Amid the torrent of criticism in the wake of Missouri's surprising decision to pluck Frank Haith from Miami this past spring, Tigers supporters adopted the slogan "Faith in Haith" to express their allegiance to their new coach.
That faith will surely be tested now.
If Miami's once-proud football program is now essentially scorched earth in the wake of Tuesday's devastatingly thorough Yahoo! Sports investigative report, then Haith is one of many others picking shrapnel out of his chest.
Miami booster Nevin Shapiro alleged that Haith had knowledge of a $10,000 payment the booster made to secure the commitment of DeQuan Jones, a highly touted Class of 2008 forward whose career has been unremarkable thus far in Coral Gables. Haith and other members of the Miami staff also allegedly partied with Shapiro at strips clubs, made dozens of calls to his cell phone and appeared in photos with the booster, two of which actually were published with the story itself.
Haith and the University of Missouri issued joint statements on Tuesday night pledging to cooperate with the NCAA's investigation into this matter but declining to comment further. Added Haith, "The reports questioning my personal interactions with Mr. Shapiro are not an accurate portrayal of my character."
The real question now facing Missouri is whether the school's administrators continue to show "Faith in Haith."
Do they cut their losses and use the scandal as a convenient excuse to fire a coach who was unpopular from the moment he was introduced? Or do they reaffirm their allegiance to a man who they've defended despite his one NCAA tournament berth and�underwhelming 43-69 ACC record in six seasons at Miami?
As much as some Missouri fans might like to see the school sever ties with Haith and find a new coach with a spotless track record and a winning resume, the truth is the timing for such a move is abysmal.
It would be difficult for Missouri to hire a new coach and a new staff between now and the start of the season, so the only realistic option would probably be promoting a current member of the staff to interim coach. That instability would be disastrous on the recruiting trail, especially with a senior-laden 2011-12 roster and numerous vacant scholarships to fill.
The risk in keeping Haith, of course, is that more allegations emerge or the current one is damning enough to lead to penalties from the NCAA. If the NCAA can corroborate that Jones received $10,000 and Haith was aware of it, it could be enough to warrant a lengthy suspension or even a show cause penalty that would leave Missouri no choice but to find a new coach.
When Missouri athletic director Mike Alden made the unpopular choice to hire Haith once Purdue's Matt Painter passed on the job, it was easy to envision the ex-Miami coach's job security coming into question if he wasn't immediately successful. That his job appears to be in jeopardy before he coaches his first game, however, is a scenario not even the most pessimistic Missouri fan could possibly have imagined.