Missouri submitted its appeals brief to the NCAA on Monday, taking the next step in attempting to limit or overturn what it believes are overly harsh sanctions in the case of a rogue former tutor.
The school argued in the 64-page brief to the NCAA's appeals committee that the penalties handed down Jan. 31 are contrary to NCAA precedent, were not supported or appropriate given the nature of the allegations, and could have a chilling effect on future NCAA enforcement.
The NCAA's committee on infractions now has 30 days to respond to the appeal. Then, an in-person date will be set for the school to appear before the NCAA's appeals committee.
"We believe that the penalties our programs received were a clear abuse of the committee's discretion based upon existing NCAA bylaws," Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk said. "Our staff and legal team have worked tirelessly to research and develop a well-written appeal that accurately reflects our position. We look forward to having the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the NCAA."
The case began in late 2016 when a tutor, Yolanda Kumar, acknowledged she had violated NCAA rules by doing course work and ensuring athletes in football, baseball and softball passed certain courses.
Missouri launched its own investigation after Kumar made statements about the academic fraud on social media, and then began working hand-in-hand with the NCAA on its probe. The school self-imposed many penalties, and Sterk admitted he thought its forthcoming nature would result in leniency.
Instead, the NCAA hammered the Tigers with severe penalties that received widespread condemnation. Among those who took umbrage were U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, many state officials, and coaches and administrators at rival institutions.
The football, baseball and softball teams were banned from the postseason for a year, the entire athletic department was placed on probation, and Missouri was docked scholarships and given recruiting restrictions. All of those penalties are on hold during the appeal.
"A message is sent to the membership every time the NCAA committee on infractions adjudicates cases," Sterk said. "In this instance, the message is loud and clear that neither proactive self-reporting nor exemplary cooperation is of any value to the committee. I am shocked this is the message the NCAA wants to send to its membership in today's climate."
The appeals process is expected to take about a year, which means the baseball and softball teams should remain eligible to participate in the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament, should either of them qualify. It also means the football team could potentially play in a bowl game this fall.
"The spirits of our student-athletes have been buoyed by the widespread support of our students, alumni, university supporters and elected officials," Sterk said. "We'll continue to work diligently to make this situation right for our student-athletes, coaches and fans impacted by these penalties."