Mizzou vs NCAA by Bob Ryan

It’s no surprise….everyone nods their heads “yes” or readily agrees…when the discussion of cheating in recruiting, in academics, in illegal payments  for the star… maybe even the majority…of NCAA players comes up in discussions.  This idea of cheating … especially for the 2 largest revenue sports, football & men’s basketball, seems to be commonly accepted. After short discussions on this topic, you’ll hear soon, “they all do it”..maybe differing degrees…but they all do it.

Clearly, the theoretical idea that sports in colleges were needed for school spirit, athletic opportunities for players, learning to deal with competition, fun, etc has long ago faded away. Now…..for the power 5 conferences…it’s about one thing….money.  Bring in the Big Bucks! Do it by…expanding schedules, pay coaches excessive salaries (often far more than the president of the school or governor of the state), while  the “official” practice time has its limits—optional practices occur almost every day(the only real option is –do you want to start or even stay on the team?, year round weight room obligations,  cater to television demands for starting times, limiting the big paying bowl games to only their conferences, for many athletes- classes are shoved far in the background often with little regard towards attaining a real degree. You must have “x” number of hours each semester but those hours don’t have to be towards a “real” degree…but simply classes of any kind. Get those 15..12..10 hours…whatever it is… to make yourself eligible.

It’s starting to become “out in the open” more often…..

….. The shoe scandals at several major, big-time basketball programs brought down Rick Pitino but he ISN’T the only culprit. When one does some reading on this topic, it appears that ALL of the big-time coaches….even the ones that we revere….know of the shoe company payments to families, players, etc…even before the student enters college. Of course, it isn’t going to stop in college. It’s literally, the best team that money can buy on the court.

….the N.Carolina class charade…where students did little more than sign their name for attendance and received school credit for a course…. I guess you could have called it signature course.   The NCAA could NOT rule on that situation because this “course” was open to all students @ N.Carolina…not just the athletes. The NCAA’s reign is only over college athletes,not the entire school. In theory, athletes may not be receiving special favors, $$$, trips, course grades, etc. Who would send a “normal” kid to N. Carolina now for a degree?

Now the story brings us to Mizzou……

…. Most people that I talk with about the subject ,are strongly in Mizzou’s corner….everyone does it, it’s not a big deal, just let them go, it’s the way it is…yada-yada-yada. But few, if any, have any idea of really what happened…they know it was something with classes.

….It all started with Yolanda Kumar. She began in 2014 tutoring student-athletes. It was HER comments that triggered an NCAA investigation..not Mizzou’s.  To hear Mizzou claim that they’ve cooperated…big deal….it was the revelation of this lone tutor that broke open this case. Mizzou reacted to her statements….they did not reveal anything until Ms. Kumar broke open the case. To now claim that they’ve “fully cooperated” with the NCAA seems lame to me. It’s like a kid being caught with his hand in the cookie jar…..sure, they cooperated when they’d been caught! I suppose…. that’s better than denying it or fighting it.

…From the KC Star….Kumar worked as a tutor for Mizzou’s Total Person Program off and on during the last six years. She said she was “groomed” to help keep athletes academically eligible, particularly football and men’s basketball players, and completed their classes, took tests and answered assessment questions. She said she participated in at least a dozen serious cases of academic fraud involving both men’s and women’s athletes during a 16-month period. “I think about what I’ve done and I cry, not because I’m sad or I’m weak,” Kumar said, “but because I’m so angry that I didn’t use my voice to say no.”  Kumar went into great detail with the KC Star about this “grooming” of her. Let me pick part of their interview with her,

What happened? …..Kumar said she reported her “academic dishonesty” during an 18-minute phone call Nov. 2, 2016  with Mary Ann Austin, Mizzou’s executive associate athletic director for compliance.  “I was at my wit’s end,” Kumar said. “I had pretty much had enough, and I felt good that I had told her. Then, I realized I had opened all the evil and now the evil was out of the box and you can’t put it back in.”

…. Kumar said her “first inkling” that she was doing more than tutoring came when she had a student who stopped going to a math class. “I taught him the entire course, because he missed it,” she said. “He wasn’t a low-functioning student; he was a high-functioning student, but he just wasn’t motivated to sit through that lecture”

Kumar said she was asked to monitor some ALEKS assessment tests, which determine a student’s math aptitude and impact course placement.  “I shouldn’t even be in the room for that,” Kumar said.  But athletes soon started showing up for the sole purpose of taking the ALEKS assessment in her presence, she said.  Kumar points to another case in 2015, when she was called to a special meeting to discuss how to help a football player stay on track with summer courses while he was ill with the mumps.  “He needed to pass a finance class to be eligible, so I helped him,” she said. “He wrote down his username and password. His coordinator knew about it, saying,” help him with whatever.”

