Missouri seniors and preseason Wooden all-Americans Rickey Paulding and Arthur Johnson issued statements Wednesday that they weren't paid by an assistant coach, refuting statements made by former Missouri guard Ricky Clemons in taped conversations to the wives of two school administrators during his 60-day stay this summer at the Boone County (Mo.) Correctional Facility.
The allegations were raised "months ago,'' according to sources, well before the tapes were made public once they were obtained by the Columbia (Mo.) Tribune and St. Louis Post Dispatch Tuesday night on their respective web sites.
Multiple sources said the NCAA and Missouri interviewed both players on the subject and the school was satisfied with their answers. Had they not been happy with their responses, the players wouldn't have been allowed to play this season until the investigation was finished.
But Johnson's and Paulding's eligibility was never in question, according to multiple sources. Missouri did hold out JC transfer point guard Randy Pulley when his eligibility was in question due to credits being transferred from Barton County (Kan.) College. Pulley was cleared to play last week and will make his debut Dec. 21 against UNC Greensboro.
Missouri and the NCAA were aware of the tapes when the FBI made the copies during the summer. Multiple sources said they weren't worried about the public nature of the tapes Tuesday being a "smoking gun" for the investigation. Also sources said the investigation is expected to conclude soon and while the NCAA wanted it done by Christmas, Missouri is expecting that it might not receive the final report until Jan. 15.
Meanwhile, Clemons has stopped going to class at Missouri, according to sources and his present whereabouts are unknown to Missouri. Missouri also isn't sure how he was paying for his living expenses while in Columbia. The sense on campus is that Clemons was returning to his native North Carolina.
Johnson said, "Similar to what coach said in his statement yesterday [Tuesday], as much as I would like to respond to these allegations and stories, I can't due to the NCAA investigation. These allegations are not new but we respect the process and cannot comment on it until it is completed. All I can say is that we have not ever received any impermissible benefits, including cash, from any of our coaches."
Paulding said, "These allegations are not new. Like coach said yesterday [Tuesday] in his statement, as much as I would like to respond to these allegations and stories, I can't due to the NCAA investigation. We respect that process and cannot comment on it until it is completed. All I can say is that we have not ever received any impermissible benefits, including cash, from any of our coaches."
Clemons also said he was told during a conversation with one of the assistants and Clemons' attorney to deny having received cash if a prosecutor asked about it, the Daily Tribune reported.
Missouri coach Quin Snyder said in a statement Tuesday night that he and his assistants couldn't discuss the allegations because NCAA and internal university investigations are still under way.
"As tough as it is for me personally not to respond, and for my coaches not to respond, I cannot discuss these allegations," Snyder said. "As I have said all along, I respect the process of the investigation, and until the university and the NCAA reach the conclusion of this process, I will not comment on individual allegations or stories."
Athletic director Mike Alden issued a statement saying that the
contents of the taped conversations "represent only a small part of the review that is taking place."
"Our basketball program has fully cooperated with the
investigation and respects the due diligence that has taken
place," Alden said. "I am confident in coach Snyder's management
of the Mizzou basketball program and I believe that he will address
any problem areas that have been identified through this review
Clemons couldn't be reached for comment. His former attorney, Wally Bley, told The Associated Press he never told Clemons to lie.
"I would never tell any client to lie, including Ricky Clemons, and did not tell him or suggest to him to lie about anything," Bley told the Tribune.
Boone County Sheriff Ted Boehm, who released the tapes, declined comment to AP on Tuesday night. Media organizations had asked
Boehm for the tapes last summer, but the sheriff said then that he couldn't release them because they were part of an ongoing FBI investigation.
The Tribune reported that it reviewed 24 hours of taped conversations. They were calls Clemons made from the Boone County Jail between July 16 and Aug. 14, when the former player was serving a sentence for two misdemeanors in an assault case involving former girlfriend Jessica Bunge.
In a conversation with Amy Stewart, wife of Missouri associate athletic director Ed Stewart, Clemons is heard to implicate Bunge, assistant coaches Lane Odom and Tony Harvey, and Johnson and Paulding.
At one point, Clemons told Stewart: "When I first got there, they did, they did everybody. I mean, they do A.J. and Rickey. If they need money, they'd go to Harvey. He, he'd get it for them. ...
"I stopped talking to him ... and then went to Lane."
He said Bunge deposited the checks for him, the Tribune reported. Bunge had said as much in statements to police and prosecutors.
Twice, Clemons implies that he received more money than former Georgia player Tony Cole, according to the newspaper.
"Just know it's bigger than Tony Cole," Clemons tells Stewart. "He got a couple hundred dollars. He paid for his apartment or that. ... That's nothing."
Clemons told Stewart that his former coaches, including Snyder, were concerned he would tell the NCAA and the media about the payments but that he didn't want to be a whistle-blower like Cole.
"You know, I don't even feel comfortable like that because, you know, I mean, Coach stood by me."
The Post-Dispatch reported on its Web site Tuesday
night that the FBI has ended its investigation and would not file
criminal charges. The FBI said that it had looked into a tip that
someone had tried to intimidate a witness in the criminal case against
Clemons and said that Clemons was not the target of the FBI probe.
Clemons, a junior-college transfer, was kicked off the team in July after a judge determined Clemons violated conditions for serving his sentence in a halfway house and ordered him to jail. This fall, he re-enrolled at Missouri, but he isn't playing basketball.
ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.