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Archive for Saturday, August 2, 2003

Ex-girlfriend says coaches gave Clemons clothes, cash

August 2, 2003

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— Missouri is investigating allegations made by former basketball player Ricky Clemons' ex-girlfriend that the athlete received cash and clothing from coaches, a school official said Friday.

Coach Quin Snyder emphatically denied Clemons received money, but acknowledged giving him promotional attire that he planned to discard.

"The best way for me to answer that is to say that none of our athletes have ever received any improper funds," Snyder said in a telephone interview from the Dominican Republic, where he is on the U.S. coaching staff at the Pan Am Games.

But Snyder acknowledged in the interview, and in a deposition taken during Clemons' prosecution for domestic assault, that he gave the now-incarcerated athlete pants and a couple of pairs of shoes the coach had received as promotional gifts. Snyder said he was cleaning out his office in the Hearnes Center and came across the items.

"They had no value to me. Usually I give those to friends and family, but Ricky happened to be there, and if I'd known it was an infraction, I wouldn't have done it," Snyder said in the interview.

If the university decides the gifts weren't allowed by NCAA rules, it will report them as violations, said Sarah Reesman, the university's associate athletic director. She said the rules allowed athletes to receive clothing used for practice or competition. But Reesman didn't know whether the attire fit those descriptions.

Assistant basketball coach Lane Odom, in a separate sworn deposition, said of Clemons: "I did not give him money."

Odom -- who has known Clemons since his senior year in high school and recruited him to Missouri -- declined an Associated Press request for an interview, a decision relayed Friday through the Tigers' basketball office. A jailer said Friday that Clemons didn't want to talk to reporters.

The allegations surfaced in questions asked during the March depositions by Boone County Prosecutor Kevin Crane.

Crane said in an interview Friday the questions were drawn from his office's investigation of the domestic assault case.

That investigation included multiple interviews with Jessica Bunge, whom the prosecutor and others identified as Clemons' ex-girlfriend.

Crane said the questions were intended to establish the closeness of Bunge's relationship with Clemons, which the athlete had denied. The clothes Snyder acknowledged giving Clemons were seized by police from Bunge's bedroom closet.

"Any investigation or questioning by this office was done solely for the purpose of pursuing this criminal prosecution," Crane said Friday.

The prosecutor added that he did not ask further questions about the gifts because, "I am not the NCAA police."

Clemons was arrested after a January incident in which Bunge alleged the athlete choked her in a headlock, yanked her hair and wouldn't allow her to leave his Columbia apartment for about an hour after they argued.

In various law-enforcement interviews, Bunge said she met Clemons last summer when he arrived in Columbia, that he lived in her apartment before getting his own place, and that he had choked her before and once, in a rage, broke a door at her residence.

Bunge, who now attends school in the Chicago area, did not return messages from the AP relayed Friday through relatives.

Clemons, 23, pleaded guilty in April to a misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment of Bunge. He is serving a 60-day sentence in the Boone County Jail. Clemons was kicked off the Tigers basketball team last week and his athletic scholarship has been revoked.

The depositions were made public after a circuit judge ruled Thursday the records could be released by the prosecutor.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had argued in court the records should be considered public records under Missouri's Sunshine Law, and the prosecutor had sought the court's guidance about their release. The judge ruled for the newspaper in releasing the depositions of 17 people, including Snyder and Odom.

Reesman said the university learned of the allegations by Bunge Thursday after receiving media inquiries about the depositions.

"Anytime an allegation like this is made, we are obligated to look into it," Reesman said.

In Crane's deposition of Odom, the prosecutor said of Bunge: "She has indicated there were occasions when they would go to Hearnes together and he would go in -- she didn't apparently go in -- and he would come back out with money. Cash. Do you know anything about that?"

Odom: "No."

Crane: "If he said to her that the source for that cash was you, would he be lying?"

Odom: "Yes."

Crane: "He would be telling a lie to her. Or maybe she's not telling the truth. Those are the only plausible explanations."

Odom: "I did not give him money."

Jeff Howard, a spokesman for the NCAA, said Friday that he could not comment on specific allegations. But he said schools may provide athletes with cash for road-trip meals.

If the NCAA finds that a coach was giving Clemons cash payments above that, Missouri could be in serious trouble; such a violation could come under the broad heading of "lack of institutional control," which has often been cited in cases that led to major penalties.

"With regard to paying student-athletes above what is stated within the NCAA bylaws, that would be considered an infraction. It goes directly against the rules of amateurism, which are the policies and regulations that separate collegiate athletics from professional sports," Howard said.

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