Sterk: Media Roundtable on NCAA penalties, appeal
Missouri Director of Athletics Jim Sterk met with local media for about 45 minutes on Monday. The majority of the discussion centered around Mizzou's NCAA case and the upcoming appeal. Here is a full transcript:
There's been a pretty concentrated effort to be public and transparent, there's a new page on the website. What's been the thought process behind how you guys have responded to the sanctions and what's been the response you've gotten from others outside the program about how you have handled it?
Sterk: "Just initially, it's been positive as far as how we've handled it. I thank our staff for really helping communicate. I think we've been trying to do it in an open way like you said. We were all shocked with it and we wanted to make sure that we sent the right message. We were trying to be strategic, as far as we can't give everything as far as our appeal, but we can get information out that is public information and we thought it was the best way would be to get it out on a website that everyone can read and try to answer questions that we've received in the last week or so and put it out there so we can open it up for everyone to see. I think the reaction from people outside as far as the penalties go, I think it's pretty unanimous, that people were shocked as we were. It seemed that they abused their discretion. That's the legal term that's used. We were open and honest. Only two or three schools in the last decade have received exemplary cooperation and the penalties seemed very excessive for the cooperation that we have."
Do you have the page to keep fans updated or to continue the push against the penalties?
Sterk: "I think all of the above. By using the website and getting information out there, we can keep people up to date, we can inform people and keep it at the front of mind as well. I think it will evolve as, I think the end of the week, our (intent to) appeal will go to the NCAA. It's due by the 15th so we'll have it out there, we'll send it by then and then a few days we'll get a response back and then we have 30 days to send in our official appeal. We'll try to keep people informed as this is moving along, but I think it will be important to keep everyone engaged that way and to unite the support behind the program."
One of the things you said is that you can appeal certain parts of the penalties. When you do file the appeal will it be a broad, 'we think everything should be overturned' approach?
Sterk: "We want to be factual about that. There were some violations and we thought that probation could be something, or vacating wins. Beyond that, I think that's where it gets into the excessive range."
Why did you see it as a conflict of interest that the co-chair of the Knight Commission was on this panel?
Sterk: "We didn't know that going in. That's information that has come out as we've heard that. I think that's something the membership and overall the NCAA will need to look at as far as where it goes. I think there's some distinct feelings by the working group and those haven't been adopted by NCAA membership yet so I think that will be questions that will have to be answered."
You've talked about your philosophy of win it right, but make it right, what does that mean to you exactly?
Sterk: "Make it right so that appropriate penalties for the actions that were taken. To take into consideration the mitigating circumstances around the case, exemplary cooperation, isolated part-time employee that made the violations, that encouraged kids that she would do their homework as opposed to the students, so academic fraud if you will."
Did you anticipate the improper benefits with the men's basketball program that happened before you got here would be a factor in these penalties?
Sterk: "I think some of that, we knew that they would look at that, but I think the overwhelming mitigating circumstances."
Andy Humes: "From what I remember, that part, when they talked about the men's case and having the responsibility to monitor, I think if I remember right, that was more in reference to why they weren't granting us a couple of the other mitigating items that we'd argued for. At the end of the day, I think that's one thing we're certainly going to address on the appeal. When you look at the charge that they have, the committee, and how you approach those aggravating and mitigating factors, you look at the number and you look at the weight. On its face, number, four mitigating, two aggravating, it didn't seem that the decision had much discussion about weight. So I think we think that's an issue, especially when one of those four mitigating is exemplary cooperation, which is really difficult to get and should carry significant weight and it doesn't seem like any weight was attributed to it."
You've said you were shocked by the sanctions. Throughout the process, did anyone bring up specific possible penalties or were you basing what you thought would happen on precedent?
Sterk: "More on precedent and Michael Glazier, that's had a ton of experience in this area and from the SEC as well."
You've obviously hired Glazier. I've heard talk that you might bring in other legal people as well. Is that accurate?
