Missouri AD offers qualified support of Haith

Missouri athletic director Mike Alden is standing behind the

school’s embattled men’s basketball coach – to a point.

Frank Haith’s future has come into question after Yahoo Sports

reported last week that a former University of Miami booster said

he paid then-Hurricanes recruit DeQuan Jones $10,000 to attend the

school with Haith’s approval.

Haith spent seven years at Miami before Alden hired him in

April. It was a decision that surprised and disappointed many

Missouri fans, given Haith’s relatively low coaching profile and

his 43-69 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Alden discussed Haith for the first time Wednesday at a kickoff

party for Missouri football boosters. Asked by The Associated Press

if he supports Haith, Alden replied, ”We support the NCAA

process.”

The NCAA has asked Missouri to not undertake its own inquiry but

instead await the results of its broader investigation into the

sweeping allegations by disgraced Miami booster Nevin Shapiro.

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.

Alden briefly touched upon the situation in his remarks to

boosters, noting that Haith met with the Missouri basketball team

several days ago to discuss the matter. But he also emphasized that

the alleged violations occurred at another school, and singled out

the returning basketball players as ”a great group of guys.”

”He’s our coach,” Alden told the AP. ”There’s a process that

he’s involved with – that we’re not involved with – so we’re just

going to let that play out.”

Local radio ads promoting the Tiger Quarterback Club rally

touted Haith’s appearance at the event as recently as Monday. But

the coach decided not to attend to minimize any potential

distractions, said team spokesman Dave Reiter

”He wanted the focus to be on football,” Reiter said.

Alden said he remains in regular contact with Haith. The two

even plan to attend a St. Louis Cardinals’ game together – a

two-hour drive from Columbia – on Thursday night.

The extensive report by Yahoo Sports on Shapiro’s claims

includes two photographs of the 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 telephone records showing 85

calls or text messages between the two over a five-year period

Before the story broke, basketball spokesman Reiter told Yahoo

Sports that Haith assured him ”he’s had no involvement with this

Mr. Shapiro guy. There’s nothing.” The website subsequently pulled

that quote and replaced it with a school-issued written statement

in which Haith pledged to cooperate with the NCAA but said was

”instructed …not to comment further.”

”The reports questioning my personal interactions with Mr.

Shapiro are not an accurate portrayal of my character,” Haith said

in the statement.

Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton said last week that 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.

Alan Scher Zagier can be reached at

http://twitter.com/azagier