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Archive for Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Tiger fans shift ire to embattled AD

As rumors swirl about Snyder’s departure, Mizzou backers continue to question Alden’s leadership

February 14, 2006

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— 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 athletic 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 Conference's last-place team.

The athletic 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 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 was part of the job.

The athletics 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, nearly has tripled.

By all accounts, he's excelled at fund-raising, which is a vital part of any athletic 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.

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 victory 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 would speak with reporters after Snyder actually signed a severance contract with the university.

Bley did not discuss specifics of the agreement. Citing unnamed sources, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported Monday that Snyder would 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.

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