NCAA Upholds Postseason Ban, Sanctions for Mizzou Athletics

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The NCAA announced Tuesday it would uphold a postseason ban and all related sanctions levied against the University of Missouri football, baseball and softball teams, which includes a bowl ban for the Tigers.

Mizzou came under investigation after academic misconduct violations originating from a former athletics tutor who helped student-athletes cheat their way through classes. The NCAA dropped the hammer on the university in January, handing down postseason bans for all three teams, a 5% scholarship reduction, recruiting restrictions, a fine of $5,000-plus-1% of the budget from each sport. That came in addition to the expected outcomes: vacation of wins and three years of probation. Mizzou made its presentation to an appeals committee in July and were told a decision would come by mid-September.

The tutor in question, Yolanda Kumar, told the Kansas City Star in 2016 she helped over a dozen student-athletes commit academic fraud ranging from completing homework to handling an entire course load to ensure passing grades were achieved. There is no indication Kumar was instructed to do so from coaches or administrators, and Mizzou self-reported the violations once the story went public. Though lauded for their cooperation and transparency throughout the investigation, the NCAA enforcement panel took issue with how long it took Mizzou to realize a violation occurred.

Mizzou turned itself in and agreed to incur the penalties associated with a Level 1 violation but bristled at both how long it took the NCAA to hand down a decision and a refusal to walk back harsh penalties imposed on a cooperative university particularly because the decision to cheat originated from the former tutor rather than a higher power. By contrast, the other recent academic scandal of note in college athletics was at the University of North Carolina, where a disproportional number of student-athletes were enrolled in “paper classes” involving nothing more than an essay at the end of the semester. That investigation ended without significant punishment for the Tar Heels because the sham courses were technically open to the entire student body and constituted a university failure rather than an athletics issue.

As for the 5-6 football team, Mizzou’s 24-20 loss to Tennessee on Saturday would have created a must-win scenario to achieve bowl eligibility in the final weekend of the college football season. The Tigers play at 2–9 Arkansas this Saturday.