'Allegations ... touched on academic integrity'

Updated: August 25, 2003, 11:41 PM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri president Elson Floyd ordered an investigation of the entire men's basketball program to be conducted by a panel led by an electrical engineering professor.

The program is dealing with allegations of academic cheating that surfaced in recent weeks when the ex-girlfriend of former Missouri point guard Ricky Clemons said he received answers to tests and improper help writing papers.

Missouri's athletic department already was conducting its own smaller investigation of the woman's charges and is cooperating with an NCAA probe. In a statement, Floyd said the athletic department would cooperate in an investigation to be "elevated to a comprehensive (internal/external) investigation of the entire men's basketball program."

Floyd said the investigation would be a "continuation, extension and amplification of the work already done" by the athletic department and that Columbia Chancellor Richard Wallace supported the expanded probe.

The investigation is to be led by Michael Devaney, the immediate past chairman of the Faculty Council on the Columbia campus.

"This is going to be a thorough and objective investigation of the men's basketball program, especially because of the allegations that have touched on academic integrity. I can tell you this is an issue that faculty takes very, very seriously and needs to be assured that the athletes' work is truly their own work," Devaney, a professor at Columbia since 1969, told The Associated Press on Monday.

Athletic director Mike Alden welcomed the elevated investigation that he discussed with Floyd.

"The significance is that it adds another academic perspective to the review," Alden said Monday night. "That shows very sound leadership on Dr. Floyd's part."

Alden said he met Monday with coach Quin Snyder _ their first sit-down in several weeks _ and said they discussed Floyd's decision to expand the investigation.

He declined to go into specifics of his conversation with Snyder.

"We are all focusing on the same thing, and that is to try to go through our review," Alden said.

Snyder did not immediately return several messages left with the men's basketball office.

The coach has said he was unaware of any academic cheating by Clemons, who accumulated 24 credit hours last summer at a Kansas junior college and through correspondence courses to qualify to play for the Tigers.

In his statement, Floyd didn't refer specifically to the allegations of Clemons' former girlfriend Jessica Bunge.

But he said "serious allegations have surfaced regarding the men's basketball program at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Most recently, several of the allegations have touched on issues of academic integrity."

Devaney said he planned to conduct his own interviews and review records.

"It's extremely important for faculty credibility that someone outside the athletic department is investigating these allegations," Devaney said. "This is the bread and butter of the faculty. We are very sensitive to the coupling between athletics and academics and we want to make sure that we have a high-caliber program in both regards."

The Faculty Council is elected by and from faculty of the university's 14 academic divisions.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press