Curator seeks board role in sports

David Wasinger wants a dynamic relationship with MU athletics.
Friday, March 17, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:47 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

While a second independent investigation into the resignation of former Missouri basketball coach Quin Snyder came to a close Thursday, UM Curator David Wasinger said he wants to bring more access and input to the athletic department as a whole.

In the wake of a three-week inquiry by investigators Jean Paul Bradshaw and Dalton Wright, Wasinger said he has again asked that the UM System Board of Curators look into the daily operation of the university’s department of athletics.

“I renewed my request that we put the athletic department on the agenda for our March meeting,” Wasinger said.

Wasinger, a St. Louis attorney, said he was initially asked to wait out the investigation before putting anything definitive on the itinerary for a March 23 to 24 curators meeting at the University of Missouri-Rolla.

Thursday he reiterated his desire to discuss the relationship between the board and the athletic department.

“We need to be supportive of the athletic department and also take a more active role,” Wasinger said. “We don’t want to micromanage, but I think we can be more involved without doing that.”

Athletic Director Mike Alden, whose role leading up to Snyder’s resignation and statements since have been heavily scrutinized, currently reports to MU Chancellor Brady Deaton; Deaton to University of Missouri System President Elson Floyd; and Floyd to the curators.

Wasinger denied that a more serious change might be afoot, such as personnel changes or a complete restructuring of that hierarchy but said he wants to review the bigger picture of how things operate in the athletic department.

After requesting a report on board-athletic department relationships at schools around the country from the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, Wasinger said, he identified three ways to run an athletic department. No. 1: Where the curators stay out of the athletic department’s operations. No. 2: Where the curators form a committee that, in essence, oversees and runs the athletic department. No. 3: A hybrid option, where one or two board members act as liaisons between the board and athletic department.

The university currently uses the first option, and Wasinger is proposing it use the third in the future.

“This would not affect the reporting structure,” Wasinger said. “It would just provide a direct line of communication (where) the board provides a supporting role.”

“I think it needs to be evaluated,” he said. “We need to do some information gathering.”

Wasinger’s comments coincided with the release of the report regarding a second investigation he and other curators called for after Snyder’s resignation, but he said they weren’t a direct reaction to those results, which Wright and Bradshaw discussed at a Thursday news conference.

Wright, publisher of the Lebanon Daily Record and a member of the board of directors of the Missourian Publishing Association (which publishes the Columbia Missourian), and Bradshaw, a Kansas City lawyer, were asked on Feb. 20 to conduct a second investigation into the circumstances surrounding Snyder’s resignation, following an initial inquiry by Deaton.

Their 11-page report released Thursday morning seems to clear Alden from the bulk of the blame involved with Snyder’s departure.

“With respect to the events beginning on Feb. 8, it is clear that Alden did not direct or order Link to talk to Snyder,” the report states. “At the same time, it is also clear that Alden and Link both thought that (Link speaking with Snyder) would be a good procedure to follow and Alden approved it.”

According to the report, Link was informed during a Feb. 8 meeting between him and Alden that Snyder would not be retained as coach following the 2005-06 season.

Alden told Link that the coach had two options: to resign at any point throughout the rest of the season or finish the year as the team’s head coach and be terminated at the season’s end. At this point, according to the report, Link asked Alden whether any amount of success could change Snyder’s fate. Alden said no and informed Link that Floyd, Deaton and UM System Curator Don Walsworth each supported the decision.

The next day, as Snyder prepared for the day’s practice, Link approached him and, after Snyder asked that his assistant coaches leave the room, was informed of Alden’s decision, prompting the string of events, including the two investigations, that transpired over the next six weeks.

While Floyd, Deaton and Walsworth might not have had knowledge of Alden’s decision to terminate Snyder, they were aware of the performance expectations set forth by Alden in pre-season discussions with Snyder, according to the report. In order for Snyder to be retained following the 2005-06 season, it was agreed, his team would have to finish in the top half of the Big 12 Conference and qualify for the NCAA tournament, both of which appeared improbable following Missouri’s 90-64 loss to Baylor — Snyder’s last as coach. In fact, according to the report, those performance expectations had been discussed several times over the past year.

In the report, Bradshaw and Wright also detail the tense relationship between Snyder and Alden over the course of the coach’s tenure at MU. Despite the fact that Alden gave Snyder his first head coaching opportunity, the report states that several witnesses described the relationship as “rocky from the start.”

According to the report, Snyder would intentionally avoid “public appearances and other activities” in which Alden thought he should participate and regularly cancel or fail to attend meetings that Alden attempted to arrange with the coach.

Bradshaw and Wright found no evidence of illegal activity in the handling of the coach’s departure but criticized the university’s handling of “crisis situations” and called for better handling of such situations in the future.

“We do not believe that the problem lies at any one level of governance (athletic department, campus, university),” the report said. “And that the solution therefore will not be forged at any particular level.”

“In this particular situation, either no information or the whole story should have been told,” it continued. “Instead, the school’s story came out in incomplete versions that did not accurately convey what had happened.”

During the news conference Thursday at Stoney Creek Inn, Bradshaw and Wright spoke for nearly an hour about the content of their report.

“There’s a lot of things done by a lot of people that could have been done differently in this,” Bradshaw said. “A number of things that people could have done differently but that they didn’t do.”

Floyd, Deaton and Alden were unavailable for comment Thursday, but a joint news conference including them is scheduled for sometime this afternoon, according to Scott Charton, director of university communications.

Alden’s search for a new basketball coach is ongoing, and Wasinger said the importance of the hire is a big reason to become involved in the department. He recently talked to a curator at the University of Texas-Austin, where a liaison system exists, and cited the school’s success — national championships in baseball and football and a top-10 basketball program — as a model. He hasn’t spoken to his fellow curators about the specifics of his plan, he said.

Curator Marion Cairns declined comment, and attempts to reach the other curators were unsuccessful Thursday.

“With looking for new basketball coach, I want our program to jump to the next level, to get alumni excited,” Wasinger said. “We haven’t had a national championship in how long? I hope that our athletic program can win one while I’m on the board.” Missouri’s last national championship was a 1965 indoor track and field title.

“The athletic department is a window to the university, a barometer of how it’s doing,” Wasinger said. “Whether that’s right or wrong, it’s a fact of life.”

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