02 December 2011

Alden Forced to Evaluate Priorities (via Columbia Daily Tribune)

Mike Alden forced to evaluate priorities

Mike Alden shook his head as he rehashed the darkest period of his career.
Mike Alden:
Missouri athletic director

Rattling off the lowlights of the basketball scandal that rocked Missouri in the mid-2000s and nearly got him fired as athletic director, it was as if the saga was still a bad dream.

“A basketball season gone awry … a major infractions case … the dismissal or nondismissal or direct dismissal of a basketball coach … jailhouse tapes … president’s wives calling inmates in jail and recording things,” Alden told a group of business students yesterday afternoon at Cornell Hall. “It was just amazing. You couldn’t have written a novel. You could never have thought of the things going on.”

But the shame was real, and so were the lessons.

Alden’s experiences with Ricky Clemons and former Tigers Coach Quin Snyder reshaped his management style in times of turmoil. He said he learned no individual was bigger than the university.

In 2003, the series of chances Missouri gave the troubled Clemons to right himself dragged the university into an embarrassing morass.

Clemons sat out only one game in January after he was charged with felonious assault for hitting and choking his former girlfriend then was suspended but not taken off scholarship after he pleaded guilty to reduced charges in April.

Not until Clemons violated curfew at a halfway house and crashed an ATV outside the home of former Missouri President Elson Floyd in July was he dismissed. Alden delivered the news to Clemons in the Boone County Jail.

“I was looking out what was best I thought for the student at that time,” said Alden, who did not mention Clemons by name or specify the moments he regretted. “When I made those decisions, I greatly impacted negatively our institution and our department. I learned a big lesson.”

Since then, that moral has helped guide recent department decisions like the prompt banishment last season of star running back Derrick Washington after he was accused and later convicted of sexual assault and the one-game suspension of football Coach Gary Pinkel after his drunken-driving arrest.

“Whatever decisions you’re making, you want to make sure the No. 1 most important thing is the institution,” Alden said. “No. 2, that’s going to be your program, your department. And No. 3, in this order, would be the student or staff member and how they would be impacted.”

Alden’s evolving leadership approach was one of many topics he addressed in an hour-long presentation. He also answered student questions on Missouri’s move to the Southeastern Conference, covering little new ground but expressing through light jabs his feelings on the inequality and instability of the Big 12.

Alden has declined to discuss the decision to move to the SEC with media outlets since the press conference/pep rally announcing the switch Nov. 6. He said he was unavailable for questions from a reporter after yesterday’s presentation.

He shared his doubts on the long-term viability of the conference with the students. In October, after the Pac-12 rejected Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech, Missouri was the only league school that did not agree to a six-year grant of its TV rights.

“For you people that have not been married, I’m going to give you advice from a 53-year-old guy,” Alden said with a smile. “I’m going to tell you something, man. … If you’re going to go through a Christian ceremony, they’re going to ask you, ‘until death do us part.’ And if you come up with that puppy and say, ‘You know what, we’re going to kind of hang out for six years, then we’re going to figure it out after that,’ prenups aren’t usually a good idea to start the wedding night. Just remember that.”

He did not acknowledge the perception that Missouri was among the schools that stirred the instability with its lobbying to the Big Ten in 2010.

“Over the course of a year and a half, even though you had a lot of people saying, ‘We’re all in, we’re all together,’ seven of our institutions in our league — seven! — looked at different homes publicly,” Alden said. “Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M. Seven.”

Reach David Briggs at dbriggs@columbiatribune.com.

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