Curators consider UM sports oversight

Meetings this week will look at the four campuses’ athletics.
Wednesday, May 3, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:10 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Five weeks ago, MU Athletic Director Mike Alden emerged with his job barely intact after a closed meeting ofthe UM System Board of Curators.

Now it’s again time for Alden to face the board of curators — and this time he will have some company.

The agenda for the curators’ Thursday and Friday meeting at the University of Missouri-St. Louis includes a session on intercollegiate athletics billed as “board development.” Unlike the March 26 meeting — which came hours before Alden introduced Mike Anderson of the University of Alabama-Birmingham as Missouri’s new basketball coach — this week’s discussion will take place in public.

Some curators, including John M. Carnahan III of Springfield, previously have suggested that Alden and his peers at the other three campuses report directly to Elson Floyd, the University of Missouri System president, rather than their respective chancellors.

In an interview on Tuesday, Carnahan stopped short of suggesting that sort of change, which was widely opposed on the campuses and among the public.

But his comments suggest that for curators, the issue of athletics management in Columbia and across the four-campus system is far from over.

“We’re not taking charge of the athletic departments,” Carnahan said. “That’s a sore point. But we are going to look at them to tell us what’s going on.”

At minimum, Carnahan said, curators need updates on campus sports business at most or all of their meetings, which are held every two months. He wants to compare the UM System’s sports management structure with those in other states, such as Texas and Illinois.

Carnahan also wants the curators, a group of both Democratic and Republican political appointees, to scrutinize athletic finances further to determine possible cost savings through program consolidation.

“I want to see what works on other campuses and what doesn’t work,” he said.

Carnahan acknowledged that he and his colleagues remain concerned about Alden’s handling of the mid-February resignation of Quin Snyder in the middle of his seventh season as the Tigers men’s basketball coach.

Snyder, who received a $574,000 buyout, said he was forced out by Alden with six games to go and received the news from Gary Link, a Tigers broadcaster and assistant to Alden.

Alden has denied that account, but subsequently apologized for his handling of the affair. Two university investigations stopped short of verifying Snyder’s charge.

In the court of public opinion, anger over Alden’s role appears to have been overtaken by excitement over Anderson’s arrival. Alden was received warmly at a recent booster event in Mendon, with well-wishers complimenting him on the hiring of Anderson, the school’s first permanent black head coach of a major sport.

The curators’ concerns aren’t limited to MU, Carnahan said. In St. Louis, outside lawyers hired by the university system continue to challenge a $1.275 million jury verdict won by UMSL baseball coach Jim Brady, who successfully sued the school in an age discrimination complaint. The verdict by a St. Louis County jury is under appeal.

Brady was not aware of the curators’ interest in exerting more active oversight of campus sports. And he’s not certain the added layer will necessarily be an improvement.

“It depends on what their intent is,” he said. “Are they trying to get more involved, or are they trying to control the whole deal?”

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