Missouri officials slam NCAA penalties as 'unjust,' vow to appeal

University and state officials have widely criticized the NCAA's punishment of Missouri in an academic fraud case as overly harsh, with Jon Sundvold, the chair of the board of curators, saying unjust sanctions would lead member schools to "question the need for the NCAA as a governing body."

The NCAA infractions committee on Thursday handed Missouri's football, baseball and softball teams one-postseason bans as well as scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions in the wake of an investigation into one tutor who said she completed schoolwork for a number of student-athletes.

In its report, the NCAA said "Missouri did the right thing" in cooperating with its investigation while also faulting the tutor, Yolanda Kumar, who received a 10-year show-cause penalty.

"A dangerous precedent has been set," said Sundvold, a former Missouri and NBA player who also works as an analyst for ESPN. "When an individual acts independently of their employer, violates rules, commits extortion and shops her accusations to the highest bidder, why would that institution be punished unjustly after doing the right thing?

"Inconsistent actions by the NCAA continue to erode its credibility. If it doesn't admit and correct this unprecedented fault, many Power Five schools, like Missouri, will question the need for the NCAA as a governing body.

"As our appeal moves forward, I appreciate the support of the SEC and Commissioner Greg Sankey. When Mizzou wins the SEC East next year, he should do the right thing and invite one of its good standing members to play in the SEC Championship game."

Sankey said Thursday that the conference "stands ready to advise and assist" Missouri in its appeal, which the university has already begun.

"We're going on attack," football coach Barry Odom said Friday. "Bring it on."

David Roberts, the chief hearing officer for the infractions panel, defended the penalties. Roberts said Kumar along with the school and NCAA all agreed that infractions took place, and at that point it comes down to applying prescribed penalties.

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt was also among those who questioned the penalties, saying he completely disagrees with the sanctions.

"From the NCAA's own report, it was clear that the university was transparent and did the right thing by reporting both the tutor's actions and the involvement of a small number of players," Blunt said. "I strongly encourage the NCAA to take another look at this case and not punish today's upstanding Mizzou athletes because of isolated violations that occurred years ago. I stand with Chancellor (Alexander) Cartwright, Athletic Director Jim Sterk, and the Mizzou family in questioning the fairness of these overly punitive sanctions. Mizzou and the state of Missouri deserve a second look at the facts of this case."

Caleb Rowden, the majority leader in the Missouri Senate and a university alum, was more forceful in his assessment, calling the penalties "disheartening at best and incompetent at worst."

"The NCAA's own report refuted any systematic issue or involvement,'' Rowden said. "This decision tells other college programs that doing the right thing should be the last resort and will undoubtedly cause many to lose what little faith they had left in the NCAA."

AD Sterk, who said Missouri will "vigorously defend this unjust penalty," suggested the appeal may take up to six months. That would last through the SEC tournaments for baseball and softball this May, and the Tigers would be allowed to participate while the appeal is being reviewed.

Things become murkier for the football program, which could head into fall camp uncertain whether a season of high expectations will end in November at Arkansas or in a potential bowl game later. The Tigers, who went 8-5 last season and reached bowl games the past two years, open the season Aug. 31 at Wyoming.

Because of the postseason ban, the NCAA will grant waivers to seniors, but Odom said he doesn't anticipate any players leaving, including highly prized transfer quarterback Kelly Bryant, who joined the Tigers last month after leaving Clemson.

"For our seniors going into this year, they have an opportunity with what they've built for three years going on four they're on the verge of something really special," Odom said. "They want to be part of that. Those guys didn't do anything wrong. They worked extremely hard. I don't have any indication that any of them are leaving at this time."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.