Sterk: "Michael will be the lead, but there's others that are out there.
Humes: "Rick Evrard, is also at Bond, Schoeneck and King, the same firm that Mike Glazier's at. And then Chris Griffin, who's an attorney based out of Tampa has experience serving on Committee on Infractions and appeals committees."
Sterk: "Then we've had other Mizzou alums that are attorneys who are going to be in an advisory role that our general counsel, Steve Owens, is going to keep informed and involved."
You've mentioned the post-season ban comes with significant financial implications. Can you explain how you got to eight to nine million dollars?
Sterk: "Tim Hickman checked with the SEC. I think Ole Miss received six or seven million dollars (less). That's not just the bowl revenue, it's the college football playoff revenue that's shared among our SEC members. If you're not eligible for postseason that year in which it's distributed, then they withhold the share. You can earn some of that (50%) back after a five-year period."
To clarify, you think the attainable things to overturn are everything except probation and the vacated wins?
Sterk: "Those are reasonable given precedent and exemplary cooperation."
There's the penalty matrix that has been talked about. Is it any more difficult to overturn something that's within that matrix?
Humes: "I think that's part of the appeal. Not just the actual penalties, but the classification of the case. I think you heard Dave Roberts, who's the chair of the committee, in his press conference after very much pointed to the matrix and if it's within it. While that's true, the committee does have the ability, there's a bylaw, 19.9.6 I think, that allows you under special circumstances to give penalties above or below the matrix. It's not that their hands are totally tied. There are other options and other cases, especially cases that have exemplary cooperation, often times, the bylaw is used to provide less penalties than what's in the matrix. I do think we'll be, on the appeal, asking them to look at the classification of the case as well as the penalties. So if it was a level one mitigated, then it is a lower range of penalties. Even with a classification this high, we feel that the penalties themselves, even within the matrix, don't follow precedent. You don't see typically cases that don't involve recruit getting every single sub-type of recruiting violation. It hit every one of them which is pretty rare."
It sounds like their counter is that exemplary cooperation could have prevented an even longer postseason ban. What's the argument against that?
Humes: "Again, I think that flies in the face of precedent. For this type of case getting any type of postseason ban is unheard of. To say exemplary kept you from getting a longer postseason ban, that would be a real stretch in terms of precedent."
Have you talked about how to make that money up if the postseason ban is upheld or do you just expect it to get overturned?
Sterk: "No, we haven't gone there."
How big a blow is that if it's upheld and in relation, there are people who want to know, the last year Missouri was in the Big 12 it received about $50 million. Now that's doubled and you're still running a deficit. Why have expenses gone up so much?
Sterk: "We're in a very competitive league and you know it, you've seen the numbers, we're sitting 13th out the 14 schools. Salaries, scholarships, cost of education, all those things have been added since then. We also, since then, have become virtually independent of the institution as far as a budget is concerned. I'm almost positive we were receiving subsidy from the institution and so that also disappeared. That was in the range of seven or eight million at least, I think. On the counter side, we're paying more also to the institution (Mizzou said 19.7% of its budget goes back to the institution for various costs). What we're paying back to the institution has significantly increased as well. We're not only not receiving what we used to receive from the institution as a part of the institution, we're paying more back."
Is there potential relief on that front?
Sterk: "I would love to say there is. But not at this point in time, that hasn't been discussed."
Speaking of finances, how much is the appeal expected to cost?
Sterk: "I don't know what it is. I couldn't guess."
Humes: "It's hard to guess at this point. A lot of it's based on hourly rates and how long it is, how much things add up. But it won't be cheap."
You mentioned Ole Miss. They were able to get the recruiting violations removed. Do you see that as a good sign?
Sterk: "I definitely think so. That's something that we will appeal."
If you get a stay on the postseason ban during the appeal, if baseball or softball were in a position where they might not make the SEC Tournament, would they be able to take the postseason ban this year?
