NCAA penalizes Mizzou for tutor violations, AD Sterk promises appeal
COLUMBIA – Mizzou Athletic Director Jim Sterk said he is "shocked and dismayed" over NCAA penalties handed to the school Thursday over the actions of a former tutor. Sterk said he would immediately appeal.
"We will aggressively fight for what's right," he said in a statement shortly after the sanctions were announced.
The cheating investigation involved a tutor who violated academic and ethics rules by completing coursework for twelve student-athletes.
The sanctions, according to the NCAA, include:
- A 2019-20 postseason ban for the football program
- A 2018-19 postseason ban for the baseball and softball programs
- Three years of probation
- A vacation of records in which football, baseball and softball student-athletes competed while ineligible. The university must provide a written report containing the matches impacted to the NCAA media coordination and statistics staff within 45 days of the public decision release
- A 10-year show-cause order for the former tutor. During that period, any NCAA member school employing the tutor must restrict her from any athletically related duties
- A 5 percent reduction in the amount of scholarships in each of the football, baseball and softball programs during the 2019-20 academic year
- Recruiting restrictions for each of the football, baseball and softball programs during the 2019-20 academic year, including:
- A seven-week ban on unofficial visits
- A 12.5 percent reduction in official visits
- A seven-week ban on recruiting communications
- A seven-week ban on all off-campus recruiting contacts and evaluations.
- A 12.5 percent reduction in recruiting-person or evaluation days
- A disassociation of the tutor. Details of the disassociation can be found in the public report (self-imposed by the university)
- A fine of $5,000 plus 1 percent of each of the football, baseball and softball budgets
The investigation centered on former MU athletics tutor Yolanda Kumar. In 2016, Kumar left her job at MU, and later posted on Facebook about her involvement in academic fraud.
The NCAA release said, "For most of the student-athletes, the tutor completed online coursework that included assignments, quizzes or exams. She completed an entire course for one student-athlete and completed portions of a placement exam for two student-athletes."
At a press conference, an NCAA official said, "Although the tutor said she felt pressured, the investigation did not support her allegation that her colleagues directed her to complete the work for the student athletes."
Sterk's statement said, "It is important to note that this was the action of one individual, who acted unilaterally and outside of the expectations that we have established for our staff members."
The news also disappointed many Missouri fans.
"It's discouraging to know that a few of these teams, no matter how well they do next season, it almost kind of doesn't matter," Missouri fan Matt Prescott said.
Other fans said they believe the sanctions make Mizzou sports less respectable than some of its rivals.
"There's always going to be that bitter rivalry between Missouri, KU and Arkansas, and now I kind of feel like we're the butt of the joke," lifelong Columbia resident Robert Hardt said.
In a mid-afternoon press conference Thursday, Sterk said the university fully cooperated with the investigation. He said the athletics department "took appropriate action as soon as it learned what happened."
"We did the right thing," he said.
"It is hard to fathom that the University could be cited for exemplary cooperation throughout this case, and yet end up with these unprecedented penalties that could unfairly and adversely impact innocent and future Mizzou student-athletes," he said.
He said he will work through seniors on the team who may be concerned about their futures, given a bowl game could be out of the picture.
Sterk said he believes the university will win its appeal, but the process could take months. He said he wouldn't speculate about what that might mean for next season.
University of Missouri-Columbia Chancellor Alexander Cartwright called the NCAA's action "harsh and inconsistent." He said Sterk has instilled a culture of integrity and purpose to the athletics department and championed for academic excellence.
"His commitment to the “Win it Right” attitude is on display within Mizzou athletics and our talented student-athletes," Cartwright said.
The NCAA said, "If an appeal is filed there is the ability to try and seek a stay."