Roughly a month later, with that athlete playing football again, Kumar received a call from the basketball academic coordinator to help what she called “two high-profile athletes” with an online class. “Next thing you know, I have passwords to these two students’ accounts and I’m helping them,” she said. “I took their first test, because it was non-proctored.”  In another case, Kumar said, an athlete’s coordinator told him to work with Kumar on a class he previously failed and stressed to her that all his exams were online. “I don’t know how it got so bad, but most of my students were coming from those two people in the revenue-generating sports,” she said. “Then, there’s someone telling you, ‘He needs this class to pass. Do you understand? He has to have this class to pass, Yolanda.’” At some point, Kumar said she completed an online course for two basketball players, taking the tests online and doing the written work in the class’ online discussion boards.  “It was something where the coordinator said he has to pass this class — ‘If he doesn’t pass, he can’t play. Yolanda, he needs to do this,’” Kumar said. “And I’m thinking, ‘OK, but he can’t (pass),’ only to hear, ‘Yolanda, we need to do whatever it takes.’ I took that definitely to mean that you need to finish this for him, because he has work that is due.”

…. A men’s athlete had been placed with Kumar last summer for help in a core class that she was told he needed to graduate.  “I did everything I could and he passed,” she said, “but he really was struggling with very basic things that my eighth-grader could do.” When the athlete needed additional help to stay eligible this fall, he was again placed with Kumar for help with an online statistics class. “It’s taken almost four weeks for him to even understand it. … I looked at him,” Kumar said as she burst into tears, “and he was so depressed that he couldn’t do it.”  Her voice now cracking, she repeated, “He couldn’t do it.  “No matter how many times I told him, how many examples I gave him, he couldn’t do it. It was just (expletive) adding. That was all he had to do was (expletive) add it up, and he couldn’t do it. It was me. I was looking at what I had done, because I helped this. I didn’t start it with him. I wasn’t the person who pushed him through high school. I didn’t get him this far in college, but I did this. I helped with this. This kid was going to fail and it was my fault, too.” 

Kumar said the athlete was despondent because he couldn’t keep up with his coursework. She brought it up with his academic coordinator, who said he was advised to meet with a school psychologist, but nobody could force him to go. “He’s so lost, and I helped. I helped ruin him,” Kumar said. “I probably can’t take it all, because it’s not all me. It’s not all me at all, but he was the one who forced me. That was enough. I couldn’t do it anymore.”

….“In resigning, there’s nothing, there’s no gain there for me …,” Kumar said. “I’m completely ruined. My name is out there forever.”  She later continued, “I had friends check up on me and say, ‘They’re going to throw you under the bus.’ I said, ‘I’m already under the bus. I feel like I have the wheel on my esophagus. I can’t even breathe.’ There was only one way up from here for me. I got it out, and no matter what happens,  it’s done. It’s no longer my burden to carry.”

Was Kumar wrong….sure she was. Was Mizzou aware of what was going on with her…and probably other tutors like her….SURE they were. Mizzou & Kumar BOTH knew what was going on…does anyone think that if she hadn’t gone public, that we’d know about this situation now? Or anytime?

Soooo…..now with the penalties..the NCAA apparently …just now…realizing that this type of thing has spiraled out of control….hit Mizzou hard in the pocket book. That’s the only place that seems to “hurt” these institutions. It’s my thought that the NCAA unloaded on Mizzou (a seldom seen contender on the national stage) , since they couldn’t pull the trigger on the really big boys (Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, Kansas, etc). This may have been the warning shot to these types of schools.

…..the penalties……The N.C.A.A. acknowledged the proactive steps that Missouri had taken in investigating the academic fraud, but the penalties handed down to the football, baseball and softball programs were severe. (point being: you cooperated after being disclosed publicly but YOU were responsible as an institution for the violations) Along with three years of probation and the postseason bans, the programs also must vacate any records from when the 12 athletes involved in the misconduct participated; the amounts of scholarship money available for those programs will be reduced by 5 percent for the coming academic year; and they will be subject to recruiting restrictions that include a seven-week ban on unofficial visits, off-campus contacts and any communications with prospects, and 12.5 percent reductions in the numbers of official visits and in-person evaluations. The N.C.A.A. also fined the university $5,000 plus 1 percent of each program’s budget…

The response from those schools…..let’s leave the NCAA.