Humes: "Yeah, we believe that to be the case. Syracuse basketball a couple years ago was in a similar position and we don't anticipate that we wouldn't be able to do the same thing."
Is there a point in the season where they'd have to make that decision?
Humes: "Not that I'm aware of. There's nothing in the rules that say it's got to be at X point in the season, I think primarily because it's kind of uncharted territory when you're getting in these situations, but from our understanding now you can make that decision at any point...Hopefully we're winning the league and don't have to worry about it."
As far as football, if you go into the summer and the appeal process is still ongoing, do you see a situation where you just go into the season not knowing?
Sterk: "Yeah, we could be. We're guesstimating six to 12 months. That just depends on the committee. We have a certain timeline on our side, but not really on theirs."
Humes: "There are certain deadlines, you have this many days and then that person has this many days, but then how long it takes to get a hearing scheduled and things like that can change. It really just depends on how backed up they may be and their schedule and coordinating that."
If the process is finished up around the time the football season starts, would you be able to push the scholarship restrictions off or would those be immediate?
Sterk: "You would think they'd have to be reasonable on that."
Humes: "That is one thing we will definitely be bringing up on the appeal. I think again, it shows some disconnect with the decision and applying scholarship reductions so quickly. Usually they're in a further year so teams can plan for that. You can imagine if it comes down to say August and it upholds the scholarship reductions, I don't see how we can go to four current kids and say you're out. I don't think that's feasible. I do think we'll be asking, we hope it's gone, but if not that at least it would be for next year."
Jon Sundvold brought up, and was not the first, the idea of Power Five schools breaking away from the NCAA. Is that something that's ever come up as a serious topic of discussion among athletic directors?
Sterk: "It hasn't been discussed in any of our meetings, national meetings or, I don't think, any sidebars either."
Will that change?
Sterk: "Who knows?"
I think you've used the word 'mobilize' your fans in the wake of all this. I don't want to say a silver lining, but can you sense building up to the football season, you can rally the troops around this?
Sterk: "I think there is. Certainly in my short time, and others have told me, it maybe has never happened where the legislature, the system president, the chancellor, the base of support throughout the state are all together, all in. I think the opportunity we have is to keep that going. I think it ties into the 1839 campaign where we're encouraging people from across the state to be involved and support the program as low as fifty bucks to whatever, but also show support for our student-athletes that are in this. I think that sends a strong message to our student-athletes, to recruits, to our coaches, all those folks that are on the front lines there. I think that's a great message to send."
Have you seen an uptick in donations since this news hit?
Ashley Moore, Tiger Scholarship Fund: "People have been really, really supportive. They've really done a good job, asking what they can do. We've seen a lot of new donors recently, a lot of people asking what they can give to."
Sterk: "I know my three daughters are new annual members to the Tiger Scholarship Fund."
Have you been happy with whatever support you've gotten from Greg Sankey and the SEC? I know he made the one statement, but I don't know what he can say publicly.
Sterk: "He's been really positive behind the scenes and working not on a public platform, but privately. I think he was, not to put words in his mouth, but he was as shocked as we were with the decision and he's sat on that committee previously as the chair."
Humes: "William King of the SEC office as well, he oversees their compliance and governance and in his former life as an attorney made appearances before the committee, so he's very familiar with the process and also has been very supportive."
Sterk: "They've offered their support in any way they can."
You're making these statements and you've also got this appeal going on. How do you balance that this is the group you're appealing to but also making your point of view clear?
Sterk: "I think for us to try to make sure we distinguish between the NCAA and the Committee on Infractions decision. There's a separation there. There were no staff members on that committee that had a vote on that decision. I think in making sure that we have the support of the NCAA is very important. I think the infractions staff that we worked with, that relationship and the result was positive on both fronts and then this committee decided that they weren't going to listen to or accept a summary disposition. They wanted to bring us in for the hearing and then made this decision. It's not acceptable."
