COLUMBIA, MO. -- Norm Stewart always was quick to remind reporters and followers that he not only ran a winning basketball program at Missouri, he also ran a clean program.

Sure, there were the rumors about the Tigers' recruiting success in Detroit, especially when they had trouble making inroads in nearby St. Louis. Alexander Wolff and Armen Keteyian reported in the book "Raw Recruits" that assistant coach Rich Daly offered Coach Ben Kelso of Detroit's Cooley High $20,000 if Kelso influenced Cooley star Daniel Lyton to come to Missouri.

But despite the rumors, it was difficult to prove Stewart wrong. Missouri had never made an appearance before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions during Stewart's 23 seasons.

That's about to change. University officials received a letter of official inquiry from the NCAA early last month listing 15 alleged violations.

And perhaps most damaging to Stewart is the charge that he failed to exercise proper control of his program. After years of extolling the virtues of fair play, Stewart is being chastised for ignoring NCAA rules. Daly and fellow assistant Bob Sundvold are charged with not being cooperative with NCAA investigators.

"We will try to show that that is not correct," Missouri Chancellor Haskell Monroe said. "I hope we will be able to demonstrate {the coaching staff} has cooperated."

The excitement surrounding the Tigers' No. 1 ranking for part of this past season has faded. But Stewart still maintains he has an honest program. It just couldn't keep up with the ever-changing NCAA manual, he said.

"I feel that when the evidence is heard, the committee will not find that we have the type of program that deliberately goes out and breaks rules," Stewart said in a statement. "And that is very important to me."

Stewart also pointed out that Missouri self-reported many violations. Still, that didn't help Maryland. The Terrapins' basketball program was hit with NCAA sanctions earlier this year. Missouri officials hope to have their case heard by the committee Aug. 11-14 in Colorado Springs. They have to reply in writing to the NCAA by June 13.

The allegations don't appear to be serious in that there are none involving straight cash transactions for players. None of the violations reported by Wolff and Keteyian are in the NCAA letter. But money did change hands, the NCAA charges.

Other allegations involving the coaching staff include:

Providing financial aid and admission to a freshman, believed to be P. J. Mays, who did not meet academic requirements. Mays left the university in November 1988.

Providing Mays with money for an airline ticket to his hometown of Cincinnati. Sundvold's reporting this to the NCAA started the investigation.

Arranging for travel expenses and other money for a companion of a recruit making his official campus visit. The letter also charges the coaching staff provided recruits with extra cash that exceeded the actual cost of transportation.

Providing employment for incoming freshmen at Stewart's summer basketball camp when they visited campus during the school's summer orientation program. That program is available to all students.

The letter also charges that Vic Adams, a Missouri "middleman" in Detroit, picked up Lyton's letter of intent. Lyton left school after only three weeks during the fall semester.

Another charge claims that Missouri arranged for a private tutor to aid a recruit as he tried to improve his standardized test scores.

"Understand that at this point, these are allegations," Monroe said. "Just that. Legally speaking, we are forming a response."

But there's no due process before the infractions committee. Monroe, Stewart and Athletic Director Dick Tamburo say they will contest some of the allegations, but it appears unlikely a penalty will be entirely avoided. Even if the penalty is light, the Tigers could be facing some serious storm clouds.

First, there is the future of center Doug Smith. The Tigers' leading scorer had been saying he plans to return for his senior season. But after hearing about the letter last month, Smith told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he didn't know what he would decide, although the deadline to enter the NBA draft has passed.

Second, Daly's and Sundvold's tenures appear to be tenuous. The athletic department usually gives each a year-long appointment every spring. This spring, Monroe said they were given just three-month appointments that end June 30. Their situations will be evaluated at that time, he said.

And finally, Missouri could be facing more bad news. Monroe said the Chicago law firm of Coffield, Ungaretti, Harris and Slavin still is investigating two possible violations not contained in the letter. Monroe wouldn't reveal the violations, but said they would be reported to the NCAA if proven true. Tamburo estimated he would spend $155,000 when he retained the law firm 17 months ago. Thus far, the department has shelled out more than $298,000 and that figure will increase, he said.

"I'm not very happy with us spending that kind of money," Tamburo said. "But I keep saying that it's impossible to put a price tag on the integrity of the university."

Stewart still is defiant. He said he never considered resigning and that his job was never in jeopardy. He says Missouri still has a clean program. And despite not revealing which ones, he's convinced some of the violations are not true. His support among boosters still appears to be fairly strong. But those same supporters are leery now that the letter has arrived.

"There are people that are loyal to the university that believe if they are guilty, Coach Stewart and his staff should pay the legal fees," said Jay Joern, a prominent St. Louis alum and member of the school's Intercollegiate Athletics Committee.

Said Stewart: "I am confident that the Committee on Infractions will take into consideration the nature of the allegations, the fact that the basketball program had a spotless record of compliance, and that we have spent thousands of dollars in thoroughly investigating ourselves."

Stewart's superiors aren't showing as much confidence. "I'm grateful that the allegation list is not longer," Monroe said. "I'm grateful that apparently through the investigation, the NCAA is satisfied that many other accusations are not substantive enough for the NCAA to list them."

Still, the ones listed may ensure Missouri has seen its last No. 1 rating for a long time.