Snyder's nondenial denial a bad sign for MU

Wednesday, August 6, 2003

If loose lips do indeed sink ships, Quin Snyder is the captain of the Titanic, and Jessica Bunge, Ricky Clemons' ex, is Iceberg Slim.

It doesn't look or sound good for the Missouri basketball program right now, as newspaper reporters, Dick Vitale and NCAA investigators get their first look at court-deposition transcripts relating to Clemons' domestic-violence case.

Jessica Bunge didn't plead the fifth in court or in subsequent interviews. Her allegations of abuse already have put Slick Ricky behind bars, and now her allegations of NCAA-illegal payoffs to Clemons might put Snyder's program in big trouble.

Bunge told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch she dropped off Clemons to see Snyder. "I ended up coming back. And literally, like my whole trunk... I have an SUV... the trunk and back seat were literally filled. He gave him boxers, socks, dress coats."

She also alleges that someone within the basketball program regularly gave Clemons cash.

"I remember seeing hundreds, fifties," Bunge told the Post-Dispatch.

Admitting trouble

As troubling as Bunge's assertions are, what's more troubling for me, as a fan of Snyder's program, is Snyder's deposition response to the non-cash items he admits giving to Clemons.

"I don't know. I don't know exactly what -- I can't tell you for sure," Snyder said under oath. "You know, I wasn't conscious when I was giving it to him."

That sounds like a Bill Clinton non-denial denial.

Snyder, in a phone interview with The Star on Friday, strongly denied that he -- or anyone in his program -- gave Clemons cash. Snyder claims that he gave Clemons a pair of basketball shoes, flip flops and sweat pants.

My sweat pants might fill up an SUV. But Clemons' won't.

If Bunge sticks to her story that she personally saw an SUV full of goodies after Clemons visited his head coach, Snyder's credibility could be torched. He won't be able to claim a lack of consciousness as a defense.

You could argue that Jessica Bunge was justifiably out to get Ricky Clemons. But it's difficult for me to believe she's interested in tearing down the Missouri basketball program. I can't see how she would benefit from that. What pleasure would she derive?

A popular defense

Her story, particularly about the clothes, seems to add up. Snyder is asserting a lack of consciousness. If that flies, I know a whole lot of men who will be using that excuse.

"Baby, I lost consciousness, and the next thing you know, we ended up spending the next four hours getting lap dances and drinking shots. I don't know who I gave my boxers to. I don't know."

There's just too much smoke. Under Snyder's guidance, Missouri has been involved in a plethora of "secondary" NCAA violations. MU athletic director Mike Alden has self-reported so many violations that AT&T has offered him a discounted calling rate to Indianapolis.

This can't be what Alden anticipated when he hired Mike Krzyzewski's right-hand man. Alden thought Coach Q was a young Coach K and that Mizzou basketball would become Duke Midwest.

Obviously the plan has gone awry.

Do I think other coaches give their players, particularly their financially-disadvantaged players, all sorts of clothes? Yes. If a kid can't dress like the other college students, it's difficult for that kid to feel comfortable on a college campus.

I can't even say I blame the coaches for doing it. There's no way I could make a half-million dollars a year off the sweat of some poor kid and not share my financial blessing with that kid and his family. Coaches are expected to be father figures. But NCAA rules prevent them from providing for their adopted kids.

It's a complicated, confusing, stupid game that coaches have to play. It requires a great deal of savvy and discretion. Not everyone is smart or mature enough to play the game. That may be Quin Snyder's failing.

Jason Whitlock is a sports columnist for The Kansas City Star.

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