Missouri president won't quit over Clemons
Posted: Thursday December 11, 2003 4:23PM; Updated: Thursday December 11, 2003 4:47PM
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Reeling from revelations about his family's dealings with troubled ex-basketball player Ricky Clemons, University of Missouri president Elson Floyd said Thursday he would not resign and said he did nothing wrong.
Floyd, who became president of the four-campus system last January, was in Kansas City for a previously scheduled meeting with the university's Board of Curators which was to include a private discussion of his job performance.
After a public portion of the meeting with the curators, Floyd told reporters that he did nothing wrong or inappropriate, and that his involvement with Clemons "has been, candidly, a nightmare and it continues to be so."
He also apologized for his wife's suggestion to Clemons that he avoid dating white women. Carmento Floyd made the suggestion in a phone conversation -- recorded by jailers, as is routine -- while Clemons was behind bars completing a sentence for domestic assault on a white woman whom he had dated.
"I must tell you as I read the reports, there's no way I can stand before you to say any of those comments were acceptable or appropriate, and I apologize that any of those comments were made," Elson Floyd said.
Floyd, who is the university's first black president, said his "nightmare" started with his consent to basketball coach Quin Snyder's request last spring that he befriend Clemons, who is also black.
The optimistic relationship went awry almost from the start, when Clemons -- then in a halfway house serving his sentence -- wrecked an all-terrain vehicle at a July 4 party at Floyd's official campus residence.
It turned out that Clemons didn't have permission to attend the party.
While Clemons was hospitalized for his injuries, a judge ruled he had violated terms of his sentence and ordered him to jail.
Once Clemons was incarcerated, his athletic scholarship was revoked by Athletic Director Mike Alden and he was booted from the basketball team, where, as a junior college transfer, he played point guard for a single season.
Connie Silverstein, president of the Board of Curators, said Thursday before the board's meeting that she didn't think the controversy would affect the curators' opinions of Floyd.
"I would be very surprised if it affected them at all because we really don't see these events as being tied to what Elson has done," Silverstein said. "It has been very distracting for him.
"Obviously it is very sad and tragic for a lot of people involved, but really Elson did not play a role in what's been unfolding these last couple days," Silverstein said.
Floyd was criticized for focusing attention on a single lawbreaking student in the 60,000-student university system. Floyd replied that he had a long reputation for individually counseling students at risk. But Floyd said he broke off his relationship with Clemons after the incident at the university president's home.
However, it was revealed this week that Carmento Floyd kept in touch with Clemons, who called her collect from jail.
Tapes of those conversations surfaced in news reports, causing new embarrassment for Floyd -- who, along with his wife, said Carmento Floyd continued her relationship with Clemons against the university president's advice and without his knowledge.
The conversations included comments by Mrs. Floyd, who is black, that Clemons should look to a historically black sorority to find a girlfriend rather than to a mostly white sorority.
Mrs. Floyd issued a statement apologizing for causing her husband pain and agony, but adding that she saw nothing wrong with trying to help a troubled young man.
Elson Floyd is heard on the tapes just once, according to media reviews, when he answered his home phone and it was Clemons calling collect for his wife, soon after he reported to jail. Floyd called his wife to the phone, and, he told the AP, he later told her to break off the friendship. She didn't.
"This is a big distraction from the important work we need to be doing as a university, and I don't want that distraction for us, because the university's fiscal crisis has not changed," Floyd told the AP.
"This is a matter I need to discuss with the board. The board needs to be fully informed of, really, everything the public already knows regarding this whole episode with Ricky Clemons," he added.
Floyd, 47, started with fanfare last January as president of the University of Missouri system, which runs campuses in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla.
Floyd came to Missouri from the presidency of Western Michigan University. At Missouri, he made bold moves that won praise, including head-on confrontation of a state funding shortfall by ordering program evaluations; exploring making Northwest Missouri State University part of the Missouri system; and hiring a new chancellor for St. Louis while considering merging the Columbia chancellor's job into his own responsibilities as Columbia-based university president.