My proposal:

As the Power 5 conferences begin chanting about pulling away from the NCAA due to its “limitations”, let’s consider a totally new approach.  Everyone seems ready to agree that the current procedures aren’t working as they were designed. Throw out athletic scholarships. Consider the athletes of football & basketball as entertainers. Just as the school would hire a band to entertain the students on a Saturday night, let the school hire these players as entertainers. Pay them a flat sum of $$ but no benefits. They’d be like contracted employees. They wouldn’t have to be students of the school (but they could be). They could play 4 years past their HS graduation. Free Medical care would be provided. Contracts with these entertainers could be 1-2-3-4 years long. Now as contracted employees, these athletes would be responsible for their own food, nutrition, housing, transportation, etc. IF….if…they choose to become a college student, they’d still get paid and the school could offer them an additional scholarship but NO special perks. They’d be like every other student…on their own…to find housing, food, their classes, transportation. All those housing, food, nutritionists, daily transportation, academic assistance along with all the other services provided currently to students . These highly talented players, who for the most part often seem to ignore school anyway, would be on their own as adults.  I actually think that it’d be less expensive.  Schools would be given an overall budget for these 2 sports. Say that there are 100 players (total) in the football, basketball programs, provide $7,000,000 for the overall personnel payment annually. That’d average out to $70,000/student but each player would have his own contract. We all know that some players would get more, some less in a given year. Recently I wrote an article on the scholarship topic. Doing my research on that topic, I learned that athletic scholarships in football/basketball cost the school  around $120,000 per student when one considers all of the “side” benefits that these players receive…or could receive.  Your thoughts.  The system is broke now…..how would you fix it? 

Btw….the power 5 conferences have already effectively isolated the schools in the non-Power 5 from the big-money days. Only Power 5 schools end up in the major bowls, only Power 5 schools (for the most part) ending up in the Sweet 16 of basketball…sure there’s the Loyola’s of the world about once a decade. One only finds Power 5 schools in the championships of baseball, soccer, softball and most other sports. Only the Power 5 schools have their own television networks. In a sense, they’ve already separated themselves from the non-power 5 schools. Now to some real sports talk…..

…some “good news” coming about Albert Pujols.

Albert Pujols and his wife, Deidre, (generally vilified in the Lou) began a campaign against human trafficking 2 years ago. The couple paid for the cost of 2 concerts at Angel Stadium and a 3rd concert  at Nationals Park in Washington. The goal of each concert was to develop awareness about what is often called modern-day slavery. Major League Baseball and its players’ association joined the fight recently. MLB and the MLBPA announced a $500,000 donation to charities focused on combating human trafficking.  The organization, Strike Out Slavery, founded by the Pujols family fights human trafficking, including forced labor and sex trafficking. That organization works with local and national governments to rescue victims and punish abusers under law. Strike Out Slavery is now in its third year, the number of ballpark concerts will grow to four this season (Angel Stadium, Nationals Park, Citi Field in New York and Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City).  In recognition of their work, Albert and Deidre Pujols are set to be honored by the United Nations Women for Peace Assn. March 1 in New York. Wouldn’t it be great to have St Louis added to that list of concerts AND have Albert welcomed back home to the Lou?  Many fans still seem to hold a grudge…hey, how many of you wouldn’t have done the same thing as Albert? How many of us leave 1 job for another due to more $$.The Lou & Albert need to make peace…maybe this is the way to do it.

….latest proposals being kicked around by MLB…they must have the same defensive coaches as the Cards—that was low….sorry!…..minimum of 3 batters for each pitcher (proposed in this column last year) and a mandatory DH. Apparently, with the evolution of the DH going from a costly veteran hitter as it was initially to a versatile, inexpensive player as many do in the AL….this idea is NOW gaining momentum (once again….it’s the money talking)

….btw….the current 1B listed on the NY Yankees depth chart….Luke Voit. There’s no telling.. with the patience of the NY fans and management….that Voit will be there for the entire season….or even the all-star break….but KUDO’s to him for starting the season there.

I’ve gone on too long….hope that the Mizzou part informed you….it sure did for me. Thanks for making all the way down to this level!  Your thoughts are welcome (as always)

Comments

  1. Bill frazee says:

    A side of the issue I had not heard. Thanks (I think). Nice to be educated on the issue.

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