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The NCAA just hit Mizzou with postseason bans because of an extremely helpful tutor

The Tigers got hammered because of a (seemingly rogue) tutor who really went the extra mile.

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA has concluded a former tutor completed math coursework for 12 Missouri athletes in three different sports in 2015 and 2016, leading to a suite of sanctions that includes a 2019 football bowl ban and bans from the baseball and softball postseasons. The NCAA says the tutor completed “an entire course” worth of work for one unspecified player.

The NCAA notes: “One student-athlete texted her, ‘Hi! I was wondering if you had finished the other homework assignments?!’”

This means dozens and dozens of players, coaches, and staffers, almost all of whom had absolutely nothing to do with any of this, will be punished for the actions of a few people who are now gone. This is the NCAA’s only weapon, one it wields as clumsily as possible.

Mizzou is appealing the sanctions, and this seems like a pretty important note to me:

From the NCAA’s full report:

Beginning in the summer of 2015 and continuing through the summer of 2016, the tutor completed academic work on behalf of 12 Missouri student-athletes. Both Missouri and the tutor admitted that her conduct violated ethical conduct and benefits bylaws.

The conduct ranged from completing an entire course on behalf of one student-athlete to completing entire (or portions of) homework assignments, quizzes and exams for others. For two student-athletes, she helped complete a Missouri math placement exam to ensure that they would not be required to take a remedial math course. The tutor felt pressure to ensure that student-athletes passed their courses. She believed that Missouri personnel approved and rewarded her for her conduct, but such approval was not demonstrated by the record. The record did, however, demonstrate that the tutor committed several academic integrity violations on behalf of student-athletes.

Missouri acknowledged, and the panel agrees, those violations are Level I.

Mizzou’s (pretty unexpected degree of) punishment, per the NCAA:

Three years of probation.

A 10-year show-cause order for the former tutor. During that period, any NCAA member school employing the tutor must restrict her from any athletically related duties.

Hang on. A decade-long ban from working in college athletics ... for a tutor? Who completed some quizzes? That’s the same punishment the NCAA gave former Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss for paying players, covering up drug test results, and TRYING TO FRAME A MURDERED PLAYER AS A DRUG DEALER.

We’re equating that to algebra homework. OK.


A 2018-19 postseason ban for the baseball and softball programs.

A 2019-20 postseason ban for the football program.

A vacation of records in which football, baseball and softball student-athletes competed while ineligible. The university must provide a written report containing the matches impacted to the NCAA media coordination and statistics staff within 45 days of the public decision release.

A 5 percent reduction in the amount of scholarships in each of the football, baseball and softball programs during the 2019-20 academic year.

Recruiting restrictions for each of the football, baseball and softball programs during the 2019-20 academic year, including:

A seven-week ban on unofficial visits.

A 12.5 percent reduction in official visits.

A seven-week ban on recruiting communications.

A seven-week ban on all off-campus recruiting contacts and evaluations.

A 12.5 percent reduction in recruiting-person or evaluation days.

A disassociation of the tutor. Details of the disassociation can be found in the public report (self-imposed by the university).

A fine of $5,000 plus 1 percent of each of the football, baseball and softball budgets.

Wait, so why does Mizzou get hammered for one bad tutor, while UNC got away with years and years of flawed academics? The NCAA explains, confusingly:

Among other differences, UNC stood by the courses and the grades it awarded student-athletes. In support of that position, UNC asserted that although courses were created and graded by an office secretary, student-athletes completed their own work. Here, by contrast, Missouri acknowledged that the tutor completed student-athletes’ work and, in most instances, this conduct violated its honor code.

So UNC got away with it because UNC was fine with the results, while Mizzou got punished because Mizzou agreed something bad happened. Right?

How’d such a thing happen at Mizzou, though? One part of the explanation, from summer 2015:

An academic coordinator informed her that a men’s basketball player to whom she was assigned would be away from campus for the summer but needed to pass his applied statistics course to graduate. In her interview with the enforcement staff and Missouri, the tutor noted that academic coordinators historically would view her online schedule and insert new student-athletes to be tutored in her available time slots.

This situation was different from the typical process. It involved direct interaction with an academic coordinator regarding the student-athlete’s circumstances.

Based on this direct interaction regarding the men’s basketball student-athlete, the tutor said that she felt pressure to ensure that the student-athlete passed. Thus, for the first time, she resorted to completing work on behalf of a student-athlete.

In her interview, the tutor acknowledged that this process repeated itself with other academic coordinators and other student-athletes. She also stated that she believed the pay raise she received was an acknowledgement and reward by the academic staff for completing work on behalf of student-athletes.

By the following spring, that included situations such as the following:

The tutor provided the student-athlete with her cellphone number and told her she could text her questions. And, on occasion, she did.

But the student-athlete did not ask for guidance. Instead, she sent the tutor screenshots of homework and quiz questions when she could not figure out the correct solution. On these occasions, the tutor would work out the problems and text the problems and answers back to the student-athlete.

The student-athlete acknowledged that she submitted the answers provided by the tutor as her own work.

The tutor also assisted five football players and others with algebra courses offered by other schools, the NCAA says.

We’ll update shortly.