Heat builds on Mizzou's AD

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Reports on Alden's handling of Snyder's resignation angers some fans.

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The sign in the window of Harpo's downtown sports bar Monday morning still hailed that night's usual gig: a live, syndicated radio call-in show hosted by now-ex Missouri basketball coach Quin Snyder.

Snyder's show, of course, is history. And as far as Harpo's owner Dennis Harper is concerned, so is the radio broadcast that immediately precedes it -- The Mike Alden Show.

Angered by reports that Missouri's athletics director instructed an assistant to tell Snyder he would be fired at season's end, the bar owner summarily yanked the welcome mat for Alden's live remotes.

The Alden show went on as scheduled Monday night, only at the Mizzou Arena's Clinton Club instead of Harpo's. And despite repeated on-air promises by host Mike Kelly, Alden -- who was in Los Angeles for NCAA meetings -- never called into his own show. Kelly offered listeners no explanation.

As fan anger and confusion continues to simmer over the circumstances surrounding Snyder's midseason departure from Missouri (11-11), much of the public ire is now directed toward Alden. He has led the athletics program since 1998, with an annual budget that now tops $40 million.

Alden said Sunday he did not direct special assistant Gary Link -- a former Tiger basketball player under Norm Stewart who is best known as the team's radio announcer -- to speak with Snyder after a 26-point road loss last week to Baylor, the Big 12's last-place team.

The athletics director said he only asked Link to "see how he's doing," since Snyder and Link talk "all the time." That account contradicted numerous published reports suggesting that Alden forced Snyder's hand after the coach on Thursday said he would finish the season.

Alden could not be reached for comment Monday. But he said Sunday that like it or not, shouldering blame for Missouri's basketball woes is part of the job.

"I don't think there's any question that people look to the leadership of that organization for everything that takes place -- how the kids are doing in school, how the team is performing on the basketball court, what's happening in baseball, are we building new facilities, whatever that may be," he told The Associated Press.

"So it's not unusual to me to have people indicate that, 'Hey, as the athletic director, what are you going to do to improve what we have going on out there?"'

The program Alden leads bears little resemblance to the one he took over in 1998 after leading the athletics department at Southwest Texas State University the previous two years.

New coaches are in place in just about every sport. The department's operating budget, $13.7 million when he took over, has nearly tripled.

By all accounts, he's excelled at fundraising, which is a vital part of any athletics director's job. Most notably, he helped secure a $25 million donation from Bill and Nancy Laurie and $35 million in state bonds to help build a new basketball arena.

University curator Don Walsworth, an avid basketball booster who helped hire Snyder, said curators did not discuss Alden's job performance during two closed-door meetings over the weekend in which they reached a tentative settlement with Snyder.

Walsworth offered qualified support for Alden, pointing to a positive review of campus athletics recently completed by the NCAA as part of its standard 10-year certification process.

"I don't think anybody (at the university) is questioning Mike's performance," Walsworth said Monday.

Alden's boss, University of Missouri-Columbia chancellor Brady Deaton, was attempting to return to town Monday after a weekend blizzard in New York and could not be reached for comment.

Snyder's side of the story, meanwhile, remains unknown. After canceling a scheduled Sunday night press conference following Missouri's 74-71 win over Kansas State, which snapped a six-game losing streak, Snyder issued a written statement through his attorney, Wally Bley.

Bley said Monday his client will speak with reporters after Snyder actually signs a severance contract with the university.

"We have reached an agreement in substance," said Bley, who previously represented former Tiger Ricky Clemons during the player's legal troubles.

Bley did not discuss specifics of the agreement. Citing unnamed sources, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported Monday that Snyder will receive a $574,000 buyout, or nearly three times his base annual salary of $195,000.

Snyder, 39, leaves Missouri with a career mark of 126-91 in almost seven seasons. He has two years remaining on his contract.

Two days before Snyder's sudden resignation, Alden also addressed speculation that he was interested in a vacant athletics director job at Georgia Tech, where Dave Braine resigned in January for health reasons.

"I'm not going to Atlanta," Alden told the AP.

On Sunday, Alden reiterated his support for Snyder, even after the NCAA found that Missouri's basketball program committed 42 violations under the former Duke player and assistant coach's watch. Those violations led to a loss of scholarships, a one-year off-campus recruiting ban and three years probation.

"With all of those troubles that we went through, the NCAA major infractions case, our commitment as an institution and my commitment personally have never wavered from Quin, ever," Alden said.

"We believed in Quin. We still believe in him. It's just that at this point, he's decided that he's going to move on. We'll just try to close that and move forward to the next issue."

Associated Press writer R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis contributed to this report.

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