COLUMBIA, Mo. — A former University of Missouri tutor said she can document at least a dozen instances of serious academic fraud involving men's and women's athletes during a 16-month period.
Yolanda Kumar told The Kansas City Star that she felt pressured to keep athletes academically eligible, especially football and men's basketball players. Her allegations come less than a year after the school sanctioned its men's basketball team for violating NCAA rules.
Hours after Kumar posted in her personal Facebook account Tuesday afternoon that she had taken entrance exams and completed entire courses for Mizzou athletes, the university issued a statement announcing its investigation.
“The University of Missouri has received allegations of potential academic rules violations by a former tutor in the Athletics Academic Services area,” the athletics department said in a statement. “Consistent with our commitment to rules compliance and to operating our athletics program with integrity, we are conducting a review of the allegations.”
Of the hundreds of Missouri athletes she has tutored since 2010, Kumar said, 15 involved serious academic fraud. She told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch she felt like she had been “groomed” over time by her superiors to participate in what she described as “academic dishonesty.”
The last straw for Kumar involved a male athlete she said needed help during the summer on a core class she was told he needed to graduate. The student passed, she said, “but he really was struggling with very basic things that my eighth-grader could do.”
The same student was assigned to her in the fall and became depressed after he was unable to grasp basic statistics equations, she said.
“This kid, he has no hope,” Kumar said. “He's so lost, and I helped. I helped ruin him. I probably can't take it all, because it's not all me. It's not all me at all, but he was the one who forced me. That was enough. I couldn't do it anymore.”
During an 18-minute phone call on Nov. 2 with Mary Ann Austin, the university's executive associate athletic director for compliance, Kumar came clean about her involvement.
Initially it felt good to have provided that information, she said, but she soon realized “the evil was out of the box and you can't put it back in.”
Kumar didn't immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press on Wednesday seeking comment.
In her Facebook post Tuesday, she said at least two academic coordinators for athletes in revenue-generating sports encouraged, promoted and supported her activities. Kumar resigned her position Nov. 7 prior to a meeting with a member for compliance, general counsel and “an individual that reports to the chancellor.”
The university's announcement comes 10 months after it self-imposed sanctions against the men's basketball program stemming from a sham internship program and impermissible benefits received by players and their families at Tan-Tar-A resort at the Lake of the Ozarks.
Third-year basketball coach Kim Anderson's team was banned from the 2016 postseason and forfeited two scholarships as part of the sanctions that were accepted by the NCAA when it closed the case in August.