Claims by former Missouri basketball guard Ricky Clemons that he got paid by athletic officials raised plenty of questions Wednesday with few people willing to answer.
Media reports late Tuesday that cited 24 hours of taped telephone conversations Clemons made while he was in Boone County Jail said he received money from MU assistant coaches Tony Harvey and Lane Odom. Clemons also said players Rickey Paulding and Arthur Johnson received money. If true, the allegations would be major NCAA violations.
The conversations took place this summer while Clemons was serving a sentence for misdemeanor assault and false imprisonment.
The allegations of payments to athletes were made when Clemons was speaking to Amy Stewart, wife of Associate Athletic Director Ed Stewart.
Neither of the Stewarts could be reached for comment.
Coach Quin Synder did not respond directly to the allegations.
The NCAA and MU were investigating the basketball program before Clemons’ allegations became public.
“As tough as it is for me personally not to respond, and my staff not to respond to these allegations, I’ve said all along that we respect the process that is under way with the NCAA and our investigative team internally,” Snyder said.
Michael Devaney, an electrical engineering professor at MU, is leading the university investigation. Devaney has not listened to all 24 hours of tapes, but plans to. He said the information on the tapes could be used in his investigation.
“I have seen some of the comments that occurred in the press, and we would certainly take all of the information on those tapes into consideration,” Devaney said. “We’re in the process right now of pairing that information with the NCAA so they would have access to all that information as well.”
Athletic Director Mike Alden issued a news release Wednesday stating his continued commitment to aiding the investigations. Alden said it had been known the tapes might be released for some time.
“The contents of the conversations represent only a small part of the comprehensive review that is taking place,” Alden said. “The university and the NCAA have already conducted a series of in-depth interviews with a wide range of individuals. Our basketball program has fully cooperated with the investigation and respects the due diligence that has taken place.”
Alden also added support for Snyder.
“I am confident in Coach Snyder’s management of the Mizzou basketball program and I believe that he will address any problem areas that have been identified through this review process,” Alden said.
In June, Clemons was sentenced to a 60-day jail term for false imprisonment. He also received two years probation for third-degree domestic assault for choking former girlfriend Jessica Bunge.
UM system President Elson Floyd appointed Devaney to lead the university investigation.
During the spring, Snyder asked Floyd to aid in mentoring Clemons. Floyd invited Clemons to his house July 4. Clemons visited, breaking terms of his work-release program with Reality House in Columbia.
While at the house, Clemons fell off an all-terrain vehicle, puncturing a lung, breaking ribs and suffering a concussion. He spent nine days in the hospital before moving to Boone County Jail, where he spent the rest of his 60-day sentence. He was released Aug. 24.
According to the reports, Clemons made several phone calls to Floyd’s wife, Carmento. On the tapes, Carmento Floyd is heard offering support to Clemons.
Wednesday, Floyd said he asked his wife not to counsel Clemons. He added that he might have been better advised not to aid Clemons.
“I think the involvement with students is really important,” Floyd said. “The involvement, however, with Ricky was inappropriate. I think there comes a time in which maybe the reputation of an individual is more than any single person can overcome.”
Word of Clemons’ accusations spread beyond the university. State Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, heard a broadcast about the tapes Wednesday morning.
Graham said he does not believe the tapes will alter the way the investigations are proceeding.
“Just because one individual, who has a track record of not saying the truth, is saying something, doesn’t mean it’s true,” Graham said.
Back on campus, Jim Hawthorne, a freshman at MU, offered a similar opinion.
“I think (Clemons) is kind of bitter and he’s trying to get back at the team,” Hawthorne said. “I don’t think any of the coaches would participate in something like that.”
Clemons’ former teammates, meanwhile, tried to prepare for a game Saturday against No. 17 Gonzaga. The No. 3 Tigers leave today for Seattle.
The team had a media day Wednesday, arranged before Clemons’ statements became public. About 50 reporters attended the event, almost twice the usual number.
Paulding and Johnson issued news releases before meeting the media. Both declined to comment directly on the allegations on the tapes because of the NCAA investigation but denied wrongdoing.
“I heard it on the radio, driving to class,” Johnson said. “I just thought it was BS, just like it’s been throughout the year.”
Clemons was kicked off the team and had his scholarship revoked July 22. Since then, Bunge has said Clemons received improper academic and financial aid from tutors and coaches.
Clemons is enrolled in classes at MU.
— Michael Petre, S. Scott Rosenberg, Angela Stricker, Kristy Siegfried, Elisabeth Androuais, Kathryn Swartz, Holly Wray, Megan Alexander and Mike Connors contributed to this report.