The Frank Haith saga begins

In the 18 months since Yahoo! Sports released its bombshell report on Miami booster and Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro, Frank Haith has settled into a new job, dealt with widespread criticism of his hire, adjusted from last year's season-ending injury to forward Lawrence Bowers, and led that undersized but veteran Missouri team to a sublime 30-5 record and a Big 12 tournament title. He also led the nation's most efficient offense, lost to a No. 15 seed in the first round of the NCAA tournament, recruited arguably one of the greatest transfer classes in modern history, and reloaded for another run around point guard Phil Pressey.

Through all of this -- success and failure on the basketball court, recruiting offers and personnel decisions, the normal stuff of a day-to-day coaching career -- it was easy to forget one simple thing: The reigning AP National Coach of the Year was doing it all on borrowed NCAA time.

It may have taken over a year, but the ever-deliberative NCAA Committee on Infractions is reportedly finishing up its investigation, and is expected to begin dispersing notices of allegations as early as this week. And as CBS's Jeff Goodman reported Monday afternoon, that could be very bad news for Haith and the Tigers:

A source close to the situation told CBSSports.com that former Hurricanes and current Missouri basketball coach Haith is expected to be charged with unethical conduct and failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance. […]

The source told CBSSports.com that the NCAA was unable to prove the allegation from Miami booster Nevin Shapiro that Haith or anyone on his staff paid $10,000 to a family member of former player DeQuan Jones. However, Haith will be charged with unethical conduct because the NCAA did not believe his story that payments to his assistants intended for camp money did not wind up going to repay Shapiro, who made the allegations to Yahoo! Sports back in August 2011. A source said that the money was delivered to Shapiro's mother, who verified the payment to the NCAA.

Haith will also be charged with a failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance due to impermissible airline travel that was given to the family of two players from a member of his staff and also the interaction between Shapiro and players while on visits.

On Monday afternoon, Haith told ESPN.com in a text message that he had not yet heard from the NCAA. "We are in constant contact [with] the NCAA but we have not yet received a notice of allegations," Haith wrote.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind here:

  1. The worst charge Shapiro alleged of Haith was that he essentially paid $10,000 to former player DeQuan Jones' family. The NCAA could find no proof of that; instead, it is pursuing the unethical conduct charge because the NCAA believes that payments to assistants Haith said were for basketball camps ended up in Shapiro's hands, according to CBS.

  2. A notice of allegations is just that -- a notice of allegations. Haith will have up to 90 days to respond, then would meet with the NCAA Committee on Infractions. From there, the organization has six months to decide on a penalty.

  3. A show-cause penalty is not a ban. If, by the time that process is over, the NCAA does indeed decided to punish Haith with a show-cause penalty -- and that's a big, futuristic if -- Missouri is not necessarily required to fire its coach. All a show-cause does is establish that any NCAA member institution must abide by the penalties given to a coach when he was at another institution. The Tigers could appeal to the NCAA and make a case as to why they don't feel they should be punished in accordance with Haith's former school, and maybe that argument would be convincing.

Even with those procedural caveats out of the way, even at this early date … it's bad. Haith will work hard to clear his name, and Missouri will work hard to make sure the coach it has experienced so much early success with is able to remain in his position, but a show-cause penalty is brutally prohibitive for a reason.

If the NCAA goes that way -- and their recent harsh stance toward rules violators, particularly those who engage with third-parties or commit ethics no-nos, suggest they will be just as harsh going forward -- then Missouri may have no choice.

They’d be in the same situation as Tennessee was with its highly successful coach, Bruce Pearl, who had similar ethical charges thrown his way by the NCAA for initially lying about a secondary violation that took place at his house.

If you’re reading this blog, you know how it turned out for Pearl.

Will Haith suffer a similar fate?