SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (Edited News Release) -- Melissa Stokes, Missouri State University’s head volleyball coach, has announced her resignation, effective Aug. 12, 2019.
The announcement came following an independent investigation by Spencer Fane LLP, which concluded that NCAA violations had occurred within the volleyball program. These violations included allowing a non-qualifier to accompany the team during a foreign tour without personally paying all costs associated with the tour and allowing currently enrolled athletes to participate as campers in Stokes’ volleyball camps.
As a result of the investigation’s findings, the university is in the process of self-reporting the NCAA violations found during the inquiry.
“The university commissioned a review of our volleyball program, due to some concerns that were brought to our attention,” Missouri State Athletic Director Kyle Moats said in a statement. “As a result of the investigation, we have concluded that we need to take the program in a new direction.”
Stokes, who fully participated in the investigation, made a decision to resign.
“For the last 23 years, the Missouri State volleyball program has been my top priority,” said Stokes. “I have always wanted what is best for our student-athletes and the university. To minimize further distraction to the program and the players, I submitted my resignation earlier today.”
Stokes has served as head volleyball coach for the last 23 years, during which time the program amassed a 509-243 overall record, for a .677 winning percentage. Stokes is also the Missouri Valley Conference’s all-time winningest coach in league matches, with 299 MVC wins.
“There’s no question that the Missouri State volleyball program has been tremendously successful with coach Stokes at the helm,” Moats stated. “We appreciate her contributions and wish her the best.”
As part of a negotiated separation agreement, the university agreed to make a severance payment of $80,000. The severance payment is in lieu of any other compensation to which Stokes would have been entitled under her employment agreement. Under the contract, her employment was scheduled to continue through June 30, 2023.
Associate head coach Manolo Concepcion has been named interim head coach, effective immediately. A national search for the head coach position will be conducted at the end of the 2019 season.
Another violation that officials say was not a part of Stokes' "separation agreement" from the school was that she gave players financial advantages in rental properties that she owned.
"Certain student-athletes in the summer of 2015 and the summer of 2017 resided on Stokes' property in the form of reduced or free housing," Dockery explained.
One question that fans will certainly have coming out of the revelations is did Stokes knowingly violate the rules that a long-tenured coach should certainly be aware of? Or were the violations made out of ignorance of the rules?
"I don't know what she thought," Moats said when asked that question. "Poor decision is what I'd call it."
There were violations regardless as to how we got there or how knowledgeable she may have been," Dockery added. "I think everyone agreed that for the university and coach Stokes it was in the best interest of the program to move forward."
Officials say there are no allegations of wrongdoing against any players or assistant coaches and that the school's NCAA compliance department bares no responsibility.
"There's no finding by the individual investigators of any wrongdoing by the administration or that there was an inadequate compliance program."