MEN'S BASKETBALL: Thompson wanted out in May
E-mails show coach was not cooperating with university officials
An e-mail between Ball State head basketball coach Ronny Thompson and President Jo Ann Gora indicates Gora knew as early as May that Thompson wanted to resign his position.
"I understand from our earlier conversation in May, as well as our discussion today, you are requesting to be let out of your contract and you wish to move on to other endeavors," President Jo Ann Gora wrote to Thompson in an e-mail June 26.
However, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Tom Collins said in an interview Wednesday that Thompson never told him anything about wanting to leave Ball State.
"As far as I knew, we were still working through the issues," Collins said.
The e-mail was one of about 20 received through a Freedom of Information Act request on Wednesday that indicate Collins and Gora knew more about Thompson's displeasure with his job than they let on in the days up to his resignation. During that time, both were quoted saying Thompson would remain in his position as head basketball coach.
The e-mails show Thompson as an uncooperative, defiant and distant coach during the last month of his tenure. Throughout the e-mails, both Collins and Gora were supportive of Thompson, even though Thompson adamantly disagreed with the university's handling of the NCAA violations.
Thompson's letter of resignation blamed the university's investigation into the recent NCAA violations for his departure, Collins said Friday. The letter, which was requested as part of the Freedom of Information Act request, was not released.
"Releasing that type of information just doesn't help anybody," Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications Tony Proudfoot said.
The university sent the NCAA a self-report in early June of what it termed secondary violations that involved the men's basketball program. Proudfoot said Wednesday that Thompson had told the university in May that he had concerns with the investigation.
"That conversation largely circled around the process and the conclusion of the university's investigation with the NCAA violations," Proudfoot recalled Wednesday. "[Thompson] disagreed with the conclusions of the investigation."
In a June 4 e-mail, Thompson stated that he would be submitting a letter of rebuttal to Collins.
Thompson also told Collins he would be attending the Regional Compliance Rules Seminar in Miami, but denied being at fault with the violations.
"By [attending], I in no way admit to the conduct described in the letter of reprimand or NCAA report," Thompson wrote.
SUBHEAD: "We were shocked, angered and frightened"
E-mail exchanges also indicated that Thompson had concerns about his working environment.
Upon discovering anonymous notes with racist slurs in the men's basketball office June 24, Thompson e-mailed Collins, Gora and NCAA compliance officer Kyle Brennan, noting that he was "concerned about the safety of my staff as well as myself."
"We were shocked, angered and frightened to find notes in our offices, our copy room and underneath the chair of my secretary," Thompson wrote.
He added he was disturbed that someone had entered his office and requested additional security immediately.
In an e-mail June 26, Gora acknowledged Thompson had expressed concerns about a "hostile working environment" that day, as well as in previous e-mails.
"Ronny, I know this is a difficult time for you, but I want you to know that I stand in support of you as our Head Basketball Coach," Gora wrote. "I will support you in any way I can."
According to material received through the Freedom of Information Act request, Thompson and Gora exchanged seven e-mails from June 2 to June 19, but the university refused to release those e-mails. It is unclear whether Thompson expressed such concerns in those messages. It is also unclear whether Thompson had issues regarding a hostile work environment that predated the incident with the notes.
In her June 26 e-mail, Gora asked Thompson to alert the university to any problems he had with his working environment.
"I have asked you to report those concerns and I now urge you, once again, to allow the university to properly review your concerns through the established procedures," Gora wrote in the e-mail.
However, Thompson refused to report any concerns until June 24, when notes containing racial slurs were found in the men's basketball office. Rumors have circulated in the Muncie area and on fan message boards that Thompson had something to do with the notes.
"I have no comment on that," Collins said Wednesday. "I refuse to speculate on rumors like that."
SUBHEAD: "I guess I can't make anybody do anything"
Collins also had difficulty getting Thompson to focus on his responsibilities as coach, according to the e-mails.
In an e-mail exchange June 26, Collins wrote to Thompson around noon asking for a 30-minute meeting. Collins said Wednesday the purpose of the meeting was to discuss scheduling, recruiting and summer school.
"I'm out of town. What's up?" Thompson responded.
"I need to meet with you relative to our meeting today, when will you return?" Collins asked in a follow-up e-mail.
"I'm out of town to spend some time with my family," Thompson wrote back, ending the e-mail exchange.
Collins said in an interview Wednesday that he "wasn't aware [Thompson] was out of town."
University officials were also unsuccessful in getting Thompson to speak with the media.
After the racist notes were found in the men's basketball offices, speculation rose that Thompson wanted to leave Ball State. In an attempt to quiet the rumors, Collins and Gora sent e-mails to Thompson requesting he speak with local media.
"Ronny, I think your not talking to the media at this point in time is a big mistake for everyone involved," Collins wrote July 9.
"Again, I'm asking you to take 5 minutes, call them back and tell them your (sic) on the road recruiting, you do not have to talk about any other issue," Collins added later. "This is a realistic expectation for the Head Basketball Coach at Ball State University."
Collins also suggested in a separate July 9 e-mail that Thompson contact Vice President for Enrollment, Marketing, and Communications Tom Taylor prior to phoning the media. He stated that Taylor would be able to help him set up the interviews and prepare for the questions that might be asked.
"We knew the press was interested and wanted to give him the opportunity to explain himself," Taylor said, noting he never heard from Thompson.
Thompson did write back to Collins, stating he did not want to contact the media.
"My attornies [sic] has advised me not to discuss anything at this time," Thompson responded.
In a follow-up e-mail, Gora backed up Collins' stance that Thompson should talk to the media.
"I do believe that [not talking to the media] does not serve you well," Gora wrote. "It promotes the swirling of rumors and innuendo and limits your ability to develop fan support."
Thompson did not respond to either of them via e-mail and has yet to issue a public statement.
"I guess I can't make anybody do anything," Collins said Wednesday. "All I can do is request it."