Indiana Daily Student

Visit to Lubbock a trip among friends

Budget director joined Ferguson, May to visit son at school

While Sean May and his father, Scott May, were discussing the future with former men's basketball Bob Knight and IU trustee Stephen Ferguson was talking about old times with Knight, State Budget Director Betty Cockrum was hugging her older son, Joel Merriman.\nCockrum and her younger son, junior Gavin Merriman, were the fourth and fifth passengers on a Cook Group jet to Lubbock, Texas, Oct. 27.\nSome have questioned Ferguson's motive for the trip to Lubbock, saying Ferguson, a lawyer who has done work for Knight in the past, might have scheduled the trip as retaliation against IU for Knight's firing in September of 2000.\nDavid McCarty, director of public relations for Cook Inc. said the company would not discuss internal matters like the use of corporate aircraft. \n"The planes are used at the discretion of the senior management," McCarty said. Both May and Ferguson are classified as such, he said.\nFerguson, a trustee appointed by Gov. Frank O'Bannon in 1998, is the company's executive vice president. Scott May also works for Cook Group and arranged the trip, Ferguson said. May is a board member of a Cook Group holding, CFC Inc., a real-estate development company, McCarty said.\nFerguson had known of the trip for weeks, Cockrum said, and she went along at Ferguson's insistence.\n"He's a big family guy," Cockrum said. "Since the … attacks, it's been difficult for me because my son's in Lubbock. I just want to give him a hug … and not being able to do that is a bit tricky."\nCockrum, who had no connection with May's visit, said she and Ferguson became friends while she worked in the Indianapolis city government. The two worked on a variety of issues because of his role with Cook Group. \n"It really had nothing to do with the Mays. It was an opportunity to visit my son," Cockrum said. "When Steve is in town, he often visits. I said something about plans with my son, and he said he was taking a trip to Texas Tech. One thing led to another, and I was going with them."\nCockrum surprised her son Joel, saying he needed to meet Ferguson at the Lubbock airport to receive a care package.\n"(Joel) was so stunned," Cockrum said. "I told him to meet at the airport at 9 a.m. … and 9 a.m. Saturday is not agreeable with 23-year old college boys. So, you can imagine the shock when he came around the corner to see his mom and his younger brother. It was wonderful."\nThe trip did not violate NCAA rules and was not a strike against IU President Myles Brand for the Knight's dismissal, Ferguson said.\nThe idea that he was out for revenge is "the most ludicrous thing I\'ve ever heard," Ferguson said Sunday. \n"I'd rather see Sean May play here," he said. "That's not punishment on Myles Brand, that's more punishment on me."\nFreshman Scott May Jr., Sean's brother and walk-on on this year's basketball team, said the accusations against Ferguson are completely false.\n"Whatever people are trying to say is made up," May said. "We've known Bob Knight for years, and we've known Steve for years."\nCampus reporter George Lyle IV contributed to this story.

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