The issue then is more with the committee?
Sterk: "That decision. And so we will utilize the appeal process. The relationship with the NCAA has to remain positive, but we can also, they needed to know initially and they'll need to know through our appeal what exactly we felt was wrong with the decision."
Humes: "It's nothing with the individuals that were on the committee. At the end of the day being on the Committee on Infractions is a pretty thankless job. No one's ever happy with whatever punishments you get. It's a professional opinion that it wasn't a good decision and so we have to, as aggressively as we can, appeal that decision."
You have fans saying if this doesn't go your way Missouri should sue the NCAA. How would you respond to those people?
Humes: "We need to channel that into tickets and TSF."
I guess what I'm asking, can you say at this point that's not an option that will be on the table?
Humes: "I think it would be hard to come up with a specific cause of action over penalties. It's a voluntary association and the rules are set up within the association. It doesn't mean the laws just don't apply. There are still potential ways that could happen, but I think it's pretty unrealistic."
Sterk: "I like their enthusiasm, but we need it directed toward support of our teams."
You said you weren't asked a single question in the hearing. What issues specifically did the COI take with your summary disposition?
Sterk: "I don't know if we can say that."
Humes: "I think in general, a lot of the discussion was procedural. It wasn't focused on penalties. It was really the enforcement staff and committee talking about procedural things, which again, I think is part of the reason this really caught us off guard because there wasn't discussion of penalties. There was a lack of heat in the room. It wasn't tense, it wasn't back and forth and hostile and some of those I think can be. That definitely wasn't the environment we were in."
The politicians that have spoken out, have you been in touch with them or has that been more Dr. Choi and Dr. Cartwright?
Sterk: "We haven't. There's a legislative liaison on campus and I think Nick (Joos) has been in communication with them."
You guys announced some changes to the compliance staff over the last few months. In regard to what happened, are you making changes to make sure something like this doesn't happen again?
Sterk: "When we received exemplary cooperation, that shows you have a strong compliance program in place. Mary Austin's retirement, I think that's just when she was going to retire. I think she announced it before anything came up. We have a strong compliance program and we want to have a strong one in the future."
Humes: "Mitzi Clayton was the former associate AD for compliance. The person that started today in our office is taking that position. Mitzi voluntarily pursued and got a job on campus working as the NCAA certification officer, so still actually working with compliance. Both Mary and Mitzi, both long time compliance leaders nationally and have always done a really good job. There's always been a really good compliance program here."
You hired Larissa Anderson after the Women’s College World Series in late June. At what point was this investigation in its proceedings and was this a possibility that you mentioned to her that these sanctions could be handed down while she was the head coach?
Sterk: “Yeah, we did inform her that we have this tutor issue, but at no time did we think anything postseason or anything that would impact her sport specifically was going to happen.”
Was Mike Glazier pretty immediate as far as we’re going to retain him for the appeal? I know you’ve worked with him before, what about his track record makes him a guy that you guys wanted to turn to?
Sterk: “I think the example — and we don’t hire him, the general counsel of the university system hires him. So, one, if you ask anyone around the country, nine out of 10 would name Mike Glazier the top person, and he has that reputation and experience and respect I think across the country, both with institutions and the NCAA.”
Do you think the tutor and some of the unconventional things that she said and did throughout this, do you think that was taken into consideration with the penalties and how this all unfolded? I mean, the star witness in all this has a 10-year show-cause. It just seems backwards.
Sterk: “I think the enforcement staff got a glimpse of that and understood that. That’s why they recommended initially not naming her and just going to summary disposition. But the committee on infractions I don’t think, wouldn’t you say that they didn’t understand probably fully?
