KANSAS CITY — 299 days.
That’s how long it took the NCAA — from Jan. 31 to Tuesday afternoon — to confirm officially its original findings of academic misconduct in the athletic department and formally apply a number of sanctions that, among other penalties, will keep Missouri’s football, baseball and softball teams out of their upcoming postseasons.
Nearly 10 months.
In addition to the postseason bans — the Tigers now cannot play in a bowl game this year even if they beat Arkansas on Friday and get the necessary sixth win that would otherwise make them eligible — the NCAA also reduced recruiting time and scholarships allotted for each sport. The sanctions mean the athletic department will take a massive financial hit, according to the Missourian’s Liam Quinn.
The wait — and the unchanged ruling — caused many headaches along the way and considerable displeasure within the university’s administration. The disapproval was on display late Tuesday afternoon at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, where MU athletic director Jim Sterk and chancellor Alexander Cartwright held a press conference in advance of Missouri’s men’s basketball Hall of Fame Classic game against Oklahoma.
Both expressed dissatisfaction and used the damning language they had conveyed in a joint statement released earlier in the day.
“Today’s decision is certainly disappointing, but in fact (is also) appalling to have this type of conclusion to this process,” Cartwright said in a prepared statement before answering questions. “We feel (the sanctions are) inconsistent with many other decisions that we’ve seen. We are concerned about what it means for moving forward for all of the membership of the NCAA in terms of how do we manage compliance issues.”
The most heavily-cited comparative case referenced by Sterk and Cartwright was Mississippi State. Staffers at the press conference handed a charted comparison of the two cases to media members in attendance.
In similar circumstances of tutors committing academic dishonesty with student-athletes within the past year, MSU wasn’t penalized with postseason bans or recruiting communications restrictions. Missouri was.
“No one can look at the Missouri case and the Mississippi State cases, which have almost identical violations, and say that common sense was used,” Sterk said. “There was no logic in today’s decision and result. This ruling is another example of frustration of our membership (and) of the NCAA being consistently inconsistent.”
Sterk and Cartwright each said that despite the sanctions not being lifted or reduced, they wouldn’t in retrospect have done anything differently in terms of the school’s cooperation with the NCAA.
But when asked if this process can be seen as a landmark case in terms of the NCAA reforming its Infractions Appeals Committee, Sterk said MU will need to turn to fellow irritated schools for help. There is no further legal recourse after this decision, he said, so it’s up to the NCAA membership to unite with MU in a bid for change.
“The current system is broken,” Sterk said. “I think that our athletic directors, our presidents and chancellors and commissioners need to collectively decide where we want to go. There’s a lot of talk and there’s a lot of disgruntled people in the membership. Where we go from here, I don’t know ... but there needs to be reform in the system to gain back some credibility.”
In terms of how he thought the decision will affect the school’s image, Cartwright remarked that MU won’t change what he said it’s always done: Stick to its core values.
“We’ve talked a lot about what it means to be Mizzou. We’re Midwest. We work hard. You have integrity. That’s our brand,” Cartwright said. “It’s about how we continue to do what we feel is right. And yeah, sometimes it may not work out, but you continue to do what is right. And I think — I hope — that lots of people would love to be a part of an institution that stands for those values.”
Supervising editor is Michael Knisley.