MU athletics department sells old phones without erasing data

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 | 5:40 p.m. CDT

Mike Bellman got more than he bargained for when he purchased a box of old cell phones from the MU athletics department.

Bellman bought the cell phones earlier this year at a university surplus sale with the intent of reselling them for parts. He paid $190 for 25 old cell phones, figuring he'd sell the parts for around $1,000.

Turned out the information on the phones might be worth more than the hardware. No one at the university had deleted the text messages, e-mails and contact numbers from the phones.

Bellman told the Columbia Tribune last week he hoped to sell the old phones to a sports collector, with an asking price of $3,000. Bellman did not respond Tuesday to several calls and e-mails from The Associated Press.

The Tribune reported last week that among other things, one Sprint Treo previously used by basketball coach Mike Anderson still had text messages between Anderson, football coach Gary Pinkel and Athletics Director Mike Alden. It was nothing controversial — well wishes for upcoming games and congratulations after wins.

Still, the university has caught some flak from several online sites for not being more careful with information that could fall into the wrong hands — someone affiliated with Kansas, Nebraska or some other Big 12 rival, for example.

"Missouri Manages to Screw Up Throwing Out Cell Phones," was the headline on

Athletics department spokesman Chad Moller said the incident has prompted a change in the way the athletics department discards old cell phones.

"We certainly since this happened have gone over our internal procedures, so when we do have phones to turn over, we'll take it upon ourselves to make sure the information has been wiped," Moller said.

After the university realized the information had been left on the phones, officials tried to buy them back.

"We offered to pay him what he bought the phones for, or we also indicated that if he'd simply bring the phones to our offices, we'd wipe them clean and then he could go out and resell them for whatever he wanted," Moller said.

But Moller said Bellman broke off communications and refused to sell them back to the university. Bellman told the Tribune he believed the phones could be a valuable addition for a collector of Missouri sports memorabilia.

"I'm looking for that crazy collector who wants to take these phones and read about what happened when it happened," he told the newspaper.


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Mike Martin September 29, 2009 | 8:02 p.m.

Thanks for posting this, albeit a week late. We'll take credit for breaking this story, which has been wrongly given to the Trib:

BIZARRE CELL PHONE SALE: Offers MU Athletic Dept. Secrets

COLUMBIA, 9/23/09 (Beat Byte) -- In one of the weirdest stories to cross our desk in a while, a Craigslister is offering nearly 30 cell and smart phones for sale as "unique souvenirs." Why unique? They used to belong to the MU Athletic Department and still contain information from their former owners. The seller claims he purchased the old phones at a university disposal sale.

He says he offered to sell them back, but that the Athletic Department turned him down.

"Ever wanted to know how those sports dignitaries use their electronic stuff?" the seller writes. "What do they say in a chat? Who do they get tweets from? Now you can get a little bit of UNFILTERED insight. The price is reflective of the rarity and ensures only SERIOUS offers."

The smart phones, cell phones, and flip phones allegedly contain "conversations, text messages, email, memos, calendar entries and address books from all over the MU Athletic Department. Coaches and Directors of Volleyball, Soccer all the way up to Football and Basketball. In some cases there are conversations FROM the people as well. One seems to be from a sports doctor or pharmacist. Some seem to be from players and interns."


(Report Comment)
Mike Bellman September 29, 2009 | 8:09 p.m.

Date: July 21, 2009 3:43:33 PM CDT


I am sorry that you were unable to meet yesterday. We do appreciate that you made contact with the athletics department and made us aware of the cell phone situation. We will consider the issue closed. Enjoy the rest of your summer.


Sarah K. Reesman
Senior Associate Athletics Director
University of Missouri

(Report Comment)
Janese Heavin September 30, 2009 | 1:19 p.m.

Mike, No offense, but you simply copied info from Mike Bellman's web page without doing any actual reporting.

-- Janese

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr September 30, 2009 | 2:18 p.m.

>>> Janese Heavin September 30, 2009 | 1:19 p.m.
Mike, No offense, but you simply copied info from Mike Bellman's web page without doing any actual reporting.
-- Janese <<<

Oh my!! :O

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin September 30, 2009 | 2:35 p.m.


"Reporting" like the story Jodie wrote yesterday about CMHS that got slammed for hearsay and poorly checked facts, and mostly had to be retracted as Richard Thompson denied the statements attributed to him?

Mike Bellman actually left me a couple of compliments (by phone and blog) on how well we'd "reported" the story, including making note of the fact that he'd tried to sell the phones back to the AD but they refused (see his correction above), something other media outlets goofed up.

Reporting takes many forms, and the fact remains: The Columbia Heart Beat broke this story, as it has dozens and dozens of others.

-- Mike

(Report Comment)
Janese Heavin September 30, 2009 | 3:02 p.m.

Mike -- We did report that he tried to sell them back and the A.D. only wanted to pay the price he paid for them ($190). I have the whole email exchange, which includes more messages than just what Mr. Bellman posted.
My point was AP wasn't going to cite your blog entry, which did not quote any sources other than a link.

But I agree, "reporting" comes in many forms.

-- Janese

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin September 30, 2009 | 3:12 p.m.

AP cite my blog entry? There wasn't any blog entry to cite. The story went out in our e-newsletter back on the 23rd.

(Report Comment)

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