NCAA offers rare response to Mizzou’s criticism of denied appeal

Wide receiver Kam Scott bows his head in the late moments of Mizzou's loss to Tennessee on Saturday.
AP

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The NCAA is pushing back against the University of Missouri after the school blasted the governing body for rejecting an appeal of punishments levied in the case of a rogue tutor.

In a statement Wednesday, the NCAA said that “while Missouri’s disappointment is understandable, the rules and infractions processes are developed by NCAA members. If any member feels the rules and penalty structure are unfair, there is a clear path for them to suggest change.”

The NCAA disciplined Missouri earlier this year after a tutor acknowledged doing course work for members of the football, baseball and softball teams. The punishment included postseason bans in each of the sports along with crippling scholarship and recruiting restrictions.

Missouri filed a 64-page brief to the NCAA’s appeals committee in March, arguing the penalties were contrary to precedent, not supported and inappropriate given the nature of the allegations. The school also argued they could have a chilling effect on future NCAA enforcement.

The appeals committee rejected those assertions Tuesday, leaving in place all the punishments put in place. That prompted school administrators, members of the athletic department and even Tigers fan and U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt to rip the NCAA for what they believe was an unfair decision.

“This is a really hurtful decision and a blow,” Tigers athletic director Jim Sterk said, “because it impacts so many student athletes. It’s really — sorry, when our coaches are telling the seniors that they can’t play in postseason play, it’s really difficult.”

Sterk asked Missouri’s counsel if there was any recourse and was told no.

Many of the same officials spoke out after the initial penalties were handed down, and Missouri chancellor Alexander Cartwright was asked whether he thought that played a factor in the appeal decision.

“When you think about differing opinions, reasonable minds can differ,” Cartwright said. “We did it respectfully, and it is our responsibility to make it clear we didn’t agree. It is important that people understand that we have that changed in our favor. I don’t know if it played a role.”

The five-member appeals committee included James Madison president Jonathan Alger; Ellen M. Ferris, an associate commissioner of the American Athletic Conference; W. Anthony Jenkins, a private attorney and chairman of the Division I infractions appeals committee; Patricia Ohlendorf, a retired special adviser at Texas; and Allison Rich, the senior associate athletics director at Princeton.

The NCAA pointed out in its statement Wednesday — a relatively rare step by the organization — that the infractions process was collectively creased and adopted by its members, including Missouri.

Infraction penalties and appeal decisions, the NCAA concluded, “are made by dedicated athletic administrators, university officials and members of the public who spend countless hours carefully considering the arguments advanced.”