BREAKING: NCAA hands Missouri football, baseball, softball postseason bans
The NCAA released findings Thursday of an investigation into allegations that a former Missouri athletics department tutor took coursework for several former student-athletes. In the findings, the NCAA determined that the former tutor violated NCAA ethical conduct, academic misconduct and academic extra benefits rules by assisting 12 former student-athletes with coursework.
As a result, Missouri has been hit with penalties that include a postseason ban for the football team for this upcoming football season, postseason bans for the baseball and softball teams for their upcoming seasons, and a five percent reduction of scholarships for all three sports.
Other sanctions include three years of probation for the athletics department, a vacation of record for the baseball, softball and football teams for all games in which ineligible student-athletes participated, recruiting restrictions for each of the baseball, softball and football teams during the 2019-2020 academic year, and a fine of $5,000 plus one percent of the football, baseball and softball budgets. The former tutor has received a 10-year show-cause order, during which any NCAA member school employing her must restrict her from any athletically related duties, and has been disassociated from Missouri.
In a joint statement from athletics director Jim Sterk and chancellor Alexander Cartwright, Missouri made clear that it will appeal the decision. The NCAA website spells out a 110-day timeline for appeals to be processed, but says it may take longer depending on the case.
"The university will immediately appeal this decision that has placed unfair penalties on our department and programs," Sterk 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 current and future Mizzou student-athletes."
The NCAA report, which can be viewed here in its entirety, said that the former tutor, who was not named but is believed to be Yolanda Kumar, who has been outspoken about taking coursework for student athletes in the past, completed online coursework for students, including quizzes and exams. She also completed an entire course for one football player and completed part of a placement exam for another student-athlete. In short, the findings said, "the 12 student-athletes did not complete their own work.”
David Roberts, the chief hearing officer for the NCAA Committee on Infractions panel that produced this decision, characterized the actions of the former tutor as Level One violations, the most severe in the NCAA's four tiers of violations. The NCAA website describes Level One violations as those that "seriously undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model as set forth in the Constitution and bylaws, including any violation that provides or is intended to provide a substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive or other advantage, or a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit."
Six of the student-athletes in question had coursework completed for two Missouri math classes completed for them by the former tutor. The university has determined that three of those six student-athletes violated the school's honor code. The other six students received impermissible assistance in online courses from other schools. The tutor was found to have assisted two student-athletes with a math placement exam. Both of those students were found by Missouri to have violated the honor code.
The report states that the former tutor was not directed by her colleagues to complete the coursework for student-athletes. Roberts said "there was no evidence to corroborate or support the assertion" that the former tutor was compelled by a superior in the athletics department to complete coursework for student-athletes. The report says the tutor was found to have "received extensive and comprehensive education on appropriate tutoring practices."
However, the report also says that the tutor was contacted directly by an academic coordinator about one student-athlete and told that the student-athlete needed to pass. The tutor reportedly resorted to completing that athlete's coursework in an effort to help him or her pass. The report states that the tutor felt a similar pressure from other academic coordinators in relation to other student-athletes and thus continued to perform coursework for those students.
A key factor in these sanctions seems to be that Missouri willingly admitted to the NCAA that the violations had taken place. In its report, the NCAA distinguished between its actions in this case and a recent investigation into the legitimacy of classes at North Carolina by pointing out that North Carolina stood by the courses and grades it awarded student-athletes. The report reads "UNC asserted that although courses were created and graded by an office secretary, student-athletes completed their own work. Here, by contrast, Missouri acknowledged that the tutor completed student-athletes' work and, in most instances, this conduct violated its honor code."
Roberts said on a conference call Thursday that Missouri "did the right thing" by self-reporting the actions of the former tutor. However, he also said that self-reporting was a "significant issue" that factored into the penalties.
"When a member institution comes forward and self-reports a violation and agrees to the prospect of a severe, Level One (violation), there are consequences that happen," Roberts said.
The postseason bans in football, baseball and softball will include conference tournament and championship play, meaning each sport will have its season end after the conclusion of its final regular-season game. Missouri must provide the NCAA with a list of games in which any student-athlete impacted by the tutor participated within 45 days. The university will then have to vacate all records from those games.
The five-percent decrease in scholarships will reduce the football scholarship capacity from 85 to 81. The baseball team's scholarship count will drop from 11.7 full scholarships to 11.12, and the softball team's will drop from 12 full scholarships to 11.4. The three sports will also each be subject to recruiting sanctions that include 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 evaluations and a 12.5 percent reduction in evaluation days.
This is a developing story that will be updated.