Humes: “Yeah, I think that’s probably a good way to say it. I’m not sure enforcement — we were working with enforcement jointly and closely and I think they had a pretty good view of the former tutor and some of the actions going forward, they saw that. So I think they did have a pretty good understanding. I’m not sure that they ever really got that. I think they were worried about the due process part of her not being named, which I understood, but you know we had some arguments with enforcement as well about why we didn’t think she should be named. At the end of the day, they decided she should, and that’s why the case kind of kept dragging past the summary disposition point.”
Everything you guys have said is up until the last step, everything about this was pretty good. Is this process, not just with your investigation, is this process flawed somehow?
Sterk: “I think there’s some points that we’re going to make in our appeal that I can’t specifically say, but I think there’s some points that we’re going to be making that I think lend itself to having some of their decisions overturned.”
Of the 12 athletes involved, was it an overwhelming majority of one of the three programs involved compared to the others?
Humes: “Funny you mention that, because yeah, of the 12, nine competed while ineligible. Seven were football, one was softball, one was baseball. So, specifically, if you’re looking for the softball (player), it involved a handful, I think five or six instances of help with a homework assignment. I mean, pretty minimal stuff involving one student-athlete, and that translated into a postseason ban, recruiting penalties, scholarship cuts. Even with football, the number of seven, it’s not a huge number when you look at a lot of these ineligible player cases where postseason bans aren’t applied as penalties. It’s usually a vacation of wins when you play ineligible players. We saw just a day or two ago a Division II case came out, one of the, we call them like a mass mis-certification case, where people weren’t certifying the players and just didn’t have good compliance systems in place, and I think over five years they had 130-something compete, and were no postseason bans, no recruiting penalties. It was vacation of wins and so it seems strange when you see results, you know, other cases’ decisions coming out like that, and then we have one softball and one baseball student that competed while ineligible.”
I know Barry (Odom) said that none of the football players involved is currently on the roster. Is that the same for baseball and softball?
You’ve characterized the penalties as going against precedent, but do you think that the NCAA was at least trying to be consistent within this case in applying the same penalties no matter the weight of where the athletes, what sport they were competing in?
Humes: “It’s a good question. I don’t know. I think it’s hard, frankly, it’s hard to understand the decision. So it’s hard to pick it apart and understand why they may have consistently, or if that was their reasoning for doing it. I’m not sure. There wasn’t a lot of explanation for the discussion on the factors or why these penalties were included, and that will be part of our appeal.”
I think the tutor’s number, what she told me and others, was 42 athletes. Forty-two to 12, is that basically that’s what she had evidence of?Humes: “Yeah, so there was an initial allegation made by the tutor, and it did involve more than 12, but at the end of the day, we worked with the enforcement staff in running that down really thoroughly, to the point that we got exemplary cooperation. I mean some very detailed information on that, and it led to the determination that 12 violations occurred.”
Sterk: “I forget the number of emails that Mitzi (Clayton) said it was. Thousands, I think.”
Humes: “It was a lot of data review, a lot of interviews, a lot of work. And that all occurred before I got here. Mary (Austin) and Mitzi had done a really good job of that.”
Seating changes at Faurot Field) is something that’s been in the works going back months, right? How long has that been on the table that there would be changes to the pricing and the seating?
Sterk: “Over the past couple of years we’ve surveyed fans and we’re really trying to look at what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. The results of those and some focus groups that we had with our fanbase looking at our sales and looking at secondary sales, we had the south end zone coming on line for this fall, so that was going to be a change, and really with the whole numbering of the stadium, really took a good hard look at that. Currently it’s kind of confusing, so we needed to try and address that. And then with the SEC and moving benches, we got a one-year reprieve, but we needed to move the students, too. So all those factors kind of came into play where we really did a holistic look at how can we make this better for our fans? Pricing, I think 85 percent of our season-ticket holders are going to be the same or at a reduced price, so that was something important, and then to offering, I think scaling the house, if you will, so that it’s more affordable, so that other parts of the stadium are more affordable for fans to come to a game. So I think that’s what we heard from the fans loud and clear and we wanted to address with this program.”