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Where the Penalties Against Frank Haith Could Lead

It seems like the countdown clock to the firings of Missouri head men’s basketball coach Frank Haith and a number of former Miami football and basketball assistants who are about to be charged with a variety of violations has already started. Both Jeff Goodman and Bruce Feldman of reported that the former Miami coaches will receive unethical conduct charges, as well as a charge of failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance for Haith.

All of these allegations raise the possibility that the coaches will receive show-cause orders. The assumption has always been that show-cause orders are career enders. But this is based on an old understanding of the show-cause penalty, and while old habits die hard, the penalties being imposed on coaches in 2013 do not need to end careers or even require a coach to lose his current job.

First, what is a show-cause order? Here is the definition from NCAA Bylaw 19.02.1:

A show-cause order is one that requires a member institution to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Committee on Infractions (or the Infractions Appeals Committee per Bylaw 19.2) why it should not be subject to a penalty (or additional penalty) for not taking appropriate disciplinary or corrective action against an institutional staff member or representative of the institution’s athletics interests identified by the committee as having been involved in a violation of NCAA regulations that has been found by the committee.

Now in the past, a show-cause order consisted of more or less that language, plus a time period and the mention of the Committee on Infractions hearing where the member institution attempts to satisfy the Committee on Infractions. Here is an illustrative example, the show-cause order levied in 2004 against Jim Harrick, Jr. in the Georgia men’s basketball academic fraud case:

The former assistant men’s basketball coach will be informed in writing by the NCAA that, due to his involvement in certain violations of NCAA legislation found in this case, if he seeks employment or affiliation in an athletically related position at an NCAA member institution during a seven-year period (April 17, 2004, to April 16, 2011), he and the involved institution shall be requested to appear before the Committee on Infractions to consider whether the member institution should be subject to the show-cause procedures of Bylaw, which could limit the his athletically related duties at the new institution for a designated period.

That order created a seven-year period during which any institution that wanted to employ Harrick, Jr. would face the following procedure, now in Bylaw 19.5.2-(l):

Requirement that an institution that has been found in violation, or that has an athletics department staff member who has been found in violation of the provisions of NCAA legislation while representing another institution, show cause why a penalty or additional penalty should not be imposed, if, in the opinion of the Committee on Infractions, the institution has not taken appropriate disciplinary or corrective action against athletics department personnel involved in the infractions case or any other institutional employee, if the circumstances warrant, or a representative of the institution’s athletics interests.

That procedure, as it existed circa 2004, gave no guidance to schools who might employ an individual under a show-cause order. It provided for the full range of penalties available to the Committee on Infractions up to an including the COI recommending that the school’s membership in the NCAA be terminated or suspended. And it put the burden on the institution, with the presumption being that the university show be punished unless the institution could “show cause” why it should not.

Contrast that order with the one issued in 2011 to former Tennessee head men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl:

The committee imposes a three-year show-cause period upon the former head men’s basketball coach. During this period, which begins on August 24, 2011, and ends August 23, 2014, the committee prohibits the former head men’s basketball coach from conducting any and all recruiting activities as defined by Bylaw 13.02.13.

Within 30 days of the release of this report or 30 days after the hiring of the former head men’s basketball coach, whichever is later, any employing institution shall file a report with the office of the Committees on Infractions setting forth its agreement with these restrictions or asking for a date to appear before the committee to contest the restrictions. Every six months thereafter through the end of the period of the show-cause order, the employing institution shall file further reports detailing its adherence to these restrictions.

Note the difference. In Pearl’s show-cause order, the “corrective or disciplinary action” required to employ him is clear: make sure he does engage in any recruiting activity prior to August 23, 2014. What the school needs to do in order to “show cause” why it should not be punished is also clear: abide by the recruiting restrictions and file reports with the Committee on Infractions detailing how. No hearing, no presumption of penalties, no hoping that the institution can demonstrate to the COI’s satisfaction that it should not be punished as well.

A school seeking to employ Jim Harrick, Jr. prior to April 2011 needed to decide if it wanted to, in essence, appeal Georgia’s case and try to fight the Committee on Infractions. A school that wishes to employ Bruce Pearl before August 2014 only needs to decide if they can handle having a basketball coach who cannot recruit until then.

The poster child for this new era of show-cause orders is current Kent State head men’s basketball coach Rob Senderoff. Senderoff was hired as an assistant by Kent State after he resigned from Indiana following the major infractions case under former head coach Kelvin Sampson. Kent State stood by Senderoff, retaining him despite Senderoff being prohibited from any recruiting until November 2009. Senderoff was promoted to head coach in April 2011, while still under recruiting restrictions in the show-cause order.

This was only possible because Kent State’s responsibilities under the show-cause were clear. If Kent State had been faced with an uncertain future, needing to appear before the Committee on Infractions and hope they do enough to avoid their own sanctions, it would have been much more difficult to retain and ultimately promote Senderoff. Instead, it became a simple question of whether he was worth having despite the recruiting restrictions and extra monitoring the school had to perform.

Which brings us back to the former Miami coaches and the allegations they will likely soon be facing. Miami’s case is a recruiting case, which means the penalties in any show-cause order will likely include severe restrictions or a complete ban on recruiting for some or all of the show-cause period. Bruce Pearl’s three-year ban and former Southern California football assistant Todd McNair’s one-year ban seem like the upper and lower ends of the range. Given the greater role of coaching suspensions in both the new and old enforcement program, they seem likely as well, although not the half- to full-season suspensions in the new penalty structure.

It will be up to each coach’s current employer to decide if they can keep him under the restrictions imposed by the Committee on Infractions, if any. One or more of the institutions may decide that the show-cause order is a scarlet letter, and decide not to keep the coach on principle. But that would be their decision, not the NCAA’s or the Committee on Infractions’, who have not treated show-cause orders that way for a number of years now.

Are you ready for the NEXT STEP!