COLUMBIA, Mo. – Jim Sterk is still adamantly confident about Missouri’s appeal.
Nearly five months after the NCAA penalized three Tiger athletic programs following an investigation into academic fraud, the MU athletic director said Thursday in a meeting with reporters that he hasn’t lost any confidence in the school’s case to overturn most of the sanctions.
The NCAA originally announced its ruling Jan. 31 following an investigation that began in November 2016. The findings were centered on the Missouri football, softball and baseball programs, with the sanctions highlighted by a one-year postseason ban for each program.
The baseball and softball programs have since completed in their respective Southeastern Conference tournaments, as well as an NCAA regional in softball’s case, extending any postseason ban to the 2019-20 school year should the decision be upheld.
The ban would prevent the MU football team from competing in the SEC Championship or any bowl game this coming season.
″(I) feel really good about what we’ve put in front of them as well as the need for much of the decision to be overturned,” Sterk said about the NCAA appeal.
The investigation found violations by former Missouri tutor Yolanda Kumar, who publicly claimed allegations of academic fraud against MU in 2016.
Sterk said in January when the sanctions became known that he was “shocked and dismayed” by them.
On March 25, Missouri filed its 64-page appeal with the NCAA’s Infractions Appeals Committee in response to the sanctions imposed.
MU’s appeal centered around the sanctions clashing with NCAA precedent, being too harsh given the violations and a future “chilling effect” of NCAA enforcement.
“Anyone that’s been in intercollegiate athletics understands, there has to be cooperation, there has to be that buy-in by the membership,” Sterk said. “I think what has really shocked people and caused them to step back is that we did all that and we got exemplary cooperation and then they went above and beyond any kind of precedent in a decision.
“So that’s what I’m concerned about as a member and working a long time in the NCAA and NCAA institutions, like 30 years of it. I think I’ve always been one and my philosophy is we’re going to win it right, we’re going to do it the right way. That decision doesn’t encourage that.”
Sterk said Thursday the next correspondence in the appeal with the NCAA is a hearing in July.
“I need to be respectful of the process so I can’t give you a time and date and location and all those good things,” Sterk said. “But I expect it to be in July and then hopefully a good decision before football gets too far along.”
A late-summer, early-fall time frame is when a final decision on the appeal is expected.
Sterk added no precautions are in place if the NCAA decision isn’t reversed in any fashion.
“We haven’t other than just discussions with the chancellor (Alexander Cartwright) and all just that we’re going to have to have a hard discussion over that and what it might be,” Sterk said “... And I don’t want to go there until we’re faced with it. I think there are some things that can be done to help us get through that tough spot.”
Missouri’s athletic department has never taken a dollar of supplementation from the university. That could change if nothing is overruled.
“We’re one of the few in the SEC that don’t have that,” Sterk said. “We pay the in-state and then they’ll waive up to a million dollars of out-of-state or international. That’s a way where it doesn’t cost cash money, per se, and so maybe there’s something that way. There hasn’t been any talk as far as right now or anything like that.”
Any football players with one year of eligibility remaining can choose to leave Missouri because of the sanctions by Aug. 1 without having to sit out this upcoming season, though none have taken that route to this point.
“It weighs on you, it’s there, it’s real,” Missouri head football coach Barry Odom said about waiting to hear back from the NCAA. “You never know what’s going to be handed to you.”
The normal length of this type of an NCAA appeal process is three to six months, meaning at the latest it should be resolved by the end of September.
Should a decision not be made by the end of the regular season and Missouri advances from the SEC East to the conference championship game in Atlanta, the Tigers would be allowed to compete.