Sure, if you look for it, there's dark humor in irony. Sure.
Frank Haith started his head coaching career as a Hurricane, amassing an unassuming, very-OK 129-101 record in Miami from 2004 to 2011. One NCAA Tournament appearance in seven seasons. A sub-.400 record in conference play. This is not the body of work of a coach that should get a promotion or a better job, but this is immaterial. We are talking about Frank Haith, and Frank Haith has an operational voodoo-like curse on the rolodex of every prominent search firm executive in this country.
Now, Haith is again a Hurricane. This time in Tulsa, with another long term contract, on the heels of once-again underwhelming results at his previous stop. Again, he's following in the footsteps of a coach that bolted for greener pastures and left the cupboard full of talent. And again, he found shelter in a new job just before the NCAA dropped its hammer for what he did at the previous stop.
This is Frank Haith, college basketball's Category 1 hurricane. For such involvement in part of Nevin Shapiro's illicit benefits' scandal at Miami, he spent largely meaningless games to start the season away from Missouri's program in 2013. Now, that same Missouri program faces a self-imposed postseason ban for the coming season for transgressions that occurred under Haith's watch -- in the same season he served an NCAA-imposed suspension for the Shapiro scandal at Miami.
(Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports)
Sure, one can point to reports that Haith has been cleared of wrongdoing, but the reality is that the theme is the same. Frank Haith comes in out of nowhere, seems not-good but could-be-worse in his time in town, all the while leaving an unseen trail of destruction for others to clean up. He is college basketball's preeminent flooded-basement creator, and, no, he doesn't own a ShopVac.
Granted, this doesn't necessarily mean Frank Haith is nefarious or terrible in any sense. Haith's "transgressions" are not violations of Hammurabi's Code or the common law of man. Haith is only bad if you feel that the NCAA's rules and bylaws regarding amateurism are, by nature, good. You might subscribe to this viewpoint, you might not. It's also moot for this discussion. The NCAA's rules, misguided or not, are the NCAA's rules. There are plenty of good people in the world that aren't fit to coach college basketball teams. If these are the possibly-misguided rules college basketball has to be played under, then Frank Haith is likely one of them.
If Frank Haith is bad, it is simply because of the culture and enforcement policies that the NCAA not only allows to exist, but continually reinforces. This season, were some magical turnaround to happen, Missouri won't be participating in the NCAA Tournament. Missouri will be distancing itself from one of Haith's hallmark NIT seasons and the players on that roster by vacating wins. These penalties fall exclusively on three parties -- the University, the fans, and the current and former players at Mizzou. Meanwhile, Tulsa is already on record that despite the revelations, Haith will keep his job. There's a chance that his 11-6 team Golden Hurricane team could make the NCAA Tournament -- while Haith enjoys the benefits and bonuses that come along with it.
This scenario is hardly exclusive to Haith, or Missouri. One need not look further than the current AP top 10 for the NCAA's biggest swing-and-miss when it comes to sanctions. SMU won't be playing deep into March this season -- and seniors like Nic Moore, who transferred from Illinois State to play for Brown and have a shot at playing in the NCAA Tournament, will be robbed forever of a shot at glory in March. Brown's penalty for his third series of NCAA violations following past transgressions at UCLA and Kansas? A nine-game suspension.
Despite having narrowly-tailored show-cause penalties for coaches at their disposal, the NCAA is seemingly happier bending over and firing out penalties into the ether from their hind quarters and claiming uninvolved student-athletes as victims when the transgressors come from outside the program.
Ignoring that the idea flies in the face of the NCAA's own mission of providing championship opportunities for student-athletes, the deterrence concept is itself dumb. Those in charge of NCAA enforcement policies would rather punish an entire team for one student-athlete taking "improper benefits" rather than the coach that allows the "bagman" culture to exist. College coaches by nature are know-everything control freaks, and allowing them a well, we didn't know out is more than a little suspect.
Aside from coaches, the NCAA rationalizes the postseason ban and scholarship reductions by claiming that there's no other deterrent to keep schools in line. It's a false and skewed slippery-slope argument. But sure, Missouri deserves part of the blame for the administrative malpractice of hiring Haith, or SMU hiring Brown. Need a penalty? Fine the schools. Take some TV money. If the NCAA is so tied to preserving the false air of amateurism, that's a far more viable alternative to postseason bans that holds those that are actually responsible for the transgressions accountable.
Instead, Frank Haith will make millions, possibly coaching his basketball team into March this season. Tulsa just better be waterproofing the basement.