The University of Missouri athletics program recently received charges of academic fraud from the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division I Committee on Infractions panel, a decision that includes numerous penalties for three major sports.
After finishing an investigation spanning more than two years, the NCAA has levied a postseason ban for the Missouri football, baseball and softball programs. Initially beginning after Yolanda Kumar, a university tutor, self-reported completing coursework for 12 student-athletes at the institution, the committee’s review of the case revealed a multitude of impermissible educational benefits.
“Simply put, a dozen student-athletes did not complete their own work,” said the committee’s decision. “The tutor completed the coursework for the students despite receiving extensive and comprehensive education on appropriate tutoring practices.”
While the report notes that Missouri’s enforcement staff made efforts to curtail the academic misconduct, the damage had already been done. The committee discovered the tutor had handled math coursework from other institutions as well for six of Missouri’s student-athletes. She also aided two football student-athletes as they took their Missouri math placement exam, an assessment that is intended to be taken alone and without assistance.
“During her interview with the university and the NCAA enforcement staff, the tutor indicated she felt pressure to make sure the students passed and resorted to completing the student-athletes’ coursework,” said the NCAA’s release.
The improper use of a tutor violates several Division I bylaws, including 10.01.1 Honesty and Sportsmanship, 10.1 Unethical Conduct and 126.96.36.199 General Rule. In their entirety, these regulations prohibit student-athletes from receiving any “extra benefit” that would provide student-athletes an advantage over their peers and their adversaries.
In this particular case, it is suggested the Missouri student-athletes and likely some individuals within the program knowingly utilized the services of an outside member. These services – cheating on behalf of the players – exceed the level of benefit expressly authorized by NCAA legislation in bylaw 188.8.131.52.
“I remember when the investigation was first announced more than a year ago,” said Frank Sanchez, Lynn junior and Missouri native. “The university seemed so insistent on aiding the process, so much so that none of us could have seen these harsh penalties coming.”
To address the infractions, the NCAA delivered the following penalties to the individuals involved in the case: three years of probation for the Missouri athletics program, a 10-year show-cause order for the former tutor, postseason bans for each of the involved sports teams, a vacation of records in which the violating student-athletes competed while ineligible and a five percent reduction in scholarships for the upcoming recruiting cycle.
The league has also chosen to fine the university $5,000 plus one percent of each of the program budgets. All in all, the penalties could end up costing the athletics program millions. Keeping these costs in mind, Missouri’s athletic director Jim Sterk has announced his intention to appeal.
“The committee 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,” said Sterk. “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.”
In the midst of their softball and baseball regular season currently, Missouri will need to expedite the appeal process if they hope to see the postseason this year. Quickly, though, the main focus will turn to the football program as the accusations continue. With one of the best Missouri Tiger teams in years set to hit the field this August, these penalties could forever alter the direction of their program.