COLUMBIA — Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith "got off a little easy" with a five-game suspension, said former Tennessee basketball player Steven Pearl, comparing the penalty to that of his father, former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl.
Haith's suspension, as well as required attendance at an NCAA rules seminar, is the most recent in a series of NCAA suspensions of men's basketball coaches for "failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance."
In August 2011, Bruce Pearl, who declined comment Tuesday, was given a three-year show-cause penalty for admitting he gave investigators false information when asked about a cookout at his home attended by high school juniors. Pearl was charged with unethical conduct by the NCAA for misleading investigators.
While happy that Haith and his family won't have to endure what he did, Steven Pearl said he disagreed with the NCAA's ruling.
"By NCAA rules, I think Haith's situation is a bit more serious," said Pearl, comparing Haith's discipline to that received by his father.
An NCAA committee found inconsistencies in Haith's explanations of a loan given to former booster Nevin Shapiro by a former Miami assistant coach while Haith coached at Miami.
"You're dealing with donors and impermissible benefits versus a barbecue," Steven Pearl said. "But at the same time, what Bruce did was wrong. He went back and told the truth, and that's essentially what got him fired.
"If you compare the two cases, I'd say he (Haith) got off a little easy."
Charges of "failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance" have also hit Saint Mary's, Connecticut and Central Florida.
Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett was suspended five West Coast Conference games this season and won't be allowed to recruit off campus this season. Two years ago, the NCAA suspended former Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun for three Big East Conference games due to recruiting violations by a team manager. Central Florida's Donnie Jones was also suspended for three games that year after the UCF basketball program was found to be involved with runners for sports agents and making cash payments to recruits.
Missouri athletics director Mike Alden is scheduled to meet with the NCAA in Indianapolis on Oct. 29. As president for the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, he will represent all 351 Division I college athletic institutions.
Alden said at Haith's news conference Tuesday afternoon that the meetings will revolve around communicating concerns relative to the governance, leadership, application of rules, enforcement process and competitive equity issues.
Alden was asked Tuesday about the NCAA's consistency on rulings.
"As we all know, there are national concerns about the governance of the NCAA, the consistency with how they either apply or not apply rules and regulations, the governance itself and who makes up that governance, and the reporting structure and on and on," Alden said. "And as we know, the NCAA is doing an extensive review of all of that."
It's too little, too late for that, Steven Pearl said.
"The only thing I have an issue with is the lack of consistency," Steven Pearl said over the phone Tuesday. "With our situation, I know Bruce lied. I know Bruce was wrong, but he didn’t get fired for lying. He got fired for telling the truth. So, the severity of his punishment and the severity of a few others, it's just inconsistent.
"It's like there's a dartboard in the NCAA office and it has a list of penalties, and they kind of just throw it (the dart) and see what they hit, and they go from there."
Steven Pearl said he wasn’t surprised by the ruling and attributed the drastic differences in punishments to the universities and how they handled the situations.
"With Tennessee, they went to bat for us at the beginning, and then towards the end, they completely bailed," he said. "If Tennessee had stuck with Bruce and kept him as their head coach, his penalties wouldn't have been nearly as severe. They maybe would have lost a scholarship or two. The biggest thing was Miami and Missouri both stayed behind Frank Haith and supported him the whole way through."
That support continued Tuesday.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Mary Austin, senior associate athletics director for compliance, said Haith has been diligent and consistent in promoting an atmosphere of compliance at Missouri.
"Frank Haith is a head coach who exhibits cooperation and support of all compliance efforts with his program, and we are pleased to move forward as a team," Austin said.
Alden echoed that sentiment during the news conference.
"We certainly are supportive of coach Haith, and we're supportive of the job he's doing with our basketball program at the University of Missouri," Alden said. "We too are looking forward to closure on this."
Supervising editor is Erik Hall.