Missouri State men’s basketball coach Dana Ford was accused of groping a woman at a September golf tournament and is part of an ongoing criminal investigation in Polk County.
An incident report obtained from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office indicates Ford is under investigation for sexual misconduct. No criminal charges have been filed.
In a statement Thursday evening through his attorney Joe Passanise, Ford said the allegations were untrue, adding that he was paired with other participants during the golf tournament who did not corroborate the woman’s account of what happened.
Missouri State said in a statement to the Springfield News-Leader that it was made aware of the allegations against Ford in September.
“We have taken these allegations seriously,” the statement said. “Given the nature of the allegations, they were immediately assigned to the university’s Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC) for investigation. Following an initial investigation, the claims were unsubstantiated based on available evidence. The university has no further comment at this time.”
The accuser and her boyfriend, two recent Missouri State graduates, recently spoke to the News-Leader on the condition of anonymity. It is in the News-Leader’s policy to not name victims of sexual assault if they do not wish to be publicly identified.
The woman said the event took place at Silo Ridge Golf & Country Club on Sept. 8 in Bolivar during the Cash Moore Foundation Tournament. Text messages and location data shared by the victim indicate she was there on the day of the event.
The woman said she was standing on the back of a golf cart with Ford, who she said was intoxicated, sitting inside the cart. She said Ford reached back and grabbed her breasts before making a comment about her sweatshirt concealing her breasts. The woman said she then ran off in tears.
Following the tournament, the woman said, she contacted Missouri State University’s Title IX office, which handles complaints of sexual harassment involving students or employees. Emails provided by the accuser to the News-Leader confirm she communicated with Missouri State’s Title IX coordinator Melissa Berry.
The accuser said the majority of her interactions with the university’s Title IX office took place over the phone and from her perspective did not appear to result in significant action. She followed by contacting the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, which began investigating on Sept. 22, according to the incident report.
Ford is on the back end of his fifth season as Missouri State’s head coach. His deal currently runs through the 2024-25 season. His adjusted salary for the 2022-23 season was set at $455,903 after a university-wide 4% pay increase this summer. A clause in his contract reads that he can be terminated without pay for just cause in the event of “dishonesty, moral turpitude, a conviction for a felony, major infractions of NCAA rules and regulations” among others.
During Ford’s time in Springfield, he and his wife, Christina Ford, have been active in the community through “The Rebound Foundation” which is a non-profit organization that works to help women and children recover from domestic abuse.
Missouri State improved to 13-12 on Wednesday night with a 61-59 win over Belmont. The Bears are currently alone in sixth place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings with five games remaining in the regular season.
Here is Ford’s full statement from Thursday evening:
“I felt compelled to respond to the serious allegations made today and to correct some factual errors. The golf tournament mentioned in the article took place last September. During that tournament, I was on a team with three other players. None of those participants corroborated the allegation referenced because it didn’t happen.
“The university investigated this situation when it was reported. The university found no evidence to support these false allegations. I participated fully with that investigation. These false allegations are particularly disturbing in light of the fact that my wife and I have spent much of our lives fighting domestic violence against women and children through our nonprofit Rebound Foundation.
“The goal of this statement is to provide my position. Missouri State University and my wife stand with me. My hope is that those who support Missouri State Athletics will continue to support the outstanding athletes whom I have the privilege of coaching.”