Curators to review MU sports

Wednesday, January 17, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:02 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — When MU curators meet next week in St. Louis, finding a replacement for departing system President Elson Floyd is certain to top their agenda.

Yet the 10 curators, including three new appointees, are also expected to continue their quest for more oversight of campus athletics. That inquiry came to the fore nearly a year ago with the departure of former University of Missouri-Columbia men’s basketball coach Quin Snyder.

“I don’t think we’ve addressed all the issues,” said curator David Wasinger, who previously called for creation of a task force to assess the role of intercollegiate athletics on the four campuses.

While that suggestion was shelved in May 2006 when it couldn’t win approval from a majority of curators, Wasinger’s proposal is far from done.

In an Oct. 19 e-mail obtained by The Associated Press under the state’s open records law, curator John Carnahan III asked Floyd to appoint a task force “to review the total picture” of campus athletics and to help “institute a new direction for athletics” and “a return to the values which have made this a great university.”

Floyd was traveling Tuesday and did not immediately reply to a request for comment. But in his e-mail reply to Carnahan, the outgoing president called the suggestion “a wonderful idea.”

“Let us make this happen,” Floyd replied.

In light of criticism over Snyder’s messy farewell, Floyd issued an executive order in July that increased athletic reporting requirements to curators. The University of Missouri-Columbia and athletic director Mike Alden had faced scrutiny because Snyder said he was forced out by Alden and received the news from Gary Link, a Tiger broadcaster and Alden assistant.

Chancellors of the Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla campuses now must submit annual reports that track graduation rates by sport, list exceptions to admission requirements and detail the athletic departments’ financial health.

Contracts for head coaches and athletic directors will include annual performance reviews. And any buyouts will be limited to the annual base

salary for any remaining years on the contract — a direct response to curator criticism over the buyout provision in the five-year contract signed by Mike Anderson, Snyder’s successor as coach of the Tigers.

In an interview Monday, Carnahan repeated earlier assurances that he’s not interested in a wholesale overhaul of campus sports at the flagship campus in Columbia or elsewhere.

But Carnahan said he remains concerned about where Missouri fits in with the broader national discussion over how academic institutions can manage big-time college sports without compromising their overall missions.

“At some point, we as a university have got to take a look at what direction athletics will be taking in higher education in the next 20 years,” he said.

The changes instituted by Floyd last year, while an improvement, don’t go far enough, he added.

“Some of us would like more information and accountability,” Carnahan said.

Three new curators recently appointed by Gov. Matt Blunt will soon join the debate: Columbia banker Bo Fraser; Kansas City businessman Warren Erdman; and Judy Haggard, a nurse from Kennett. None could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Soon after Floyd issued his executive order, Wasinger said he planned to revive the conversation on athletics once the new board was in place.

“My hope (is) that the new board members will have more interest in seeing the MU athletic programs excel,” Wasinger wrote to Floyd in a June 15, 2006 e-mail.

But with curators scrambling to find a new president before Floyd departs in May for Washington State University, a continued review of campus sports might remain on hold, Wasinger said.

“We’re going to spend a lot of time on the presidential search,” he said Tuesday.

Among the proposals floated by Carnahan and Wasinger last year was a move to require campus athletic directors to report directly to Floyd rather that the chancellors at their respective campuses.

The proposal, widely viewed as an effort to keep closer tabs on Alden, failed to win support from a majority of the previous board. And even if Carnahan and Wasinger can persuade their new colleagues to endorse tighter oversight of campus sports, Tiger fans shouldn’t expect drastic changes, said Carnahan.

“I don’t think we’re going to change the direction of this freight train,” he said. “We’re probably along for the ride.”

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