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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

'Waiting' worst place Missouri can leave Haith, hoops program

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Frank Haith's job is more difficult with rivals able to use his status against him in recruiting. (AP)  
Frank Haith's job is more difficult with rivals able to use his status against him in recruiting. (AP)  

Whether Missouri should've known in April that it was hiring a basketball coach who would four months later be publicly accused of a serious NCAA violation is debatable and mostly unimportant. What's done is done. Life has no rewind button.

So when former Miami booster Nevin Shapiro alleged to Yahoo Sports in a story published last week that Frank Haith was aware of a $10,000 cash payment to a recruit while he coached the Hurricanes, there was no way for Missouri officials to undo a hire that for some always seemed questionable. They could only try to handle the awkward situation wisely from that point forward, and wouldn't you know it, they screwed it up.

"We're waiting for the NCAA process to carry itself out," Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton said. "We're obviously very concerned."

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Very foolish, too.

With those 14 words, Deaton paralyzed Haith -- just left his coach swirling in unknown winds and gave every program recruiting against the Tigers the ability to cast serious doubt on Haith's future. It might've been an honest statement, but it was a stupid one. Missouri needed to either start negotiating a buyout with Haith based on the serious nature of the allegation or publicly back him against "the word of a criminal" regardless of whether his job is really in jeopardy behind the scenes. Either option would've made sense on some level. But it makes no sense for Missouri to keep Haith while acknowledging it's waiting on the results of the NCAA's investigation into Miami, because investigations take a long time and the wait could destroy one recruiting class and possibly more.

It's difficult for coaches to operate with clouds above.

Everybody knows that.

That's why contract extensions are announced to do nothing more than create the illusion of long-term security. That's why most coaches hate it when their names are connected to other jobs for more than a few days. That's why Auburn football coach Gene Chizik recently asked NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach to announce the NCAA is no longer investigating the Cam Newton scandal.

Chizik wants the cloud removed because that cloud affects his ability to his job.

It's used against him.

Credit Auburn officials for being smart enough to realize this. They've never left any doubt about who they're with or said they're "waiting for the NCAA process to carry itself out" before deciding whether Chizik can continue in his current role. Instead, Auburn officials have publicly dismissed the allegation and backed Chizik, Newton and everybody else.

Are they on the right side of reality?

I don't know.

But they're on the right side of the public relations battle.

Regardless of what rival coaches and fans might say, Chizik can look at prospects and tell them his job is in no jeopardy, that the Newton saga is a media-driven event going nowhere, that everybody is just hatin' on the reigning national champions. But Haith isn't so fortunate because his own chancellor has made it clear publicly that Missouri is simply waiting for the NCAA's investigation to be completed before deciding how to move forward, and the recruiting hits Haith will take because of that and until this is resolved one way or another are going to put him in a position where the losing that might come down the road can be traced back to this allegation and the cloud it put above his program.

There is no way rival schools aren't going to use this against Missouri.

I get that.

But I can't begin to understand why Missouri felt the need to use it against itself.


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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