allegations against him. Given the fact, also, that Haith has yet to coach his first game as Missouri's head basketball coach, university officials probably don't have ample or any evidence or proof of Haith's alleged involvement in the impermissible behavior that has been brought in question at the University of Miami to dismiss him for cause.

This is not a good situation for Missouri. Not only will it be a constant distraction as the investigation plays out, but it comes ahead of a season in which the Tigers are expected to be a solid contender for the conference basketball crown because of the number of players who logged substantial minutes last season returning the Mizzou roster this year.

According to Yahoo Sports, Shapiro said he paid $10,000 to help recruit DeQuan Jones to Miami and that the payment was acknowledged by Haith. The Yahoo story also included a questionable photograph of Haith standing alongside of Miami president Donna Shalala and Shapiro at what was reported to be a Miami basketball fundraiser, where Shapiro said he gave $50,000 to the basketball program in 2008.

Haith was the head basketball coach at Miami from 2004-2011.

Missouri isn't the only Big 12 school where there will be questions tied to the scandalous charges being made against Miami. Arthur Brown, a linebacker at Miami for two seasons in 2008-09 during the time covered in the investigation, transferred to Kansas State, where he is expected to be a starter this season. Shapiro told Yahoo that he provided dinner and a strip-club visit to Brown and lunch and hotel rooms for him, his brother, Bryce, who also is at Kansas State now after transferring from Tennessee, his parents and a family advisor, all of which is impermissible under NCAA recruiting rules.

Contacted by The Kansas City Star on Tuesday, Brian Butler, the family advisor, said he and the Brown family had no idea that Shapiro was a Miami booster. He told us he was not an agent or a booster, Butler said. "He said he was a guy who loved Miami."

It's difficult to say what, if anything will happen to the Bryce brothers or Kansas State as a result of what Shapiro is saying or any subsequent findings in the NCAA's investigation of the matter, but for now, Kansas State is allowing both brothers to play for the Wildcats this fall.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports was the lead writer on the story, but there were other Yahoo staff members actively involved in the research and interviews done for the story, including Dan Wetzel. Yahoo says it conducted approximately 100 hours of interviews with Shapiro, while in prison, over a period of 11 months. The research also included an audit of financial, business and cell phone records examining all aspects of the alleged improprieties in the football and basketball programs at the University of Miami.

This is just one more in a growing list of major college athletic programs that are or will be under investigations for NCAA rules violations, mostly involving recruiting practices. In the past 18 months the football programs at the University of Southern California, California, Ohio State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Louisiana State, Auburn, Oregon and Michigan have been investigated or sanctioned by the NCAA. A big 12 school, Oklahoma, is currently under investigation by the NCAA for recruiting violations involving a former coach and alleged illegal payments made to former OU player and McDonald's All-American Tiny Gallon when he was being recruited by the Sooners.

It has become a major epidemic that seems to be getting much worse before it gets better. The growing number of schools under investigation is much needed kindling for the firestorm calling for major reforms in the NCAA regulations and the way in which the organization that oversees college athletics not only polices but determines and administers appropriate penalties against programs deemed to be in violation.