Wednesday night at the SEC Tournament is when the SEC Tournament is at its best. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The tournament’s first night is a must-see event each March, regardless of what attendance numbers and those 12/13 and 11/14 match-ups suggest. It’s infinitely better than Saturday’s semifinals or Championship Sunday. If you’ve never been, you will just have to take my word for it until you can cough up the five dollars for a general admission ticket to experience it for yourself.
However, this year’s opening session in Nashville has been robbed of half of its glory, thanks to former Missouri head coach Frank Haith. Haith got the Mizzou basketball program into a ton of trouble, and his reckless behavior threw off the whole 2016 bracket.
Thanks to Haith and his NCAA violations, Mizzou will sit out this year’s tournament, limiting Wednesday night to only one bottom-tier SEC basketball game. That means I only have half the time to drink Diet Dr. Pepper, eat Golden Flake potato chips, own the Dance Cam in a completely empty courtside section, and yell at Barry Booker and Dari Nowkhah on the SEC Network set.
And for that, I loathe you, Frank Haith. That afternoon you bonded with KSR while walking aimlessly around the Peach Jam hotel, looking for the elevators — it means nothing now. You’re dead to us. It’s like we never walked that hideous, smoke-stained North Augusta Marriott carpet together.
But me, I’ll be fine. I’ll use the additional Wednesday night free time to wander the watering holes of Broadway, unsuccessfully attempting to strike conversations with each new bachelorette party along the way. The rest of the KSR gang will be fine, too. I’m sure they will be right beside me, introducing themselves as Slim Whitman and Boots Randolph, as they always do.
It’s Missouri we’re worried about. Haith began violating the NCAA’s bylaws the moment he stepped on campus in 2011, and when word spread that trouble was coming, he packed up his oversized suits and bolted for Tulsa before the proverbial doo-doo hit the proverbial fan.
Now, with Haith gone and Mizzou great Kim Anderson filling his seat on the bench, the program has self-imposed a postseason ban for the current season, as well as several other self-imposed penalties.
Here is the entire list of actions, courtesy of MUTigers.com:
— Restitution and withholding from competition for impermissible benefits received by student-athletes was imposed as necessary.
— The former associate head men’s basketball coach was prohibited from off-campus recruiting for a period of three months while the review process was underway.
— The university permanently disassociated Representative #1, prohibiting him from receiving tickets, making donations or otherwise representing the university.
— The university disassociated Representative #2 for a period of two years, prohibiting him from receiving tickets, making donations or otherwise representing the university.
— The university vacated all wins from the 2013-14 season.
— The university will pay the NCAA a fine in the prescribed amount of $5,000.
— The university self-imposed the loss of one men’s basketball scholarship in 2015-16 and an additional scholarship loss to be incurred no later than the 2017-18 season.
— The university placed restrictions on the recruiting activities of the men’s basketball staff during the years of 2014-15 through 2016-17.
— The university imposed a one-year postseason ban for the 2015-16 men’s basketball season, which prohibits the team from participating in the 2016 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament, and any other postseason competition sanctioned by the NCAA. As such, the university will not receive any revenues from the 2016 SEC or NCAA men’s basketball tournaments.
Meanwhile, Haith is enjoying life at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in northeast Oklahoma, coaching a brand new team with no repercussions from his time at Missouri, a job he held for three years and quit via text message to the athletic director. He is collecting $1.3 million annually to, likely, drive another program into the ground, while poor Kim Anderson faces the impossible task of rebuilding from Haith’s cheating ways.
It’s not the first time Haith pulled this stunt, either. Oh no. Haith was caught up in a scandal with the notorious Nevin Shapiro down at Miami, when he coached the Hurricanes from 2004 to 2011. He served a five-game suspension at Missouri for infractions he committed at The U, which makes him 2-for-2 at cheating as a head college basketball coach.
Haith supporters, if any of those exist, will be quick to tell you he was cleared of any wrongdoing in the findings at Missouri, which is true. But I’m not buying it. Haith’s a dirty player in my eyes, supported by the mess he quickly left behind for others to clean up, at two different jobs.
So when your University of Kentucky Wildcats host the wounded Tigers tomorrow night in the 9 pm ESPN game, have a little sympathy for Kim Anderson and his struggling squad. They didn’t ask for this.
And when the SEC Tournament rolls around and only one game is played in the first session, have a little sympathy for those of us who look forward to that night each spring. We didn’t ask for this, nor did Barry Booker or Dari Nowkhah.
You hurt a lot of people, Frank.
You ruined the SEC Tournament and you ruined Missouri basketball.
Good luck with that, Tulsa.