The NCAA handed one-year postseason bans and other penalties to Missouri's football, baseball and softball programs while placing its entire athletic department on probation Thursday after a two-year investigation revealed academic misconduct involving a former tutor.
The penalties mean that the Tigers' football team won't be eligible for the SEC title game or a bowl game this fall. Their baseball and softball programs will not be allowed to participate in the SEC or the NCAA tournaments.
Missouri Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright said the school would appeal “this harsh and inconsistent decision.” Any appeal could take several months.
“We are shocked and dismayed by the penalties that have been imposed today and will aggressively fight for what is right,” athletic director Jim Sterk said.
The Division I Committee on Infractions said the former tutor, Yolanda Kumar, admitted in late 2016 she had “violated NCAA ethical conduct, academic misconduct and academic extra benefits rules when she completed academic work for 12 student-athletes.”
Kumar told the panel she felt pressured to ensure athletes passed certain courses, primarily in mathematics. But according to the committee's report, “the investigation did not support that her colleagues directed her to complete the student-athletes' work.”
NCAA investigators said Kumar completed course work offered by Missouri, those offered by other schools and a math placement exam required of all students. In one instance, Kumar allegedly completed an entire course for a football player, whose name was not revealed.
The school began investigating after Kumar said on social media that she had committed academic fraud. Sterk sent a letter to Kumar that she also posted on social media in which he confirmed she had provided impermissible benefits and could no longer be associated with the athletic department.
“In this particular case, the institution, the tutor and enforcement all agreed this was a Level I case, which is severe misconduct,” said David Roberts, the chief hearing officer for the infractions panel and a special advisor to the president at Southern California. “The case starts off with that agreement and the association has put in place a penalty matrix.”
The NCAA acknowledged proactive steps by Missouri in investigating the academic fraud, but the penalties remained stiff.
Along with three years of probation and the postseason bans, the programs also must vacate any records for games that included participation by the 12 athletes. The programs will see a 5% cut in scholarships for the upcoming academic year and recruiting restrictions include a seven-week ban on unofficial visits, off-campus contacts and any communication with prospects.
The NCAA also fined the school $5,000 plus 1% of each program's budget.
Kumar has already been barred by the university from working for the athletic department. She also received a 10-year show-cause order from the NCAA that bars her from working with athletes.
Roberts said the infractions committee has recommended legislative relief waivers for athletes affected by the ruling. That means those unable to participate in the postseason could transfer elsewhere without having to redshirt.