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Sterk: NCAA ruling on Mississippi State shows Mizzou penalties were 'excessive, inconsistent'

Sterk: NCAA ruling on Mississippi State shows Mizzou penalties were 'excessive, inconsistent'

Jim Sterk and Barry Odom

Mizzou head football coach Barry Odom (right) talks with Mizzou athletics director Jim Sterk before the start of a Mizzou Coaches Caravan event in St. Louis in May 2018. (Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI)

The NCAA announced sanctions Friday for Mississippi State in an academic misconduct case involving a part-time tutor that completed coursework for 10 MSU football players and a men's basketball player.

That should sound familiar to Missouri fans, who have been waiting months for a resolution to MU's academic fraud saga.

Mississippi State was placed on three years probation and hit with recruiting restrictions and scholarship reductions but, unlike Mizzou, no postseason ban. Also unlike Missouri, Mississippi State was able to work with the NCAA through negotiated resolution, a newly adopted process that allows schools and the NCAA to agree on violations and penalties without having to hold formal hearings. The negotiated resolution process was passed into NCAA bylaw last August and went into effect this past January, just weeks before the NCAA Committee on Infractions announced Mizzou's sanctions.

Mississippi State athletics director John Cohen said in a statement Friday that "we take full responsibility for these actions" and that "our staff at Mississippi State was proactive in our preventative measures, quick to respond and worked in full cooperation with the NCAA enforcement staff."

His counterpart at Missouri had a few things to say about the ruling, too.

"In response to many questions we have received in regard to today’s NCAA infractions case decision involving another Division I institution, it is important to note that the University of Missouri did not have the opportunity to utilize the NCAA’s new negotiated resolution process because our case was already in process when the organization’s membership adopted it," Missouri athletics director Jim Sterk said Friday.  

“We believe that the penalties imposed in the recently decided and factually similar case (at Mississippi State) further illustrate that the penalties imposed on Mizzou were excessive and inconsistent with previous case precedent. We have never wavered from our stance or the merits of our appeal and remain hopeful it will be successful.

“Thanks to the incredible work of our student-athletes, coaches and staff, Mizzou is poised to have a breakout year across many sports, and we look forward to resolving this in the future so we can move forward as a University and continue to Win it Right.”

Unlike Missouri's case, the tutor in question at Mississippi State refused to participate with the NCAA investigation. Negotiated resolutions may not be appealed and do not set case precedent for other infractions cases, which means the outcome of MSU's case should not influence any decision the NCAA Infractions Appeals Committee makes on Mizzou's pending appeal. Mizzou made its formal appeal on July 18 and continues to wait for a final ruling from the appeals committee. 

Just like Missouri, Mississippi State was lauded for its exemplary cooperation with the NCAA, but there are subtle differences in how the NCAA viewed the two cases. The NCAA listed six mitigating factors that give weight to Mississippi State's cause, compared to just four for Missouri. Mississippi State was cited for its "prompt self-detection" and "self-disclosure" of its academic violations, while in Missouri's case, MU was only cited for prompt self-disclosure of its violations, not self-detection. Former tutor Yolanda Kumar's allegations of academic fraud first came to light when she admitted to helping ahtletes cheat in a Facebook post, prompting MU's internal investigation in the fall of 2016.

Also, Mississippi State was credited with "the implementation of a system of compliance methods designed to ensure rules compliance." The NCAA did not find the same true of Missouri. Based on all the factors reviewed, Missouri's violations were ruled Level I-Standard while Mississippi State's were Level I-Mitigated.

Before the negotiated resolution was an option, Missouri could have gone through the normal hearing process with the Committee on Infractions or the summary disposition process, where the school and involved individuals agree on the facts of the case then accept the violations and proposed penalties after a COI review. Mizzou and the NCAA enforcement staff submitted a summary disposition report during its case, but the COI rejected the report when the tutor, Kumar, was not included as a named party in the case. 

For Mississippi State, on top of vacating an unspecified number of wins from the 2018 football season and the 2018-19 men's basketball season the school will have 10 football players miss eight games this season. MSU loses one scholarship for the 2020-21 basketball season and two scholarships for both the 2021 and 2022 football seasons. The former tutor involved received a 10-year show cause penalty.

Back in January, the NCAA placed Mizzou was also placed on three years probation through Jan. 30, 2022, plus postseason bans for the baseball, football and softball programs. Records for those teams were vacated, plus fines for all three teams, a 5-percent reduction in scholarships for all three teams and recruiting restrictions. 

Matter on Mizzou

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