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MU athletic director 'shocked and dismayed' by NCAA's penalties

MU athletic director 'shocked and dismayed' by NCAA's penalties

February 1st, 2019 by Colin O'Brien in College Sports

In this Aug. 11, 2016, file photo, Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk takes questions from the media during a press conference at the Columns Club in Memorial Stadium.

Photo by Associated Press /News Tribune.

COLUMBIA — Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk said in a conference call Thursday he was "shocked and dismayed" the NCAA elected to hammer MU for self-reported Level One violations relating to impermissible benefits provided by academic tutor Yolanda Kumar.

Among other recruiting restrictions and a fine, the NCAA announced earlier Thursday that Missouri's football, softball and baseball programs would be subject to one-year postseason bans in connection to the investigation.

Softball coach Larissa Anderson was not coaching at Missouri when Kumar came forward in November 2016 with violations that had occurred during that year, and baseball coach Steve Bieser was hired in June 2016.

Missouri will appeal the NCAA's decision, a process that will take at least 110 days per the NCAA's timeline of appeals, but often takes longer because of complexity, which means the postseason bans for baseball and softball should be stayed as long as the investigation is ongoing.

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Sterk said he expects the process to take months, not weeks, and estimated it could take as many as six months to conclude.

Missouri retained counsel Mike Glazier, a well-known collegiate sports attorney based in Kansas City, for the investigation and will keep him for the appeals process.

Sterk cited the NCAA's recognition of "exemplary cooperation" and thought Missouri would receive probation and an order to vacate wins, and was surprised at the severity of the NCAA's decision in light of that cooperation, as well as actions the program took immediately, like restricting the student-athletes implicated from competition.

"We expect to win the appeal," Sterk said on the conference call.

Per the NCAA's penalty guidelines for significant infractions — which are either Level One or Two and rank in severity from Mitigation (the lowest) to Standard to Aggravation (the highest) — Missouri received the "Mitigation" punishment for most of its self-reported Level One violations, which include 0-1 year of postseason bans and 0-12.5 percent scholarship reductions.

The "Standard" competition penalty would have enacted postseason bans for 1-2 years and increased scholarship reductions to between 12.5 and 25 percent, while "Aggravation" would enact 2-4 year postseason bans and a 25-50 percent scholarship reduction.

To win the appeal, Missouri will have to argue convincingly the violations were Level Two, not Level One, despite agreeing with the NCAA they were Level One for this report, or try to convince the NCAA its penalties were too harsh within the Level One Mitigating classification given Missouri's level of cooperation.

"I'm not an attorney, and we have people working on that, but I think it's 'Mitigating,' and that there's mitigating circumstances with this as a Level One," Sterk said. "So, should have been at the lower end of the Level One penalties."

The NCAA's punishments as enacted fall across the spectrum of the "Mitigation" classification, with exception to the three-year probation and recruiting restrictions, which fall under the "Standard" classification.

When asked if he was surprised Missouri was receiving recruiting penalties despite the infractions being improper academic benefits, Sterk said, "Great point, and yes, surprise."

Sterk also said he felt he and Missouri did things by the book in this case and would not change their approach, and added the resolution for being punished severely — and unjustly, to him — has to come from the NCAA.