Clemons Sticking To His Story

Breaking his near total silence, troubled ex-basketball player Ricky Clemons has told a radio network he stands by accusations caught on jailhouse recordings that he received money from coaches at Missouri.

In the interview, to air Friday on the James Brown Show on The Sporting News radio network, Clemons also says he's not surprised that former teammates Rickey Paulding and Arthur Johnson — who Clemons said from jail also got money — have denied it.

"Those are my teammates, I played with them. I stick by everything that was said in the recordings. That's what they're supposed to do. They are supposed to say that," Clemons said. "Nobody is supposed to say they get money. Anybody in the country that goes to a big-time college is not supposed to say they get money."

Excerpts of Clemons' interview were posted Thursday night on FoxSports.com, and he also tells the radio show he "got the bad end of the deal."

"Everybody is coming at me, and making it seem like it's my fault," Clemons said. "If you're going to categorize the people that are receiving the money, then they can't get the money unless the people at the university give it to them. I just don't want people to think that the stuff that's going on is solely blamed on me."

In statements issued Wednesday through Missouri's athletic department, Johnson and Paulding said they couldn't comment on specific allegations because of the NCAA investigation. But each statement concluded with an identical comment: "All I can say is that we have not ever received any impermissible benefits, including cash, from any of our coaches."

Clemons' comments are scheduled to air the day after University of Missouri president Elson Floyd, facing revelations about his family's dealings with Clemons, said he would not resign. Floyd, who became president of the four-campus system last January, was in Kansas City on Thursday for a previously scheduled meeting with the university's Board of Curators.

After briefly leaving a public portion of the meeting, Floyd told reporters he did nothing "wrong that was inappropriate," and that his involvement with Clemons "has been, candidly, a nightmare and it continues to be so."

He also apologized for his wife's suggestion to Clemons that he avoid dating white women. Carmento Floyd made the suggestion in a phone conversation - recorded by jailers, as is routine - while Clemons was behind bars completing a sentence for domestic assault on a white woman whom he had dated.

"I must tell you as I read the reports, 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," Elson Floyd said.

The taped conversations included references to players receiving money from coaches. Asked if players were paid, Floyd said "you know as much about that as I." He said he hadn't "thought a lot about any possible resignation that may result."

Floyd, who is the university's first black president, said his "nightmare" started with his consent to basketball coach Quin Snyder's request last spring that he befriend Clemons, who is also black.

The optimistic relationship went awry almost from the start, when Clemons - then in a halfway house serving his sentence - wrecked an all-terrain vehicle at a July 4 party at Floyd's official campus residence. It turned out that Clemons didn't have permission to attend the party.

While Clemons was hospitalized for his injuries, a judge ruled he had violated terms of his sentence and ordered him to jail.

Once Clemons was incarcerated, his athletic scholarship was revoked by Athletic Director Mike Alden and he was booted from the basketball team, where, as a junior college transfer, he played point guard for a single season.

Connie Silverstein, president of the Board of Curators, said Thursday before the board's meeting she didn't think the controversy would affect the curators' opinions of Floyd.

"Obviously it is very sad and tragic for a lot of people involved," Silverstein said, "but really, Elson did not play a role in what's been unfolding these last couple days."

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.

Floyd has been criticized for focusing attention on a single lawbreaking student in the 60,000-student university system. Floyd replied that he had a long reputation for individually counseling students at risk. But Floyd said he broke off his relationship with Clemons after the incident at the university president's home.

However, it was revealed this week that Carmento Floyd kept in touch with Clemons, who called her collect from jail.

Tapes of those conversations surfaced in news reports, causing new embarrassment for Floyd - who, along with his wife, said Carmento Floyd continued her relationship with Clemons against the university president's advice and without his knowledge.

The conversations included comments by Mrs. Floyd, who is black, that Clemons should look to a historically black sorority to find a girlfriend rather than to a mostly white sorority.

Mrs. 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.

Elson Floyd is heard on the tapes just once, according to media reviews, when he answered his home phone and it was Clemons calling collect for his wife, soon after he reported to jail. Floyd called his wife to the phone, and, he told the AP, he later told her to break off the friendship. She didn't.

"After the events that occurred at Providence Point (the official residence of the university's president), to maintain any association with Ricky Clemons, it seems that anyone who gets particularly close to Ricky is caught in this whirlwind of controversy and I did not want that to happen," Floyd said. "Unfortunately that's precisely what happened."

Floyd, 47, started with fanfare last January as president of the University of Missouri system, which runs campuses in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla.

Floyd came to Missouri from the presidency of Western Michigan University. At Missouri, he made bold moves that won praise, including head-on confrontation of a state funding shortfall by ordering program evaluations; exploring making Northwest Missouri State University part of the Missouri system; and hiring a new chancellor for St. Louis while considering merging the Columbia chancellor's job into his own responsibilities as Columbia-based university president.


By Heather Hollingsworth

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