On Frank Haith and the NCAA and technicalities
The Kansas City Star
Over the All-Star break, baseball union leader Michael Weiner met with writers and was asked about Ryan Braun escaping a steroid suspension on a technicality. Weiner smiled, knowing full well how it would be taken, and said, “That depends on your definition of ‘technicality.’”
He went on to explain Braun’s side, essentially that being proven guilty means going through a system of checks-and-balances that exist for reasons of fairness, and anything less than that is not being proven guilty.
I thought of this with the news that the NCAA is investigating itself for improper conduct. Much of the reaction I’ve heard and seen predictably fills in around party lines. Relief from Missouri fans, disbelief from rival (KU) fans that a man who may well have broken rules and lied about it might get off through a loophole — vaguely the Braun escape hatch.
But this isn’t about Frank Haith or Missouri. If it’s possible in Kansas City, where all things college sports are digested by people through filters of various team colors, let’s forget that this is Haith and Mizzou.
It’s about NCAA incompetence, which is why I wrote this column even before the NCAA admitted said incompetence.
They were given, pro bono, a pretty easy case by Yahoo’s Charles Robinson. We can debate whether media should be in the business of doing the NCAA’s investigative work, but for now the point is that essentially from the first moment the NCAA has screwed this up.
MU athletics director Mike Alden said the NCAA gave him no indication of any reason he shouldn’t hire Haith. Someone unethically (and prematurely, it turns out) leaked important information about the “investigation” to CBS Sports, and perhaps most amazingly, the “investigation” included hiring the lawyer for an imprisoned Ponzi schemer upon whose word the original Yahoo report was built. That last move allowed the NCAA to illegally obtain information it otherwise would not have seen.
My favorite part of all of this: even going full-on shady like this, the NCAA admits it STILL could not prove anything against Haith. Basically, the NCAA just had a bad feeling about it and wanted a man’s career ruined for it.
Look, this is not about Haith or Missouri. This is about an overgrown but still overmatched bureaucracy trying to impose ethically bankrupt rules through ethically bankrupt means without even being able to prove a case in which someone else already did the digging.
That’s an awfully important thing to dismiss as a technicality.