The NCAA's message to everyone with this upheld Mizzou bowl ban: Don't ever cooperate
Congratulations, person reading this column.
You learned something today. It might not be something that’s applicable in your life, but it’s something that you can put in that spot where your brain stores useless information.
Contrary to what every episode of Law & Order has ever told you, cooperating with the investigation won’t get you a thing. Well, let me backtrack.
Cooperating with the NCAA investigation won’t get you a thing. In fact, it’ll hurt you.
That’s what was confirmed on Tuesday when reports came out that Mizzou’s bowl ban will be upheld. As you recall, Mizzou has had this bowl ban cloud hanging over the program for 10 months. So how fitting it is that 72 hours before the Tigers were supposed to play for a chance to get into a bowl game, the NCAA says “oh, wait. You’re still here? Go home, kid.”
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What a great message to send, NCAA. Your initial message of “cheating is bad and those who do so will face severe punishments” doesn’t really stand tall when North Carolina and Mississippi State both got slaps on the wrist compared to Mizzou.
That’s right. Mizzou, the school that willingly cooperated with the NCAA in that process. Unlike MSU, no current player on the football roster was part of the academic fraud, which involved former Mizzou tutor Yolanda Kumar completing classwork for 12 student-athletes (from the football, baseball and softball teams). It was Kumar who admitted her violations.
But according to the NCAA infractions panel, that was part of the reason the bowl ban came down to begin with.
“While Missouri promptly self-reported the violations, it did not promptly self-detect them. The offending conduct continued for one year,” the panel wrote back in January, adding that if the tutor had not admitted her violations, Missouri would not have been aware of them.
Wait a minute.
So coming forward, telling the truth and cooperating with an NCAA investigation doesn’t matter, but a tutor completing coursework for 10 MSU football players who didn’t cooperate with the NCAA does?
Uh, yeah, that’s messed up.
In trying to understand the backward logic the NCAA used to give MSU a punishment that didn’t involve a bowl ban (it included a loss of scholarships, 3 years probation, restrictions on official visits, etc.), I looked for different explanations as to what on Earth the NCAA was trying to prove with Mizzou that it didn’t feel like it needed to prove with MSU.
This, from the Kansas City Star back in August, was the best explanation I found:
The Bulldogs benefited from a rule that passed in August 2018, when Missouri was already going through the investigation process with the NCAA. The rule, which allowed Mississippi State to reach a “negotiated resolution” with the NCAA — essentially a plea deal, allowed both sides to move through the process without a formal hearing or summary disposition.
The NCAA didn’t like Mizzou’s plea deal and it was rejected while MSU’s plea deal, according to the NCAA, made more sense and was granted.
Again, didn’t Law & Order tell us that the school who cooperates gets the plea deal? Why is this the other way around?
Basically this sounds like if Mizzou’s tutor had called the NCAA and shared this information before posting it on Facebook, we’d be talking about a punishment comparable to MSU. But that didn’t happen.
Instead, the NCAA’s shoot-from-the-hip punishment decision came up with a bowl ban. That seems like a perfectly fair thing to do for a group of kids who literally did nothing wrong and had every right to go to Shreveport, get that swag bag with Beats headphones and hold up a trophy in front of 25,000 cold fans.
All jokes aside, it’s the principle and precedent of this deal that don’t make any sense.
Meanwhile, UNC ran one of the biggest academic fraud cases of all-time with bogus classes, but the NCAA ruled that it couldn’t find any fault because the classes were available to all students and not exclusively to athletes. Never mind the fact that dozens of UNC athletes took said classes and some stayed academically eligible because of them.
Surely UNC’s place as a college basketball blue blood had nothing to do with that ruling. After all, it’s not like banning a team with a massive national brand would have hurt the NCAA’s bottom line.
Oh, it would have? Stunning.
Stunning it is to look back on that case and realize that the NCAA’s only sanctions came because why? You guessed it. Julius Nyang’oro and Deborah Crowder, AKA the creators/enablers of these bogus classes, didn’t cooperate with the NCAA. But did that matter? Of course not. Why? Because the NCAA adjusts the goalposts as needed.
It’s comical to think that the NCAA deliberated on Mizzou’s appeal for the past 4 months and it decided to make a ruling just 3 days before the all-important regular-season finale. Well, I guess it isn’t very important anymore. Mizzou isn’t going to a bowl game, regardless of if can avoid tripping over its own shoelaces and stumbling into a ditch, which is essentially what it takes to lose to Arkansas.
Let’s call it what it is. “Cooperating” was never at the forefront of the NCAA’s ruling. Not now and not back in January.
This was about trying to play the part of “enforcer” after the UNC ruling was mocked mercilessly by everyone with at least half a brain. This was about trying to look tough amidst an appeal that surely should have been granted but wasn’t because that would have been a tail-between-the-legs look for the NCAA. Seems like a fair way for a governing body to operate, right?
The precedent the NCAA hoped to set backfired in the worst way. Now, the message is simple — you want to cheat? We don’t approve of that, but just make sure the key players involved in the cheating don’t cooperate by telling us what they know.
There, reader of this column. You learned something else today.