Yolanda Kumar, the tutor at the epicenter of the Missouri athletic department’s joint investigation with the NCAA into alleged academic fraud, touched off a social-media firestorm Friday afternoon by offering to sell details of the case in exchange for about $3,000.
Kumar, who told The Star in an exclusive interview that she met on Jan. 4 with officials from Mizzou and NCAA investigators, is applying to graduate school and is trying to leave Columbia.
Her acceptance is being delayed because she needs a copy of her official transcript, which she says the school won’t release because of a $3,089.99 outstanding debt from graduate-student work at MU in 2009.
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Kumar said she tried arranging a payment schedule to settle the debt but was told she’d need to pay at least $1,545 — half of her account balance — before the documents would be sent.
“That’s an unrealistic amount when you know my situation,” she said. “That’s like asking me for a billion dollars.”
MU issued a statement to The Star, but declined to comment on an ongoing investigation:
“The University of Missouri is working in concert and fully cooperating with the NCAA relative to the issues that were brought to the Athletic Department’s attention last fall. In order to protect the integrity of the investigation, we are unable to comment on any part of the process until it is completed.”
According to Kumar, she also contacted the Mizzou chancellor’s office and Mike Glazier — a managing member of the Overland Park-based law firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King, who was retained by MU to lead its investigation — for assistance in obtaining her transcript.
When those options failed, she took to Twitter.
“I knew about the provision, but I just need this one time … and that’s the only thing that’s holding (my acceptance) up,” Kumar said. “I’m desperate, so I decided to throw it out there, because that’s all I need so I can move forward in my life.”
According to the MU website, any student who owes a balance is put on a financial hold and will not be permitted to receive a transcript or diploma until payment is made.
Kumar said she’s aware of the policy but was hoping Mizzou would take her circumstances — she’s a single mother, working only a part-time job — into consideration. She insisted her interest isn’t in getting rich.
“I don’t need money to put in my pocket,” Kumar said. “I just want my transcripts, but I don’t have the money for my transcripts.”
Kumar told The Star that she met with investigators from MU and the NCAA for nine hours last month, providing details of the alleged academic fraud in which she says she participated.
“They didn’t have anything,” Kumar said. “They had the first student who was on my list and they had some emails. I gave them this entire list, documentation of emails and text messages. I told them when, where and who were the coordinators. I gave all that to them, and they were shocked.”
Mizzou announced an investigation on Nov. 22, roughly three weeks after Kumar said she contacted Mizzou executive associate athletic director for compliance Mary Ann Austin to confess her “academic dishonesty.”
During mid-December, first-year Tigers athletic director Jim Sterk said the investigation remained in “the discovery phase.”
“At the end, I said, ‘Do you have any more questions for me?’” Kumar said. “They said, ‘No, you gave us way more than what we had.’ Really, where they were, they had nothing and could not go forward.”
She said she understands that the public perception, especially among Tigers fans, is that she’s only interested in money.
“Some people are still on that — ‘It’s a money grab’ — but I’m not trying to bank on anything,” Kumar said. “It’s about my (darn) pieces of paper with my grades on it. I’ve already told the truth, so you can’t say I didn’t cooperate and was trying to make money. … I went through all the proper channels and everyone said no, so I’m just surviving. That’s all I’m doing. I’m in survival mode.
Kumar acknowledged that she doesn’t expect anyone to take her up on the offer.
“I just want the transcripts so I can move on with my life, because no one wants to hire me here (in Columbia),” she said.
Kumar also laughed off the ridicule she was already receiving online.
“People can say some mean things … but what can they call me that they haven’t already called me?” she said. “What can they say to me that they haven’t already said to me? What can they think of me that they haven’t already thought of me?”