SEC entry yields another hefty gift for Missouri athletics

Portions of an $8.3-million gift will be used to expand and improve Memorial Stadium. Among the scheduled improvements are the addition of 6,000 seats.

Portions of an $8.3-million gift will be used to expand and improve Memorial Stadium. Among the scheduled improvements are the addition of 6,000 seats. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA (AP) — By all measures, Missouri endured a disappointing football debut in the Southeastern Conference, slogging through a 5-7 season in 2012 that disrupted a seven-year streak of bowl games under Coach Gary Pinkel.

Off the field, Mizzou’s SEC-driven success has been far more noticeable. On Tuesday, school officials announced an $8.3 million gift from Don and Audrey Walsworth of Marceline to be used to improve and expand Memorial Stadium and also build a new clubhouse for the men’s and women’s golf teams at Old Hawthrone, a private course.

The donation follows a $30 million gift from the Kansas City Sports Trust in June — the second largest private gift of any kind in school history — and a $6.4 million anonymous athletics contribution in December.

“We have to have the facilities to attract men and women of SEC caliber,” said Walsworth, an MU graduate, CEO of a northern Missouri publishing company and former chairman of the university’s Board of Curators. “We have kind of a grace period right now, but we’re going to have to step up.”

Two of the Walsworths’ three children played golf for Mizzou. A third, Don Walsworth Jr., was a Pac-10 golf champion as a Stanford University senior.

The school plans to add 6,000 seats to its football stadium, which now holds 71,004 fans. Eight SEC stadiums hold more than 80,000, with Bryant-Denny Stadium at Alabama and Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium topping 100,000.

Missouri envisions a total of $200 million of athletic facility upgrades, funded in part by $72 million of debt financing through 30-year revenue bonds. The school hopes to recoup its entire investment through the sale of additional premium seats and football luxury boxes.

Also on Tuesday, Missouri athletics director Mike Alden offered his first public comments on reports men’s basketball coach Frank Haith could be charged with committing NCAA violations while at Miami.

CBSSports.com has reported Haith, who spent seven mostly middling years at Miami before his surprise hire by Alden in 2011, will face charges of unethical conduct by the NCAA.

Two former Miami assistant coaches have been told they will also face unethical conduct charges as part of a two-year NCAA inquiry, two people familiar with the situation have said. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because neither the NCAA nor Miami has released the expected notice of allegations.

Days before the report’s anticipated release, the Miami investigation took a dramatic turn last week when NCAA president Mark Emmert announced former NCAA investigators improperly collaborated with lawyers for disgraced Hurricane booster Nevin Shapiro, a convicted felon. Shapiro has claimed he provided cash, cars, prostitutes and other impermissible benefits to dozens of Miami football players and other athletes between 2002 and 2010 with the knowledge of multiple coaches and athletics employees.

Alden said he discussed his concerns Monday with Emmert at a winter meeting of athletic directors on Marco Island, Fla., as well as with a group of peers from Arizona, Illinois, North Carolina and Syracuse while on a 12-day tour of Nike manufacturing facilities in southeast Asia.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before in my tenure in college athletics,” he said. “So, I certainly think it raises lots of questions. I appreciate the fact that the NCAA has come up and they’re addressing it. We’ll kind of have to see how that plays out.”

“There’s a significant amount of concern nationally relative to the integrity of the process and transparency,” Alden added, emphasizing the impact of the NCAA’s self-inquiry could be felt far beyond Coral Gables and Columbia.

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