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Gov. Bill Clements knew of payments to SMU football...

By DAVID BARRON

DALLAS -- Gov. Bill Clements knew of payments to SMU football players as early as 1983 and was responsible for deciding to continue the pay-for-play scheme in 1985, a committee of bishops reported Friday.

The report said Clements, then chairman of the Southern Methodist University Board of Governors, overruled two top-ranking SMU officials in 1985 and ordered athletic director Bob Hitch to continue the payments less than three months after SMU went on NCAA probation for the infractions.

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'Clements asked him (Hitch) whether the payments could be continued, and when Hitch responded that they could, Hitch recalled Clements telling him specifically and unambiguously, 'then do it,'' according to the report.

On Nov. 11, 1983, the day Clements began a three-year term as chairman of the SMU board of governors, university president Donald Shields complained about the payments and was told by Clements 'to calm down and not be so self-righteous,' the report said.

In Austin, Clements refused to comment on the bishops' report.

The 1983 and 1985 incidents were centerpieces of a 48-page litany of illegal payments, power plays and coverups at SMU since Clements first became chairman of its board of governors in 1967. Clements resigned from the board of governors when he became Texas governor in January.

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Continuation of payments after August 1985 resulted in an unprecedented one-year ban on SMU football by the NCAA. SMU later canceled its 1988 footbll season as well.

Although Clements figures prominently in the report, the four United Methodist Church bishops on the committee said all SMU trustees in some way shared responsibility for the SMU payment scandal. Bishop Ben Oliphint of Houston said that before Clements' 1985 decision, six SMU officials knew of the improper payments -- Robert Stewart III, Edwin Cox Sr., Paul Corley, former Dallas Mayor Robert Folsom, Clements and Shields, who resigned late last year as SMU's president.

Friday's report contained several recommendations to resolve the SMU athletic scandal, including an investigation of all other SMU athletic programs, a policy allowing open meetings of SMU trustees and the appointment of a vice president for church relations to represent the church's interests in the SMU administration.

'SMU is not named Southern University, but Southern Methodist University,' said Bishop Louis W. Schowengerdt of Albuquerque, N.M., chairman of the committee.

'At SMU, the basic principles of Christian faith should guide the board of governors to aim for a higher level of actions than at a state university. 'Everyone is doing it' can never be an excuse for SMU.'

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The bishops committee interviewed 62 witnesses, including Clements, during its three-month investigation. Eleven key witnesses refused to cooperate, including Stewart and former SMU football coaches Bobby Collins and Ron Meyer.

Other findings by the committee included that SMU officials William Hutchinson, Cox and Corley began a 'concerted effort' to cover up Clements' involvement on the payment scandals beginning in November 1986, about the time of the state election.

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