Harpo’s sends Tiger radio shows packing

Tuesday, February 14, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:42 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Columbia bar and MU staple Harpo’s declared “last call” for the MU Athletic Department’s broadcasts of “The Mike Alden Show” and “Tiger Talk” from its establishment Monday.

“I called over to the Athletic Department this morning,” Harpo’s owner Dennis Harper said Monday. “Eric Morrison called me back, and Eric said he was sorry to hear that and told me he’d call me back. They were concerned; they wanted to do it, basically, and wanted to know if it was just going to be ‘The Mike Alden Show’ and not ‘Tiger Talk,’ and I said ‘No, I’ll just stop them both.’”

Both hour-long radio broadcasts have a call-in question format. The “Mike Alden Show” airs each Monday at 6 p.m. with Athletic Director Mike Alden, and “Tiger Talk” airs each Monday at 7 p.m. with MU’s basketball or football coach, depending on the season. Mike Kelly, MU play-by-play man and Athletic Department employee, hosts both for KFRU 1400.

Harper said the decision to no longer hold the shows at his establishment was because of what he calls “the firing of Quin Snyder;” he termed the university’s announcement of it as a resignation a “lie.”

Harper said he met with both Snyder and Wally Bley, who is representing Snyder, at Snyder’s home Friday. He said Bley told him the Athletic Department made it known, through a messenger, that Snyder would not be retained after the season. Harper says Gary Link, an assistant athletic director, was that messenger.

“He was instructed exactly what to do,” Harper said. “Basically, Gary Link went down there with an agenda to go down there from the Athletic Department.”

“Basically, he said it was (over) at the end of the season. There was a settlement package offered at that point,” Harper said, referring to what he was told by Bley.

On Sunday, when MU announced it had reached a settlement in the matter, Alden denied he had sent anybody with such a directive, but he said he was aware of Link and Snyder talking as friends.

“I think to characterize that as Gary being directed, I think that is an absolute mischaracterization,” Alden said then. “Gary Link is a friend of mine, he’s a friend of Quin’s ... and I just think he talked with him to gauge how he was doing.”

Harper called that talk “business as usual around Missouri. Confusion, you know?”

“If a guy just comes up and says ‘Hey, I’m quitting,’ then why do you offer him half a million dollars?” Harper said.

Asked if he in fact met with Harper, Bley said “Yeah, I saw him on Friday.” He declined to comment on the subject of that conversation and cited attorney/client privilege when asked whether Snyder was there when Bley and Harper spoke.

In many severance settlements, each side is required to sign some sort of nondisclosure agreement. Harper said he thought that might be the case here.

“It may be something they’re prohibited from speaking about,” he said, “but I guess nobody told me I couldn’t talk about it.”

Harper said he wouldn’t rule out hosting the shows again. He said he’s a loyal fan who goes to all the games. On Monday night, though, the first edition of “Tiger Talk,” with men’s basketball interim head coach Melvin Watkins and host Mike Kelly, took place at the Clinton Club at Mizzou Arena.

The atmosphere was changed from the last edition of the show.

The bar in the back corner of the Clinton Club was dimly lit. If it had been used recently, all evidence of a good time had certainly been wiped clean. No sticky floors. No overflowing pitchers of beer. No posters of the glories of past years finding a way to cling to the walls.

There was a greater chance of a discussion breaking out over which classical composer was more accomplished than an argument over how Snyder left the team.

“It’s not the same as Harpo’s because there’s more hushed tones, it seems,” said MU graduate student Kyle Morris, a member of The Antlers, a student fan group. “Harpo’s was more of a party atmosphere, obviously.”

The Antlers made up about half the fans in the Clinton Club. Morris made an attempt to alleviate some of the library-like whispers when he and a friend brought a case of beer in during a commercial break.

Frank Cuervo, the assistant athletic director of external operations quickly pointed out to Morris this would be the “last week this is b.y.o.b.”

The group offered a beer to Watkins and Kelly, who each politely declined.

About the same time at Harpos, four employees waited around the bar because there was no cups to fill or orders to take. Four televisions played the Villanova-UConn basketball game in the front room, but the televisions might as well have been turned off. Nobody was there to watch.

— Missourian reporters John Sahly and Adam Johnson contributed to this story.

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