KANSAS CITY — Elson Floyd said Thursday he will not resign as president of the UM system despite being caught in the “whirlwind of controversy” surrounding former Missouri basketball player Ricky Clemons and tapes of Clemons’ jailhouse telephone conversations with Floyd’s wife and the wife of an associate athletic director.
Floyd acknowledged in a news conference preceding Thursday’s meeting of the University of Missouri Board of Curators that he had considered a range of options, including his resignation, following revelations about conversations his wife, Carmento, had with Clemons while the former player was in the Boone County Jail, serving time for assaulting a girlfriend.
Elson Floyd told reporters that the past few days have been the most stressful of his life.
Still, he said, “I do not intend to resign.”
Curators, meanwhile, expressed their support for Elson Floyd. President Connie Silverstein said 2003 was a year for the UM system that was dominated by Elson Floyd’s leadership.
“The entire controversy has been a sad, regrettable event for the University of Missouri,” she said.
Excerpts from Clemons’ conversations with Carmento Floyd and with Amy Stewart, the wife of associate athletic director Ed Stewart, portray an undercurrent of racial tension and animosity toward head basketball coach Quin Snyder.
Clemons also claims repeatedly in the tapes — made public by the Columbia Daily Tribune and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — that assistant coaches gave money to him and other basketball players, including star seniors Arthur Johnson and Rickey Paulding. Johnson and Paulding have denied any improper payments.
Silverstein, when asked whether curators might take any action against employees other than Elson Floyd, said the board makes decisions only about the system president. She said curators believe Elson Floyd had no role in the events.
“There is no chance of entertaining a resignation,” Silverstein said, adding that there was never any discussion among board members or with Elson Floyd about that option.
Some curators refused to talk about the Clemons situation, while others took the opportunity to reiterate their support for Elson Floyd.
“There has been no shift in my opinion of Dr. Floyd,” said Cheryl Walker, a curator from St. Louis. “I have the utmost level of confidence in him.”
Curator Don Walsworth of Marceline said he hopes there will be no further talk about Elson Floyd resigning. Marion Cairns, another curator from St. Louis, said she is waiting to review all the information before passing judgment.
The curators were originally scheduled to do their annual review of Elson Floyd’s performance in a closed meeting Thursday. A closed session on university legal matters was held, but Elson Floyd’s performance review was put on hold until today, they said.
During the press conference, Elson Floyd said he had given no thought to asking for resignations or firing anyone within the university or the athletic department.
Asked about the tone of some of his wife’s comments on the tapes — at one point she advises Clemons to quit dating women in the sorority Delta Delta Delta, a predominantly white organization, and says he should look to Delta Sigma Theta, a historically black sorority — Elson Floyd apologized and said that, to his knowledge, they do not represent Carmento Floyd’s beliefs.
The president said he would not characterize his relationship with Clemons as personal. His wife, he said, continued talking to Clemons after his incarceration because of injuries Clemons suffered in an all-terrain vehicle crash at the Floyds’ official campus residence during a July 4 gathering. Clemons’ attendance was a violation of his probation and landed him in jail.
Elson Floyd also referred to his wife’s background in helping former inmates integrate into society.
“The intentions were (good) and a series of disasters have continued to unfold as a consequence,” he said.
Elson Floyd said he has not spoken to anybody involved in the allegations of athletes receiving money. He also denied Amy Stewart’s assertion during one conversation with Clemons that Elson Floyd was ready to pull up stakes and get out of Columbia.
Elson Floyd said his wife heard the standard disclaimer that each of her conversations with Clemons might be taped but did not believe the disclaimer was definitive.
Elson Floyd repeated his earlier statement that his family’s relationship with Clemons was inappropriate. Nevertheless, he said, he strives to help any student in trouble regardless of their race or involvement with athletics.
“It seems that anyone that gets close to Ricky is caught in this whirlwind of controversy,” Elson Floyd said.