COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The NCAA denied an appeal by the University of Missouri's to overturn sanctions against its football, baseball and softball programs. The sanctions include postseason play.
Mizzou officials called the infractions overly harsh. The school argued in a 64-page brief to the NCAA's appeals committee the penalties handed down Jan. 31 are contrary to NCAA precedent, were not supported or appropriate given the nature of the allegations, and could have a chilling effect on future NCAA enforcement.
The case began in late 2016 when a tutor, Yolanda Kumar, acknowledged she had violated NCAA rules by doing course work and ensuring athletes in football, baseball and softball passed certain courses. Missouri launched its own investigation after Kumar made statements about the academic fraud on social media, and then began working hand-in-hand with the NCAA on its probe.
The school self-imposed many penalties, and admitted its forthcoming nature would result in leniency. Instead, the NCAA hammered the Tigers with severe penalties that received widespread condemnation. Among those who took umbrage were U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, many state officials, and coaches and administrators at rival institutions. The football, baseball and softball teams were banned from the postseason for a year, the entire athletic department was placed on probation, and Missouri was docked scholarships and given recruiting restrictions.
Coaches reacted quickly to the news of the appeal denies. Missouri Head Football Coach Barry Odom's Tigers could have become bowl eligible with a victory Friday at Arkansas.
"I hate the news for our program and for our seniors who have represented the University in a very positive way," said Missouri Head Football Coach Barry Odom. "This decision negatively impacts their short experience in life as college student-athletes who had nothing to do with this situation. It's a tough lesson to be dealt, but they will learn from this and motivationally use it later in life when hardship comes along."
University of Missouri Head Baseball Coach Steve Bieser calls the penalty cruel.
"Our program as a whole is clearly disappointed with today's news from the NCAA," said Bieser. "My heart is specifically broken for this group of student-athletes currently on the team. These student-athletes have done everything right since becoming a Tiger, but yet are cruelly penalized for the actions of one individual from years' past. While we obviously strongly disagree with the NCAA's final decision, we will without a doubt rally with each other and make the most of the upcoming 2020 campaign."
MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright and Athletic Director Jim Sterk issued a joint statement following the denial of the appeal:
"We are deeply disappointed and appalled by the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee's decision to shirk its responsibilities and simply uphold sanctions that are not consistent with precedent or even common sense.
Despite this frustrating and disappointing outcome, the University of Missouri and Mizzou Athletics will continue to stand for integrity, and we will become stronger despite the challenges we are faced with today. We have outstanding student-athletes in all three affected programs and they are building something special here at Mizzou.
We are grateful for everyone who has supported Mizzou and our "Make it Right" campaign over these last several months, and during the nearly 19 weeks it took to reach this troubling conclusion.
Today's decision raises serious questions about whether the current NCAA enforcement system encourages or discourages cultures of compliance and integrity. While we have exhausted our NCAA appeal avenues, we will continue to advocate for meaningful reform within the NCAA enforcement process.
Today, about 180 student-athletes who had nothing to do with the actions of one rogue part-time employee will pay a steep price. NCAA enforcement officials noted that prior to the violation the university employed a robust institutional system to ensure rules compliance. Once the problem was known, we self-reported immediately, held individuals accountable and cooperated with the investigation in what NCAA officials described as "exemplary" fashion.
Meanwhile, a recent case involving Mississippi State University with similar circumstances as Mizzou's yielded a very different result. MSU, like us, acted with the highest integrity. MSU's case followed a new NCAA process that was not available to us and resulted in an outcome that, we believe, was more reasonable given the circumstances. The inconsistency of these decisions make it difficult for anyone to comprehend how Mizzou could receive such harsh sanctions.
In its decision on our case, the appeals committee wrote that a greater discussion and a better process is needed. We could not agree more.
It wrote: "This committee believes it is critical for the NCAA membership to discuss and evaluate the application, assessment and precedential value of infractions cases not only when parties agree on mitigating and aggravating factors, but also the appropriate precedential value and approach for cases in the entirety of the infractions processes. Doing so would better equip this committee and the Committee on Infractions in discharging its duties, and in turn improve the infractions process and yield better guidance for the membership as a whole."
We strongly disagree that the appeals committee did not have the power to correct this mistake. The point of this process was not to use a formula to reach a conclusion, but to bring the benefit of consideration and judgement to achieve consistency with its final decision.
We know our dedicated Mizzou fans will help us right this wrong by filling the stands and rooting for our Tigers. We deeply appreciate the outpouring of support from every corner of the state and Tiger fans around the country who united behind Mizzou and our student-athletes who proudly wear the Black & Gold.