Synder remains to clean up Missouri

Originally Published: May 11, 2004
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

The investigation into Missouri's basketball program is over. Quin Snyder remains.

Since Missouri made a coaching change in 1999, the school and the NCAA have found a reported 57 violations, including the allegations in Monday's NCAA report. Quin Snyder remains.

Two assistant coaches are on the way out (Lane Odom resigned and Tony Harvey is on paid leave). Quin Snyder remains.

And while Missouri's exhaustive NCAA investigation will likely be termed "major," by all accounts it won't come with a postseason ban -- the one penalty every coach fears during an NCAA tribunal.

Yes, Quin Snyder remains. But he has some explaining to do.

Once he is allowed to speak freely, only then can Snyder begin to change not only his tarnished image, but also the perception of his Missouri basketball program -- in the minds of the public, his peers and along the recruiting trail this summer.

Quin Snyder
Quin Snyder must change his ways at Missouri.

It won't be easy.

Opposing coaches love to prey on the weakened. And while Snyder survived a season of scandalous headlines, coaches who were instructed to police themselves after the National Association of Basketball Coaches summit last October won't hesitate to pick on Missouri now that the Tigers are vulnerable.

Missouri will remain the midst of the hearing and penalty phase of an investigation that won't wrap up until the fall. One excessive bump into a recruit, or extra phone call or inadvertent greeting between a coach and player, and someone will report Missouri to the NCAA reps.

"It's going to take some time for them to repair their image," said a rival assistant coach. "It won't happen overnight. If they do everything the right way, then they will get the respect back.

"No one thinks Quin is a bad guy," added the assistant. "Everyone likes Quin. But there has been a lack of respect for the program and the image they created. A lot of coaches didn't like their arrogance. That pissed people off, the attitude they had toward all of this."

So, how does Snyder change his reputation and the image of his program? Well, Tuesday's brief statements were just the start.

Snyder apologized profusely during a Missouri news conference to announce the NCAA findings. Snyder said he was "sorry that good people had to go through this, (people) who had supported us for a long time." And while he won't comment on specifics until the NCAA hands down its penalties, he said he would continue to cooperate fully in the process.

Now that the process is over Snyder will not only be allowed to discuss the allegations in more detail, but also will be expected to explain his actions. For now, he said he was responsible and he will make changes and already had made adjustments in the program.

But, make no mistake, Missouri athletic director Mike Alden won't tolerate any more missteps -- even the most minor in nature. There have already been far too many, according to the Kansas City Star, which reported Snyder's program has had 57 violations of some kind since 1999. All of which, has to stop.

Snyder can detail why the previous violations occurred, or at least give a detailed explanation to the ones that he disputes. But once this mess is behind him and Missouri has been penalized, he must come clean with his full story, without omitting any details.

That won't come until the fall. This summer, when the Tigers are out recruiting, it will likely help that there will be fresh faces wearing Missouri golf shirts. Missouri assistant Marcus Perez was already on the road this spring. The Army grad is well-respected in the coaching community. There is likely to be an older, veteran assistant who would join this staff in the summer.

But how will the Missouri coaches be received by recruits?

Opposing coaches will no doubt use the investigation against Missouri and negatively recruit against Snyder. Missouri was able to get an outstanding recruiting class for next season amid the allegations last season. But, Missouri will face a tougher test in signing players now that the violations are known and the penalties should be in place before the fall signing period.

One coach did say the best thing that could have happened to Snyder was to be allowed to stay at Missouri and rebuild a program ... again. It's his job to guide the Tigers through these troubled times created on his watch. Remember, Snyder was one of the hottest names in coaching when he was hired and remained a commodity through his first few seasons, capped by an Elite Eight in 2002.

"He's got to win back the respect internally on campus, re-establish confidence with the administration and the fans and extend himself to the media," said one veteran head coach. "There is a push today for all coaches to win with ethics. So, there has to be a cleansing process that he has to go through to regain control of his program."

The first step was the change in the staff. Odom's departure late Tuesday wasn't hatched as soon as the violations were made public. Odom was trying to resign long before, but sources said he wanted to wait until the NCAA finished its investigation. Sources also said Odom knew that the program couldn't move forward until there was internal movement on the staff.

Had Odom fought to stay, and if Harvey chooses to do so, Missouri would struggle to begin this catharsis it must go through.

Most programs in Missouri's position dump the entire staff (see: Auburn, Georgia, Baylor and St. Bonaventure). Regardless of who was directly involved in the violations, the current staff is replaced as the school moves forward. But Missouri is apparently not going to touch Snyder, and if that's the case, the program couldn't go on intact this summer and beyond without changes.

Odom's chances of landing another college job will hinge on whether any violations are directly attached to his name. Ultimately, Harvey will be judged similarly once the final verdict is known after Missouri offers its rebuttal.

The one certainty is that Missouri cannot afford to take any more chances, not with its staff, not with a single recruit. One player with a highly suspect academic record and questionable character helped the NCAA peel back Missouri's program for an expansive review of its procedures. Had Missouri never recruited Ricky Clemons, it might still be sailing along without any changes.

Certainly, the embarrassment of the jailhouse recordings between Clemons and the wives of the president and assistant athletic director would never had occurred had Clemons not been in Columbia. Jessica Bunge would have been spared being abused by Clemons. The mistake of recruiting Clemons came at a high price.

But Snyder survived the chaos. He remains in charge. He can expect probation, some scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions. But Missouri will be able to play in the postseason, which means everything and nothing in Missouri.

What matters most is for Missouri to win with class, win back the respect of coaching colleagues, its loyal fans, faculty and the media to repair a tarnished image.

It can be done. The process begins today. The responsibility falls on the coach who remains.

Quin Snyder.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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