Thursday's football: Missouri banned from 2019 bowl

Associated Press and News staff
The NCAA has sanctioned Missouri's football, baseball and softball programs after an investigation revealed academic misconduct involving a tutor who completed coursework for athletes.

Kansas City, Mo. — The NCAA banned Missouri’s football, baseball and softball programs from the postseason for a year and placed the entire athletic department on probation Thursday after a two-year investigation revealed academic misconduct involving a former tutor.

The penalties mean the Tigers’ highly regarded football team won’t be eligible for the SEC title game or a bowl game this fall, while their baseball and softball programs will not be allowed to participate in the SEC tournament or the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA also trimmed scholarships amid other punishments.

Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright said the school would appeal “this harsh and inconsistent decision,” a back-and-forth process that could take months.

“We are shocked and dismayed by the penalties that have been imposed today and will aggressively fight for what is right,” athletic director Jim Sterk said. “The Committee on Infractions has abused its discretion in applying penalties in this case, and the university will immediately appeal this decision that has placed unfair penalties on our department and programs.

“It is hard to fathom that the university could be cited for exemplary cooperation throughout this case, and yet end up with these unprecedented penalties that could unfairly and adversely impact innocent current and future Mizzou student-athletes.”

The Division I Committee on Infractions said the former tutor, Yolanda Kumar, acknowledged in late 2016 she had “violated NCAA ethical conduct, academic misconduct and academic extra benefits rules when she completed academic work for 12 student-athletes.”

Kumar told the panel she felt pressured to ensure athletes passed certain courses, primarily in math. But according to the committee’s report, “the investigation did not support that her colleagues directed her to complete the student-athletes’ work.”

NCAA investigators said Kumar completed course work offered by Missouri, those offered by other schools and a math placement exam required of all students. In one instance, Kumar allegedly completed an entire course for a football player, whose name was not revealed.

The school began investigating after Kumar said on social media that she had committed academic fraud.

Sterk sent a letter to Kumar she also posted on social media in which he confirmed she had provided impermissible benefits and could no longer be associated with the athletic department.

“In this particular case, the institution, the tutor and enforcement all agreed this was a Level I case, which is severe misconduct,” said David Roberts, chief hearing officer for the infractions panel and a special adviser to the president at Southern California. “The case starts off with that agreement and the association has put in place a penalty matrix.”

The NCAA acknowledged proactive steps by Missouri in investigating the academic fraud, but Sterk said that didn’t appear to soften the penalties.

Along with three years of probation and the postseason bans, the programs also must vacate any records for games that included participation by the 12 athletes. The programs will see a 5 percent cut in scholarships for the upcoming academic year and recruiting restrictions include a seven-week ban on unofficial visits, off-campus contacts and any communication with prospects.

The NCAA also fined the school $5,000 plus 1 percent of each program’s budget.

“We were surprised,” Sterk said. “We thought there might be a probation period and maybe vacating the wins, but some student-athletes — the current ones that were involved with the tutor — have sat out contests, so we took appropriate action at the time. We felt we were doing the right thing.”

Kumar, who did not respond to requests for comment from AP, already has been barred by the university from working for the athletic department.

Local notes

Former Central Michigan standout wide receiver Antonio Brown, who plays for the Steelers (at least), pledged earlier this month to donate six heated benches for the Chippewas program, a gift valued at $105,000.

... Sam Sewell (running backs) and James Patton (offensive line) have joined the Eastern Michigan coaching staff.

Detroit News staff contributed