University of Missouri Leaders React to NCAA Sanctions

By Jason Hoekema

COLUMBIA – Press releases flew into email inboxes as University of Missouri leaders and Missouri politicians weigh-in on sanctions that could cost the school millions and talent. 

Ole’ Miss faced the loss of an estimated $7.1-million in SEC distributions during the 2017-18 year because of similar sanctions imposed by the NCAA. Ole’ Miss allegedly violated recruiting rules in their case. 

NBC Sports reported last Saturday that several students had already been contacted by other schools for transferring to play elsewhere. Seniors can transfer without sitting out their final year of eligibility. Mizzou has been placed on a “bowl ban,” likely barring them from college football playoffs. 

The football program was hardest hit, but two other sports at the university -baseball and softball – were also subject to the sanctions. 

Under the sanctions the school will see a five-percent reduction of scholarships in the 2019-2020 academic year and a seven-week ban on recruiting communications and off-campus recruiting.

The sanctions stem from actions of a former athletics tutor who violated academic conduct rules by allegedly completing academic work for 12 student-athletes. 

University of Missouri system president, Mun Choi, released the following statement:

“As the leader of a university system that prides itself on being held accountable, I find the sanctions against the University of Missouri-Columbia to be shockingly inappropriate and not to the standards of fairness that we expect of our governing bodies. These sanctions amount to being punished for doing the right thing. Our job is to educate young men and women to be future leaders, which includes learning how to take responsibility and expect consequences when appropriate. This decision by the NCAA, which punishes those who have nothing to do with the violation, undermines that work. We as Missourians value hard work and telling the truth. I encourage everyone to stand with us and raise your voices as we fight not just for Mizzou, but also to defend these values.”

The sanctions came as a shock to some Mizzou administrators who stated that the college had self-reported and cooperated with NCAA Enforcement after the discovery was made. 

Even Greg Sankey, the SEC Commissioner, sought insight to reason behind the severity of the sanctions stating, “Consistent with our standard approach to support member universities, the SEC Office stands ready to advise and assist in Missouri’s appeal process.”

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt also released a statement condemning the severe sanctions.

“I completely disagree with the sanctions announced by the NCAA against the University of Missouri. From the NCAA’s own report, it was clear that the university was transparent and did the right thing by reporting both the tutor’s actions and the involvement of a small number of players. I strongly encourage the NCAA to take another look at this case and not punish today’s upstanding Mizzou athletes because of isolated violations that occurred years ago. I stand with Chancellor Cartwright, Athletic Director Jim Sterk, and the Mizzou family in questioning the fairness of these overly punitive sanctions. Mizzou and the state of Missouri deserve a second look at the facts of this case.”

Yahoo Sports reports that Dave Roberts, from the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, that the school being up-front in the situation was a confirmation that a Level I violation took place. Like Ole’ Miss, level I violations call for the harshest of punishments from the governing collegiate athletics body. 

The punishments have brought to light whether or not it is in the best interests of colleges to be upfront and self-report infractions, given that cooperation has not led to lessened punishments.