Recently departed MU men’s basketball coach Quin Snyder spoke for the first time Tuesday since quitting, and his comments added a layer to the controversy surrounding his resignation last Friday.
They also drew a swift response from UM System President Elson Floyd.
Minutes after Snyder concluded his 45-minute address, in which he said that Gary Link, one of Athletic Director Mike Alden’s assistants and an MU radio announcer, had informed him that his contract would be terminated at season’s end and that Floyd supported the decision, Floyd issued a statement denying that he had any knowledge of Snyder’s potential termination.
Snyder said he was told that Alden had the backing of Floyd, Chancellor Brady Deaton and a “prominent member” of the UM System Board of Curators in his decision not to retain Snyder after this season. Floyd’s statement clearly disputes what Snyder said he was told.
“I am startled to hear that anyone suggested that the president of the university had any role in the events surrounding the discussion with Quin Snyder,” Floyd said in his statement. “I was never consulted prior to this reported conversation.”
The statement also included the note that Floyd did not dispute Snyder’s recollection of the conversation with Link.
Snyder’s and Alden’s versions of the events involving Link — whether he was sent by Alden and what the message was — clearly vary. Early in the day, an investigation was launched into the circumstances at Floyd’s behest.
Snyder explained Tuesday that Link came to him before practice Thursday, and “informed me very clearly that a decision had been made that my contract would not be renewed at the end of the season, that I had been terminated.”
“During that meeting, it was very direct,” Snyder said. “It began with his expression that he could come to me to communicate this information on behalf of the athletic director. I was inquiring as to a little more detail into that, and he informed me that he had been told that the president, the chancellor and a key member of the Board of Curators had all approved this decision.”
On Sunday, following a curators’ meeting held to make the board aware of the terms of the settlement, Alden emphasized that he had not sent Link to inform Snyder of the impending termination of his coaching contract.
“To characterize that as Gary being directed, I think that is an absolute mischaracterization,” Alden said. “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.”
Alden, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, told his story after his meeting with the media Sunday. At the same time, he said it was his policy to only examine a coach’s status at the conclusion of the season.
“We always evaluate all of our sports programs at the end of the year,” Alden said. “It was our intention, and it always has been, to do that at the end of the year.”
But according to what Snyder said, he was told that a determination had been made with six games and a conference tournament remaining in the current basketball season. Snyder said Tuesday that he asked Link if there was any possibility of retaining his job, but was told no level of success could save his position.
“I asked the question: ‘If we win, can this change?’” Snyder said. “‘If we win the rest of our games? If we win the Big 12 tournament, does that alter the result in any way?’ And I was told, ‘We’re moving on.’”
Tuesday night’s developments overshadowed what was essentially Snyder’s farewell. Backed by a maroon curtain, Snyder was composed and polite, a stark contrast to his meeting with players Thursday, when he admitted that he broke down. In the back of the room Tuesday, junior guard Thomas Gardner, who has developed into the Big 12 Conference’s top scorer under Snyder, stood in silent solidarity. Snyder’s wife, Helen, sat a few yards to her husband’s right and his lawyer, Wally Bley, stood to her left, overseeing the conference. Numerous others filled the Windsor IV meeting room at the Holiday Inn Select Executive Center in Columbia, including other friends and associates of Snyder’s.
After seven seasons of rumors, an NCAA investigation that uncovered violations within the men’s basketball program, and now-widespread speculation as to whether he was pushed out as Missouri’s coach, Snyder said his loyalty to the university hadn’t wavered.
Snyder spent the majority of the press conference describing the “amazing opportunities” he has enjoyed as part of the MU family. He voiced support for Melvin Watkins, who was named MU’s interim coach after Snyder’s resignation, and spoke lovingly of his players, wishing them luck in their ongoing careers at MU and beyond.
“I know that was a special time. It had nothing to do with wins and losses. It had to do with guys that had a unique bond,” Snyder said. “That’s the stuff that I’ll remember most.”
Given numerous opportunities to turn on Alden, Snyder refused to make the matter personal, reiterating that the fond memories of his time in Columbia would remain in the forefront of his mind.
“I’m moving on. I respect the university’s decision,” Snyder said. “When somebody tells you it’s time to move on, in my mind, you do that.”
Even if Snyder didn’t question the procedure that led to his resignation, other than to offer his version of events, it looks as if somebody surely will.
It is at Floyd’s request that Deaton has launched an investigation seeking the details of the meeting between Link and Snyder.
Former MU All-American Jon Sundvold, now a Columbia businessman, spoke briefly behind closed doors with Snyder after the press conference and later criticized the Athletic Department’s handling of the Snyder situation.
“Personally, I’m disappointed,” Sundvold said. “If it went down like we all assume, then I think we’re disappointed that it wasn’t handled like most businesses would handle some things.”
Reporter John Sahly contributed to this report.