University of Missouri

What has Mizzou athletic director Jim Sterk optimistic about the Tigers’ NCAA appeal?

Missouri AD Jim Sterk on Tigers’ response to NCAA ruling

Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk talks about the department’s response to the NCAA ruling.
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Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk talks about the department’s response to the NCAA ruling.

Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk and members of his cabinet, including director of compliance Andy Humes, met with reporters on Monday to further discuss the NCAA’s ruling in the department’s academic fraud case.

Sterk said the department plans to have its appeal in by the end of the week and expects the process to take between six months to a year, based on other cases.

Missouri recently launched a website called “Make it Right” to inform fans on the appeals process, which Sterk said has united the fanbase and led to statewide support.

Sterk said he’s not going after the NCAA with the page, but the committee on infractions’ decision, and wants the relationship with the NCAA to “remain positive” during the appeals process.

He added that he doesn’t see Power Five schools seceding from the NCAA or Missouri suing if it loses the appeal. He said he expected vacated wins and probation as likely punishments but thought the recruiting restrictions and postseason bans for football, softball and baseball were over the line. In addition to a one-year bowl ban, the football team will lose four scholarships for the season if an unsuccessful appeal is announced.

“It’s pretty unanimous that people were shocked as we were,” Sterk said. “It seemed (the committee) abused their discretion.”

In addition to hiring Kansas City attorney Michael Glazier, Sterk said the department plans to hire Glazier’s partner Rich Evrard and Florida lawyer Chris Griffin. Missouri doesn’t know yet how much it will pay in legal fees.

Sterk said that should both diamond sports realize they won’t make the NCAA Tournament, they could elect to take their postseason ban this season rather than postponing it.

Of the 12 student-athletes mentioned in the NCAA’s report who had work done for them by former tutor Yolanda Kumar, Humes said only nine were found to have competed while ineligible. Seven of the nine were on the football team, while softball and baseball each had one player. Former MU nose tackle A.J. Logan is the only known student-athlete to have participated in the scandal and served a six-game suspension in the 2017 season. Kumar originally told The Star that she helped 42 student-athletes.

Humes said the small number of athletes involved shows the NCAA went overboard. He said the softball player only sought Kumar’s help for a small number of homework assignments, not an exam. No current Missouri student-athletes were among the 12.

“That translated into a postseason ban, recruiting penalties, scholarship reductions (for the softball program),” Humes said.

Humes said the recruiting restrictions, which include seven weeks off the road, can be broken up and won’t be consecutive weeks or days that coaches can’t be speaking with or visiting prospects.

While Missouri’s penalties were in line with the NCAA’s violation matrix, Humes said the classification of the case will be part of the appeal because the department fully cooperated and still was penalized for Level 1 violations.

“The committee has the ability to apply penalties above or below the matrix,” Humes said. “It’s not like their hands are totally tied. Even the classification aside we feel like the penalties don’t follow precedent. You don’t see cases that don’t involve recruiting getting every kind of recruiting penalty.”

Sterk said he made first-year softball coach Larissa Anderson aware of the academic scandal when interviewing her in the spring. Former men’s basketball coach Kim Anderson said he was never told about the NCAA’s investigation into the program when he interviewed with then-A.D. Mike Alden for the job in 2014. That case involved a booster who paid players during an internship program.

Throughout the investigation, Kumar was vocal on Twitter about her time at MU, recently naming players she helped while offering evidence against the department in exchange for cash during the NCAA’s investigation. Kumar got a 10-year show cause order as a result of the NCAA’s findings, but Sterk and Humes said they didn’t think the committee on infractions grasped Kumar’s behavior.

“The enforcement staff got a glimpse of that and understood that,” Humes said. “The committee on infractions, they didn’t understand fully.”

Should the appeal be unsuccessful, Missouri expects the bowl ban to cost the athletic department around $8 million to $9 million because MU won’t be entitled to any of the Southeastern Conference’s bowl revenue, which includes money from the College Football Playoff. Sterk said the department has yet to start discussing how to make up for the potential loss.

Missouri’s athletic program operated $1.8 million in the red the past fiscal year, an improvement from the previous year, but the bowl ban would undo a lot of the department’s progress. The department brought in $108 million in revenue for the 2018 fiscal year, double the amount of money Missouri made in its last year in the Big 12. Sterk said the deficit hails from the department becoming “virtually independent in terms of the institution.”

The athletic department used to receive roughly $8 million from the university and now pays more money back to MU than past years. Missouri returned roughly $20 million in the past fiscal year.

Sterk said he’s received a lot of support from SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and added he was as shocked at the NCAA’s decision. Sankey previously served on the committee on infractions.

Sterk added that the NCAA has be to reasonable with the scholarship reductions on the football program, especially if a ruling came late in the summer or early in the season.

“Say (a) decision comes in August,” Humes said. “I don’t see how we could go to four current kids and say, ‘You’re out.’”

Sterk said he has no update on MU swimming and diving coach Greg Rhodenbaugh, who was suspended in the fall after a Title IX investigation was started.

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Alex Schiffer has been covering the Missouri Tigers for The Star since October 2017. He came in second place for magazine-length feature writing by the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association in 2018 and graduated from Mizzou in 2017.