What questions remain with Missouri facing sanctions after 2016 NCAA infraction

A Division I Committee on Infractions announced its ruling on an infraction involving a Missouri tutor and 12 student athletes in a Thursday morning release.
Missouri coach Barry Odom heads to the locker room before a Liberty Bowl loss on Sunday, December 31, 2019 in Memphis, Tennessee.

The NCAA’s Infraction Committee announced Thursday that Missouri would be facing sanctions after a tutor violated NCAA ethical conduct, academic misconduct and academic extra benefits rules in 2016. A math and statistics tutor, thought to be Yolanda Kumar, – who was not named in the report – completed coursework for 12 Missouri student-athletes. She claimed to have felt pressured to make sure those athletes passed courses. The NCAA, however, ruled that the records surrounding her actions did not support a “broader institutional scheme.” A Division I Committee on Infractions panel made the ruling.

Here’s a breakdown of five questions surrounding the ruling, the next steps with the NCAA and how the rulings affect Missouri.

What exactly are the sanctions?

Missouri athletics faces three years of probation, as well as a fine of $5,000 and 1 percent of each of the football, softball and baseball budgets. All three MU programs will also lose 5 percent of their scholarship allowances recruiting restrictions for the 2019-2020 season. This includes, but isn’t limited to, a 12.5 percent reduction in official visits and a seven-week ban on recruiting communications.

The terms of probation include developing and implementing an educational program on NCAA legislation for athletics department personnel, filing annual compliance reports and providing a direct link to a statement regarding the infractions on the athletics website landing page.

Perhaps the most upsetting punishment for Missouri fans is that Missouri football will be under a postseason ban for the 2019-2020 season, meaning no bowl game. The baseball and softball teams will also serve their postseason bans in the upcoming 2018-2019 season. No Missouri softball players were selected for this year’s SEC preseason team and Missouri baseball is projected last in SEC East preseason rankings.

Can Missouri appeal the ruling?

Technically, yes, although doing so would likely be a difficult process. The investigation that led to the current ruling took two years; an appeal process would likely take several months.

According to an NCAA information sheet, the infraction appeals process takes around 110 days to complete. Considering that timeframe, there’s a slim possibility the ruling could be overturned before 2019 bowl season. For the ruling to be overturned, a new five-member committee has to be formed and would have to be shown that a “factual finding is clearly contrary” to the previously presented evidence.

Excluding a surprise revelation, there doesn’t seem to be more evidence that could appear and overturn the current ruling. Best case scenario: Possibly one or two punishments are lessened. For example, scholarship allowances may be restored, as was done for Syracuse men’s basketball in 2015 after it appealed its own infractions case. Syracuse’s original scholarship reduction of 12 scholarships over a four year period was reduced to eight by the appeals committee. Otherwise, punishments will likely not be altered.

Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk announced late Thursday in a teleconference that Missouri will file an appeal to the ruling on Thursday afternoon. According to a tweet from the Missourian, collegiate sports lawyer Mike Glazier has been hired as outside counsel for the appeal.

####What does this mean for MU football in 2019?#### Former Clemson quarterback and graduate transfer Kelly Bryant has already told sources he plans on staying at Missouri, so Tiger fans can exhale a big sigh of relief. For the team’s seniors – DeMarkus Acy, Johnathon Johnson and Tucker McCann to name a few – they would have the option to transfer without the one-year residency requirement should they choose to do so. If players stay at MU, their season would end with the conclusion of the Arkansas game on Nov. 30. Other than potential senior transfers, the sanctions don’t immediately affect the 2019 season outside of a bowl ban. The sanctions may, however, affect future seasons. The recruiting restrictions could make it difficult for coach Barry Odom to secure class of 2020 prospects because of a reduction in official visits and a seven-week ban on recruiting communications. ####Missouri’s sanctions vs. UNC’s: What’s the difference?#### In 2017, North Carolina’s official infraction decision stated that the “NCAA infractions case involved allegations that UNC provided student-athletes with extra benefits via special access to and assistance in certain deficient courses.” The academic misconduct had occurred for 18 years, showing that some classes – which student-athletes were encouraged to enroll in – didn’t meet. The infractions committee overseeing the case ultimately didn’t punish UNC after pushback from the university and redefinition of academic fraud. The spokesman for the MU committee, David Roberts, responded several times on a press conference call Thursday that he would not compare the two cases. He did, however, comment that “one could certainly make [the] argument” that Missouri was being penalized for coming forward, telling the truth and self-reporting before adding that if a school were to actively cover up misconduct, their punishments would be more severe. The difference between Missouri’s and UNC’s cases is cited in the decision that UNC stood by the grades its students received and asserted that the students had completed their own work. UNC’s infraction panel ruled that it could not conclude any NCAA academic violations were committed. Missouri, on the other hand, acknowledged that the course work in question was not completed by its student-athletes and was in violation of its honor code. Missouri’s acknowledgment of the infraction is listed under “mitigating factors” in the official decision. At this point in time, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the discrepancy between the two punishments. ####Have any Missouri officials offered comment on the ruling?#### Although there’s been no word yet from softball coach Larissa Anderson, baseball coach Steve Bieser retweeted a comment on the situation on his personal Twitter. Sterk and Chancellor Alexander Cartwright released statements via Mizzou Athletics. “The Committee on Infractions has abused its discretion in applying penalties in this case, and the University will immediately appeal this decision that has placed unfair penalties on our department and programs,” Sterk said. Cartwright praised the leadership of Sterk and his commitment to the “Win it Right” attitude. Coach Odom released a statement later in the afternoon on his own Twitter, echoing the sentiments of Cartwright and Sterk as well as adding that he will “damn sure fight” for Missouri as an institution and for his team. _Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com_

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