COLUMBIA, Mo. — In a meeting with media Monday, Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk reiterated his belief the NCAA's Committee On Infractions "abused their discretion" and went into greater detail about the university's forthcoming appeal of the penalties announced a week and a half ago.
Andy Humes, who was named executive associate athletic director for compliance and administration in March 2018 and worked with Sterk at San Diego State, was also present to help elaborate on Sterk's comments and said the COI's decision "flies in the face of precedent."
Missouri's argument is due to the NCAA by Friday and will go out at the end of the week, Sterk said. The NCAA has several days to respond, after which Missouri has 30 days to submit its official appeal.
"I think there's some points that we're going to make in our appeal that I can't specifically say, but I think there's some points that we're going to be making that I think lend itself to having some of their decisions overturned," Sterk said.
Renowned NCAA attorney Michael Glazier was retained for the investigation and will help lead Missouri's case in appeals. Sterk confirmed Monday two others, Rick Evrard (like Glazier, from Kansas City's Bond, Schoeneck and King) and Chris Griffin of Tampa, Fla., will join the process. Both have experience working NCAA cases as well. Sterk was not able to estimate a cost for the university's legal representation.
Sterk indicated Missouri would be judicious in its appeal, and said because violations did occur, the three years of probation and order to vacate wins would go unchallenged. But he called the postseason bans, recruiting restrictions, scholarship reductions and fine for the football, baseball and softball programs "excessive."
"We were open and honest, and only a couple, two or three schools in the last decade have received 'exemplary cooperation,'" Sterk said. "The penalties seem very excessive for the cooperation that we had."
One reason the athletic department was caught off-guard with the penalties is that, after working with the NCAA's enforcement staff to report violations, the COI did not accept Missouri's summary disposition of its findings and instead went forward with its own investigation.
Missouri's argument of the NCAA's COI overstepping its bounds is the committee did not fully account for the number of mitigating factors the university provided during the investigation, and assessed penalties that defied convention given Missouri's cooperation with the investigation.
"At the end of the day, I think that's one thing that we're certainly going to address on the appeal," Humes said. "When you look at the charge that they have, the committee, in how you approach those aggravating and mitigating factors, you look at the number and you look at the weight. And on its face, number, four mitigating, two aggravating, it didn't seem that the decision had much discussion about weight. I think we think that's an issue, especially when one of those four mitigating is exemplary cooperation, which is really difficult to get and should carry significant weight, and it doesn't seem like any weight was attributed to it."
In the process of the appeal, Humes said Missouri can choose to accept postseason bans for baseball or softball at any time, pointing to Syracuse doing the same thing a few years ago, and said if it came to that Missouri would accept the ban this year if one or both teams figure to miss the postseason anyway.
According to Humes, one athlete each from the softball and baseball teams and seven players on the football team competed while ineligible. Humes said both the COI's overall punishment, as well as giving baseball and softball the same punishment despite one student-athlete on each team receiving impermissible benefits from a tutor, was uncharacteristic and inconsistent when looking at past precedent, and didn't know if the NCAA was trying to be consistent just in Missouri's case in assessing the same penalty across the three teams.
"I think it's hard, frankly, it's hard to understand the decision," Humes said. "So it's hard to pick it apart and try and figure out why they may have consistently, or if that was their reasoning for doing it. I'm just not sure. There wasn't a lot of explanation for the discussion on the factors or why these penalties were included, and that will be part of our appeal."