created 11 months ago | Tagged:
William A Cunn
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A Missouri men's basketball fan who regularly traveled with the team to NCAA tournament games the past four seasons is among more than a dozen people facing federal drug conspiracy charges for cocaine distribution. Levi McLean Franklin Coolley, a 33-year-old car stereo shop owner, was on the team plane on tournament trips to Boise, Idaho, and Phoenix in 2009; Buffalo, N.Y., in 2010; and to Washington, D.C., in 2011. Coolley also joined a team flight to Columbia from Austin, Texas, in January and received complimentary tickets from Missouri players at nine games in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.
In March, FBI agents arrested Coolley on felony cocaine distribution charges at the Missouri team hotel in Omaha, Neb., hours before the Tigers' most recent NCAA appearance, a second-round loss to Norfolk State. Missouri athletic officials said that an internal review found no improper influence by Coolley, who was on the team flights as a guest of Jay Lindner, a Columbia real estate developer and prominent Missouri donor.
Missouri athletic director Mike Alden told the Tribune that he was "shocked" by Coolley's arrest and didn't think the fan's contact with the program involved the improper exchange of tickets by student-athletes or other NCAA violations. Like other Division I programs, Missouri allows major donors to purchase empty seats on team planes when traveling to big events such as NCAA and conference tournaments and football bowl games.