University of Missouri system President Elson Floyd said it was “imperative” for him to order an expanded probe of the men’s basketball program on the Columbia campus after eight months of internal athletic department investigations because of recently publicized charges of academic cheating.
“The athletic department has been investigating a number of allegations over the past eight months,” Floyd said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Not any allegations involving cheating, but just a whole array of issues that they’ve been looking at over that duration of time.”
Floyd, who became president of the four-campus system last January, said he deferred to the athletic department’s NCAA compliance office to run the investigation — until the ex-girlfriend of former basketball player Ricky Clemons said recently she saw him receiving improper help completing school assignments.
On Monday, Floyd handed leadership of the investigation to Michael Devaney, an electrical engineering professor and three-decade Columbia campus veteran who recently completed a one-year term chairing the Faculty Council.
“With the most recent academic allegations, it became imperative to have faculty engagement” in investigating the allegations by Jessica Bunge, Floyd said Wednesday night.
Sarah Reesman, associate athletic director for compliance, said Thursday the department investigation began soon after Clemons was arrested for a Jan. 16 incident in which Bunge alleged the athlete choked her in a headlock and wouldn’t let her leave his apartment for about an hour.
The department announced last winter it discovered, imposed punishment and reported to the NCAA several rules violations. Coach Quin Snyder and assistant coach Lane Odom were suspended from recruiting for three weeks and five weeks, respectively, for making too many calls to Clemons when he was being recruited in early 2002 from the College of Southern Idaho. They have already served the suspensions.
Also, Missouri suspended director of basketball operations Lee Rashman for four weeks without pay and froze his salary through September 2004 for failing to turn in two players who ran up $452 in calls on coaches’ telephones.
The athletic department said it discovered the violations on Jan. 30, a few days after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked to look at the coaches’ phone records.
While the outcomes of those investigations were previously announced, Missouri had not acknowledged any further or ongoing investigations of the basketball program until new allegations surfaced about a month ago with the public release of depositions from the Clemons prosecution.
But in his statement Monday evening announcing the expanded Devaney investigation of the entire men’s basketball program, Floyd indicated there had been a long-running probe by the athletic department: “Over the past eight months that office has focused on a series of alleged violations involving the basketball program.”
Floyd declined to name the matters now under investigation, and Reesman said she couldn’t comment. Bunge has alleged Clemons improperly received cash, clothes and improper academic help while playing for Missouri.
“We are still in the midst of an investigation right now. It’s not appropriate to comment in any further detail on what that investigation may entail, beyond what’s already been made public, which you’ve referenced,” Reesman said.