After a months-long appeal process, the NCAA on Tuesday upheld sanctions against the University of Missouri, stemming from cases of academic misconduct.
In a release announcing the news, the NCAA wrote that the Committee on Infractions did not agree with the University’s rationale for its appeal, in which Mizzou argued for lighter penalties citing mitigation efforts it took once it became of aware of the misconduct, and considering the lighter penalties assessed to other schools for similar or worse conduct.
The penalties stem from the actions of a former tutor who was found to have completed coursework for 12 former Missouri student-athletes, who were members of either the football, baseball or softball programs.
According to the Columbia Missourian, a Committee on Infractions investigation found no evidence that the tutor had been directed to complete the coursework for student-athletes.
The school expected to be hit with penalties such as probation and vacated wins for the games in which violating athletes took part, but was blindsided when the Committee handed down its penalties, which included a postseason ban, scholarship reductions, budget restrictions and recruiting restrictions.
On appeal, Missouri argued that the Committee, when it first assessed the penalties, failed to properly weigh aggravating and mitigating factors, including the school’s prompt self-detection and self-reporting of the misconduct. The school also argued that the penalties it had been assessed were more harsh than penalties handed down to schools who committed more egregious violations.
The Committee disagreed.
“In response, the Committee on Infractions acknowledged that it did not agree with the university about the level classification for the case,” the NCAA release read. “The Committee on Infractions also argued prompt detection of violations is only a mitigating factor when a university has a compliance system in place at the time of the violations, that could have detected the violations. Additionally, the Committee on Infractions said it has the authority to determine whether mitigating and aggravating factors apply and assign weight to those factors.”
In a statement after the sanctions were upheld, Missouri cited fellow SEC member Mississippi State.
“Meanwhile, a recent case involving Mississippi State University with similar circumstances as Mizzou's yielded a very different result. MSU, like us, acted with the highest integrity. MSU's case followed a new NCAA process that was not available to us and resulted in an outcome that, we believe, was more reasonable given the circumstances. The inconsistency of these decisions make it difficult for anyone to comprehend how Mizzou could receive such harsh sanctions.”
MU’s Chancellor and Athletic Director are responding to the NCAA announcement that it will uphold its postseason ban on the school. Officials are pointing out inconsistencies between MU’s violations and Mississippi State’s. Similar case, different outcome. pic.twitter.com/10XVJiUpeP— Nathan Vickers (@nathanvickers) November 26, 2019
The response from officials within the school and across the state was bitter.
“The NCAA enforcement system is broken,” Jon Sundvold, chair of the Board of Curators said in a statement. “This decision hurts student-athletes who had nothing to do with the actions uncovered and who put 110% into everything they do – their schoolwork, their practice time, their dedication to this great institution. They have put their belief into a system that should reward good behavior and discipline poor actions. Instead, we're seeing the reverse happen, and it sets a dangerous precedent. Mizzou did the right thing. This ruling tells every other school that it's better to hide the truth than to admit mistakes."
Even elected officials weighed in.
“The NCAA made the absolute wrong decision here,” U.S. Senator Roy Blunt said on Twitter. “The facts in this case clearly do not support these unfair, unwarranted sanctions. The University of Missouri did the right thing by self-reporting the actions of the tutor and a small number of players.”
State senator Caleb Rowden, who represents the University’s district in the Capitol, went so far as to call the NCAA “a fraud” in a scathing statement, which included an open letter to the organization.
“Day after day, month after month and year after year, you are setting the poorest of ethical and principled examples for the student-athletes you supposedly seek to serve,” Rowden wrote. “They are worse off because you exist and it is my hope that in the very near future, the major conferences who have held you up for decades will no longer do so, allowing for your quick and needed departure from the American collegiate landscape.”