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Thursday, January 24, 2013 / 1:16 PM

Botched NCAA Investigation Might Save Missouri Coach Frank Haith

Botched NCAA Investigation Might Save Missouri Coach Frank Haith

It's been quite a week for Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith.

On Saturday, the Tigers lost to Florida in an embarrassing blowout, 83-52. The game was over by halftime.

Then on Monday, cbssports.com reported that Haith would soon receive a notice of allegations from the NCAA, in relation to the Nevin Shapiro scandal at the University of Miami, where Haith used to coach. According to the CBS story, Haith was likely to be charged with unethical conduct and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance. The root of the controversy was a Yahoo! Sports piece from August 2011, in which Shapiro, a former Miami booster and busted ponzi schemer, alleged that he had broken several NCAA rules with Haith's knowledge. The allegations included visits to strip clubs, plane rides, and a $10,000 payment to the family of a recruit. CBS speculated that the charges might result in a multiple-year show-cause penalty, like the one given to former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl. That all sounded really bad for Haith. Fans were speculating about who Mizzou might hire to be the next coach.

Then on Tuesday, Missouri overcame a dreadful first half to beat South Carolina, 71-65. After the game, Haith declined to comment directly about the CBS report, but seemed more angry about his team's slow start to the game than the allegations against him.

Then yesterday, the NCAA announced that it had uncovered inappropriate conduct by its own investigators in the Miami case and would be launching an external review of its enforcement program. An NCAA investigator had allegedly worked with Shapiro's defense attorney to improperly ask the former booster questions about the case through a bankruptcy proceeding. The NCAA had no authority to take part in that proceeding, and did so surreptitiously. That means any incriminating information that the NCAA received from Shapiro's testimony will need to be thrown out. So you've got unethical investigators looking into allegedly unethical coaches.

The whole thing stinks.

And it gets worse.

The lead investigator on the Haith portion of the case was Abigail Grantstein, who has been fired by the NCAA for botching an unrelated investigation of UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad. And when Missouri fans started looking for dirt on Abigail, they noticed something troubling on her Linkedin profile: She is a graduate of the University of Kansas School of Law and a former employee of the Jayhawks' compliance office. You could call that a conflict of interest.

So now the NCAA is headed back to the drawing board, with its tail between its legs. Bryan Burwell wrote a column in the Post-Dispatch arguing  that at this point, the whole investigation is tainted, and the NCAA should just give up and move on. As CBS said in its follow-up story, "Haith is suddenly and unbelievably in a position to beat this case on a technicality…which means the idea of Haith coaching Missouri long into the future doesn't seem nearly as unlikely as it did earlier in the week."

Still, Haith isn't entirely in the clear just yet. The NCAA is going to do the external review and then throw out any information that it acquired improperly. But according to NCAA president Mark Emmert, the testimony from that bankruptcy hearing was just a small portion of the incriminating evidence. So while the charges are on hold, they might not be gone forever. Stay tuned.

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