Saturday, January 06, 2001

Ex-UK coach confesses

Bassett says he sent money orders to prep coach

By Rusty Hampton and Jim Adams
The Courier-Journal

        LEXINGTON, Ky. — Former University of Kentucky football recruiting coordinator Claude Bassett admitted Friday night that he instructed a member of his staff to mail $1,400 in money orders to a Tennessee high school coach in October in violation of NCAA rules.

        Eight days after he denied knowing anything about the money orders when first confronted with them by Courier-Journal reporters, Bassett submitted to a series of interviews with news outlets at a Lexington radio station.

        During a 10-minute session with three Courier-Journal reporters, Bassett acknowledged the money orders were sent at his instruction.

        The former coach's admission came after about six hours of meetings Thursday and Friday between Bassett and officials from the university and the Southeastern Conference.

        In addition to the money order, Bassett also acknowledged that he improperly endorsed a check made to a UK football camp in mid-1999, although he said he has repaid the money. Bassett said that endorsing the check also was an NCAA rules violation.

        Athletic director Larry Ivy, who said last week that the school's internal investigation had uncovered some recruiting violations unrelated to the money orders, said Friday, before Bassett's public statements, that he hopes the university's report on the investigation will be submitted to the NCAA next week.

        Ivy also said head coach Hal Mumme is not implicated in any violations that have been uncovered.

        Bassett's admission could lead to sanctions against the football program. NCAA rules prohibit giving any “material benefits” to prospective athletes or their coaches.

        In his interview with The Courier-Journal Friday night, Bassett said neither Mumme nor any other staff member was aware of his payment to Tim Thompson, the football coach at Melrose High School in Memphis, Tenn. At the time of the payments, Kentucky was recruiting several of Thompson's players and had signed three of them the year before.

        Thompson, who has denied receiving the payments, could not be reached by The C-J.

        When reporters asked Bassett why he sent the money to Thompson, Bassett replied, “Stupidity on my part.”

        When asked next what he hoped the payment would accomplish, Bassett thought for a moment and said: “Oh, that's a good question. ... I certainly wasn't trying to buy any players or anything.”

        He said he sent the money of his own volition, and Thompson did not ask for it.

        Asked if Thompson knew in advance that the money was coming to him, Bassett said, “I do not believe so, no. As a matter of fact, I believe he did not know it was coming.”

        Asked if Thompson called him after receiving the money orders, Bassett said, “Yes. ... He was - what's a good way to put it? - taken aback that I had done that. It bothered him a great deal.”

        Asked next if Thompson offered to return the money orders, Bassett said, “Of sorts, yes, but again, I violated his trust and told him to keep it.”

        Bassett said he had never sent money to Thompson or anyone else before.


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