Mizzou’s Sterk: NCAA sent ‘wrong message’ with sanctions

February 5, 2019

COLUMBIA, MO. • Four days after the NCAA Committee on Infractions smacked three Mizzou teams with postseason bans, athletics director Jim Sterk hasn’t dialed down his rancor.

Sterk filled in for Cuonzo Martin on Monday’s Tiger Talk radio show and opened the hour-long show discussing the NCAA sanctions and MU’s academic misconduct case.

“As we look at it, the NCAA Committee on Infractions … they wanted to send a message and they certainly did,” Sterk said. “Unfortunately it’s the wrong message to the membership. Their chair, Dave Roberts, even admitted when asked the question on the (conference) call if schools are now being encouraged to not cooperate or tell the truth. He said, ’ You certainly can make that argument.’ As a membership-driven organization we need cooperation to function and to work through any other issues. Unfortunately it sent the wrong message with the penalties they gave us after we had exemplary cooperation.

“We reported the issue. It was a single-person, a part-time tutor. Our student-athletes, it ended up being very few. A couple of them even already had sat out games. Their penalty, as far as the NCAA staff, were covered. It’s a complicated deal but the core is the wrong message was sent.”

Sterk reiterated that Mizzou was blindsided by the severity of the penalties, especially after appearing before the committee last June. This tidbit seemed especially interesting: The NCAA, either its investigators or infractions committee members, never asked Sterk a question during the process.

“We knew there’d be penalties and we agreed there had been violations, but they were mitigated by the exemplary cooperation, the reporting, all the things we did, our compliance staff as far as digging into all the records and what happened and the education we had with our student-athletes, our staff and the tutors,” he said. “All those things, (committee members) were presented all of those. At no time did they even talk about penalties with us. As far as the conversation with me, they never asked me a single question. It was more with the academics, the chancellor and the faculty reps. It was really a shock and surprise.”

Sterk repeated that Mizzou’s brain trust never expected postseason bans; that included attorney Michael Glazier and William King, the Southeastern Conference’s Associate Commissioner for Legal Affairs and Compliance.

“Maybe vacating wins or a year of probation,” Sterk said. “Nothing to the extent we received.”

As reported here, Sterk said a postseason ban in football would cost Missouri in the range of $8-9 million for one postseason cycle. That figure comes from the projected loss of SEC conference shares from the SEC championship game, the bowls and the College Football Playoff. There is a league rule that should Missouri stay clean of NCAA violations for five years, the school will receive half the amount that’s withheld during the one-year ban.

Sterk also addressed some other topics, including football coach Barry Odom’s new contract. Sterk said it was important to pay Odom a salary that compared more favorably to his peers in the SEC.

“He was hired as a rookie coach, no head coach experience, and he now has SEC experience and two years he went to a bowl,” Sterk said. “It was a contract that rewarded that growth and momentum in the program. I’m really excited about the future.”

On football ticket sales, Sterk said, “It’s a time to really mobilize. We’ve kind of just maintained. After 2015 and Barry’s first season, we dropped in season ticket sales. This year we’ve got a lot of momentum and also it’s going to be a neat place to come to with the south end zone. You’ll get to walk around the stadium. You’ll get to do a lot more as far as interaction and fan experience within the stadium.

“We’re not looking to increase our prices and haven’t increased a lot of the prices since 2012, 2013. As we’re looking at the sections, 85 percent of the stadium won’t have any increase at all. But we do need support. We need people to buy season tickets.”

Sterk touched on what facilities are next in line for upgrades: Both the track and field team’s indoor and outdoor tracks need to be replaced. MU is working with the city on a cross country course. The football practice fields need lights, new sod and video towers. The outfield at Taylor Stadium needs artificial turf to match the infield turf installed last year. Mizzou also needs upgrades to the indoor tennis facility.

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