COLUMBIA, Mo. - The University of Missouri president said he did nothing inappropriate and will not resign over revelations about his family’s befriending a troubled basketball player who was ousted from the school team after assaulting an ex-girlfriend.
Elson Floyd, who became president of the four-campus system last January, said Thursday that his involvement with former player Ricky Clemons “has been, candidly, a nightmare and it continues to be so.”
Remarks by Clemons, made in taped jail phone conversations during the summer and published by media organizations this week, have intensified pressure on Missouri’s basketball program and Floyd.
Bolstering claims previously made by his ex-girlfriend, Clemons was recorded as saying he and two current players received cash from assistant coaches. NCAA and internal investigations of the basketball program are ongoing.
The tapes also include conversations between Clemons and Floyd’s wife, Carmento, in which she suggests that Clemons avoid dating white women. The Floyds and Clemons are black, and the ex-girlfriend Clemons was jailed for assaulting is white.
Elson Floyd, who said he befriended Clemons at a coach’s request, has been criticized for focusing attention on a single lawbreaking student in the 60,000-student university system. He has responded that he has a long reputation for counseling students at risk.
Floyd spoke while in Kansas City for a previously scheduled meeting with the university’s Board of Curators that was to include a private discussion of his job performance. Before the meeting, Floyd had told The Associated Press he was considering resigning among a range of options he would discuss with the board.
Board president Connie Silverstein said before the meeting that she didn’t think the controversy would affect curators’ opinions of Floyd.
“Obviously it is very sad and tragic for a lot of people involved, but really Elson did not play a role in what’s been unfolding these last couple days,” Silverstein said.
Floyd, the university’s first black president, apologized for his wife’s comments about Clemons dating white women.
“There’s no way I can stand before you to say any of those comments were acceptable or appropriate, and I apologize that any of those comments were made,” he said.
Carmento Floyd issued a statement apologizing for causing her husband pain and agony, but adding that she saw nothing wrong with trying to help a troubled young man.
Floyd said he ended his relationship with Clemons after a July 4 party at the president’s official campus residence during which Clemons wrecked an all-terrain vehicle, suffering injuries that required hospitalization.
Clemons was serving his domestic assault sentence at a halfway house at the time, but he was later jailed because he had gone to the party without permission. He was dropped from Missouri’s highly ranked team and his scholarship was revoked after he was jailed.
Floyd said his wife continued talking to Clemons against his advice and without his knowledge.
The board had planned to conduct Floyd’s annual performance evaluation Thursday in a closed session, but ran out of time and rescheduled the discussion for Friday morning.
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