For the first time in more than two years as Missouri's basketball coach, Frank Haith will get the opportunity to coach a game without an NCAA investigation looming over him. That he has to wait until November 28th, the Tigers' sixth game of the season, to do that is something he begrudgingly accepted on Tuesday afternoon.
Despite opening his press conference responding to a five-game suspension from the NCAA by saying, "I strongly disagree with the report," Haith said that he would not appeal the suspension.
"It's this reason," Haith said, going on to list a few. "Number one, I care a lot about this University and the support they've had for me. I care about our student-athletes and, first and foremost, I care about my family. What my family's been through the last 27 months, I cannot tell you what we've had to endure. This morning when my daughter wakes up and my wife tells her what we're going through--not specific, but generalized things--and to see her crying again, I don't want to put her through that, or my son who has been very supportive, any more than what we've already been through. Nor do I want to put the University through any more."
So Haith will serve the suspension, though it was obvious at many times on Tuesday he considered fighting back and defending himself, as he has said many times over the last 27 months he had looked forward to doing.
"Extremely hard. Really struggled with it," Haith said of the decision not to appeal. "There's a humanistic part of this and that's what I chose to go towards. That goes to me talking about my family and what's important for us and this University."
The NCAA report detailed accusations against Haith that were not tangibly proven. The punishment handed down cited not evidence of the original accusations, but rather the fact that Haith's story changed in three interviews with NCAA officials and the Committee on Infractions deemed his statements "not to be credible."
"I was truthful in my communication with the NCAA," Haith said. "If I wasn't truthful, I think I would have been hit with unethical conduct."
Asked again how he would explain the changing stories cited by the NCAA report, "I was very truthful."
During a suspension that will run from November 8th to the 25th, Haith is currently under the impression that he will be allowed to recruit, but not to coach practice or games or have contact with his team. Director of Athletics Mike Alden said Missouri is still awaiting concrete clarification on that from the NCAA. Haith will donate a portion of his salary during the suspension to the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia.
The investigation is over, the punishment handed out and accepted. Many questions still remain, though they appear to be destined to remain unanswered.
"I'm sure in hindsight there's obviously things when you go through life, you say I wish I would have done something different," Haith said. "But I'm not looking backwards. I'm looking ahead."
Despite his emphatic disagreement with the findings of the Committee on Infractions, Haith declined an opportunity to answer a question about his faith in the NCAA and its enforcement of the rules following this two-year-plus ordeal.
"If you'd allow me to answer that?" Alden interjected?
"Yeah," Haith said, leaning back with a hint of a smile. "That'd be good.
Alden will be in Indianapolis next week, representing all 351 NCAA members, along with Purdue's Morgan Burke. Many of the questions at the center of the investigation into Haith and Miami will be discussed.
"I'll be respectful as I always try to be. As we all know there are national concerns about the governance of the NCAA, the consistency of how they've either applied or not applied rules and regulations, the governance itself and who makes up that governance and, the reporting structure and on and on," Alden said. "Lots of questions out there. I'm actually looking forward to the opportunity to be involved."
As for Haith, the cloud may not have lifted, but the storm is moving out. He looks forward, finally, to coaching his team without the investigation being constantly in the background.
"August 15 (2011), this Yahoo! article comes out and a man's character has been just ripped apart," Haith said. "Adversity is part of life. I got a text from Laurence Bowers. It was unbelievable, I wish I could read it to you. He talked about how he learned how to deal with adversity by watching me. I think that we all grow from adversity. I know that I have."