Missouri filed a notice of appeal with the NCAA's committee on infractions Thursday, beginning what could be a lengthy fight of what it considers overly harsh sanctions levied against three of its programs for academic misconduct involving a former tutor.
The NCAA banned the football, baseball and softball teams from the postseason for a year and put the entire athletic department on probation late last month. Missouri also was docked scholarships and given recruiting restrictions among numerous other punishments.
The school immediately vowed to fight the punishments, which received widespread condemnation beyond its campus in Columbia. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt even called upon the NCAA to take another look at the case.
"Mizzou's case involved an isolated incident within our program," Tigers athletic director Jim Sterk said. "However, the penalties applied are overly harsh, not in line with established precedent and negatively impact student-athletes who chose to attend the University of Missouri and had nothing to do with the actions of one rogue individual."
The notice of appeal begins a back-and-forth between the school and the NCAA that is expected to take at least six months. Typically, any penalties are put on hold while the case is winding toward its conclusion, meaning the three programs in question would retain their postseason eligibility.
The case began in late 2016 when a former tutor, Yolanda Kumar, acknowledged she had "violated NCAA ethical conduct, academic misconduct and academic extra benefits rules when she completed academic work for 12 student-athletes." Kumar said she felt pressured to ensure athletes passed certain courses, though the NCAA's investigation did not support those accusations.
The school began its own investigation after Kumar claimed on social media that she had committed academic fraud. Sterk eventually sent her a later confirming she had provided impermissible benefits and that she could no longer be associated with the athletic department.
Missouri worked hand-in-hand with the NCAA during the investigation, and Sterk admitted he thought the school would receive some leniency. Instead, the punishments the Tigers received were severe.
Sterk said he's concerned that response could set a dangerous precedent.
"It appears our cooperation throughout this process went largely unnoticed," he said, "which I believe will have a chilling effect and force other institutions to take a different approach in dealing with these types of issues, which will not be in the best interest of the NCAA."
In other words, schools could be less forthcoming for fear of retribution.
Missouri has retained the help of attorney Mike Glazier, an expert on intercollegiate athletics, to assist with the appeal. Glazier has been helping with the case since the initial revelations in 2016.
"We believe that the committee on infractions abused its discretion in applying penalties to the University of Missouri," Sterk said, "and we look forward to appearing before the appeals committee in the future to present our case."