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Press Box: Why Missouri will lose its NCAA appeal

Press Box: Why Missouri will lose its NCAA appeal

February 10th, 2019 by Colin O'Brien in College Sports

Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk vows the university will appeal NCAA penalties against the Tigers in football, baseball and softball.

Photo by Associated Press /News Tribune.

Colin O'Brien

Colin O'Brien

Missouri officials and coaches have said, since the NCAA handed down postseason bans, recruiting and scholarship restrictions and other sanctions to the football, baseball and softball programs in the last two weeks, they were surprised at the severity of the penalties.

I think they'd say the second-most surprising thing for them has been the level to which the public at large — not just Tiger fans, but fans of other schools and national media as well — shared their point of view.

Athletic director Jim Sterk said Missouri would appeal the sanctions enacted as a result of a tutor completing course work for 12 student-athletes and football head coach Barry Odom said he'd fight for his players. But I think the public reaction emboldened officials like Board of Curators director Jon Sundvold to question the legitimacy of the NCAA and for Sterk to try to undermine the investigation by the Committee on Infractions because a member of the COI panel is also involved with academic fraud reform for the NCAA, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Dave Matter reported.

As compelling as the case is, and as much public support as there has been for Missouri, I don't see it working.

For one, I don't see the NCAA as an organization that caves to public pressure, only to state or federal court rulings.

State Sen. Caleb Rowden's remonstrance filing is not going to sway the NCAA's hand, here, nor will any other action that takes place outside of a courtroom.

Put another way, by the AP's Ralph Russo in a tweet the day of the NCAA's ruling: "Remember an NCAA appeal is equivalent to asking your mom to unground you after she just grounded you."

Worse than that, it's like asking your mom to unground you for not doing your homework after she grounded you when you told her you hadn't done your homework.

Missouri, the NCAA and the tutor agreed these were Level One violations with a mitigating factor, that Missouri self-reported immediately, suspended the athletes in question and fired Yolanda Kumar.

Missouri's argument is the punishments should have been on the lower end of "Level One Mitigating" which offers a range of punishments from none, in most categories, to some, like a 0-to-1 year postseason ban.

Most of Missouri's punishments were on the lower end, and tucked away in its ruling the NCAA said it also took into consideration its investigation into impermissible benefits given to men's basketball players at the end of Frank Haith's tenure. It could be argued the NCAA did go light on Missouri.

None of this is to defend the NCAA, which has protected its very profitable business model of licensing TV rights of amateur sporting events with a large bureaucracy and lots of red tape. Its revenues were more than $1 billion in 2017, in large part because student-athletes creating the product being sold do not have a right to profit off of their own likeness (while the NCAA does) and that amount of revenue is one strong argument the student-athletes are not fairly compensated for their work.

But the NCAA does exist to execute the collective goals and wills of several hundred colleges and universities nationally, most of which do not care about Missouri football's forthcoming bowl ban or the ruling against Kansas' Silvio De Sousa. Just like Missouri didn't really care, at least publicly, about the NCAA's investigations into Louisville or Mississippi.

At least Mississippi, in late 2018, got its unofficial visits restriction for football lifted. I think the repeal of some recruiting restrictions is the best Missouri can hope for in its case, too.