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Appeals committee upholds Missouri infractions penalties

Download the Nov. 2019 University of Missouri Final Appeal Decision

The University of Missouri must implement the postseason bans, scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions prescribed by the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions, according to a decision issued by the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee. 

In the Committee on Infractions’ decision, the panel found that a former Missouri tutor violated NCAA ethical conduct, academic misconduct and academic extra benefits rules when she completed academic work for 12 student-athletes. In addition to other penalties, the panel prescribed penalties for the baseball, football and softball programs, including a one-year postseason ban, scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions.

In its appeal, the university argued the level of the case should have been Level I- Mitigated instead of Level I-Standard because the Committee on Infractions panel did not properly weigh the aggravating and mitigating factors, relied on a statement in the rejected summary disposition report and did not follow applicable rules and standards. The university also argued that prompt self-detection and self-disclosure of the violations and the implementation of compliance methods should have been applied as mitigating factors in the case.

Additionally, the university argued the postseason ban, scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions exceeded those in infractions cases with conduct most like that in this case and far exceeded penalties prescribed in academic misconduct cases with more severe violations. The university also said the penalties were comparable to those imposed in cases that involved the most egregious and extensive misconduct and violations.

In response, the Committee on Infractions acknowledged that it did not agree with the university about the level classification for the case. The Committee on Infractions also argued prompt detection of violations is only a mitigating factor when a university has a compliance system in place at the time of the violations, that could have detected the violations. Additionally, the Committee on Infractions said it has the authority to determine whether mitigating and aggravating factors apply and assign weight to those factors.

The Committee on Infractions said that because the facts of each case are unique, differences among past cases do not meet the standard to overturn its case classification and penalties. It continued that it looked primarily to Level I-Standard cases involving academic violations and found that this case involved more student-athletes and more sport programs than prior cases.

In its decision, the Infractions Appeals Committee said NCAA rules give the Committee on Infractions panel discretion to determine whether mitigating and aggravating factors are present and how to weigh them. In this case, the Infractions Appeals Committee noted the Committee on Infractions’ decision provides an analysis and rationale for its decision not to apply certain mitigating factors. While the Infractions Appeals Committee agreed with the university that the two additional mitigating factors could have been applied, it noted that more is required than disagreement with the Committee on Infractions panel’s outcome. It said the university was unable to demonstrate that the Committee on Infractions’ analysis and/or rationale failed to consider and weigh mitigating factors; was based on a clear error in judgment; was based on irrelevant or improper factors; or was based on an incorrect standard or misunderstanding of standards. Because of that, the Infractions Appeals Committee found that the Committee on Infractions properly determined and weighed mitigating factors.

The Infractions Appeals Committee reviewed the university’s argument that the Committee on Infractions misconstrued and improperly relied on a statement in a rejected summary disposition report for the case. The statement in question discussed that the classification of the case could be a low-end standard case or, in a best-case analysis, an upper-end mitigated case. The Infractions Appeals Committee noted that the Committee on Infractions Internal Operating Procedures state information contained within a rejected summary disposition report can be used. Further, the Infractions Appeals Committee said that when the Committee on Infractions’ statements about the university’s statements from the rejected summary disposition report are read in their totality, they are intended to acknowledge that the penalty options of a low-end standard case and a high-end mitigated case overlap. Ultimately, the Infractions Appeals Committee did not find the Committee on Infractions panel mischaracterized or erroneously relied on the statement from the rejected summary disposition report.

When reviewing the penalties, the Infractions Appeals Committee noted that the Committee on Infractions has significant discretion in its ability to determine appropriate penalties for a case. Additionally, the Infractions Appeals Committee said it is hesitant to overturn a penalty within the appropriate penalty guidelines unless there is a clear indication of arbitrary decision-making.

The members of the Infractions Appeals Committee who heard this case were Jonathan Alger, president at James Madison; Ellen M. Ferris, associate commissioner for governance and compliance at the American Athletic Conference; W. Anthony Jenkins, chair of the Division I Infractions Appeals Committee and attorney in private practice; Patricia Ohlendorf, retired special advisor in the office of legal affairs at Texas; and Allison Rich, senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at Princeton.