Mississippi State athletics

Mississippi State athletics has been hit with NCAA penalties.

MSU and the NCAA both announced on Friday that a negotiated resolution has been reached after it was found that in the fall semester of the 2018-19 academic year, a former Mississippi State student and part-time athletics department tutor committed academic misconduct in an online chemistry course that aided 10 football players and a men’s basketball player.

As a result of the resolution, Mississippi State’s penalties include the following:

• Three years of probation for the football and men’s basketball programs.

• A reduction of two football scholarships during each of the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years.

• A reduction of one men’s basketball scholarship during the 2020-21 academic year.

• A fine of $5,000 plus one percent each of the football and men’s basketball budgets.

• A reduction of four football official visits from the program’s four-year average of 40 visits during the 2019-20 academic year.

• A reduction of two men’s basketball official visits from the program’s four-year average of 10 visits during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 rolling two-year period.

• A prohibition of football unofficial visits during one home contest for the 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years.

• A prohibition of men’s basketball unofficial visits during two home contests for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years.

• A reduction of football evaluation days by two in the fall of 2019 and 10 in spring of 2020.

• A reduction of men’s basketball recruiting-person days by six in the spring of 2020.

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

• A disassociation of the former tutor

• All involved student-athletes must conduct one rules education session on the consequences of academic misconduct.

• Participation in the National Association of Academic and Student-Athlete Development Professionals program review and Academic Integrity Assessment process.

• A 10-year show-cause order for the former tutor. During that period, any NCAA member school employing her must restrict her from any athletically-related duties unless it shows cause why the restrictions should not apply.

In addition to the announced penalties, sources tell the Starkville Daily News that players involved are expected to serve undisclosed suspensions. However specifics of those suspensions haven’t been released as that would violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act that protects the privacy of student education records.

Both MSU Athletic Director John Cohen and Mississippi State President Mark Keenum issued statements on the situation Friday.

“Our staff at Mississippi State was proactive in our preventative measures, quick to respond, and worked in full cooperation with the NCAA enforcement staff,” Cohen said. “With all of the compliance training that our staff and student-athletes go through on a year-round basis, it is unfortunate that a student serving as a part-time tutor was able to lead our student-athletes astray. Nevertheless, we take full responsibility for these actions. Mississippi State will work diligently to continue a culture of compliance and continue to take proactive measures moving forward.”

Keenum’s thoughts were similar to Cohen’s.

“Academic integrity is a core value at Mississippi State and that value guides our policies and decisions,” Keenum said. “Unfortunately, young people sometimes make poor decisions and those decisions have consequences. When the university learned of possible serious instances of academic misconduct involving student-athletes and a student tutor employed part-time by MSU Athletic Academics, we were compelled to remove the student tutor from university employment, fully and independently investigate the matter, and then self-report the misconduct to the NCAA Committee on Infractions. These actions likewise have consequences for the university, but our commitment to operating a competitive athletic program within NCAA guidelines is unwavering – as is our commitment to integrity, transparency and accountability in all university conduct.”

According to the NCAA, the now-former tutor at MSU completed multiple assignments, exams and in some cases, nearly the entire online course for the student-athletes. She then elected not to participate in an interview with enforcement staff to discuss her involvement in the situation.

However, MSU and the NCAA was able to come to an agreement under the NCAA’s new negotiated resolution process. According to the NCAA, this process was used instead of a formal hearing or summary disposition because MSU and enforcement staff agreed on the violations and the penalties. These negotiated resolutions cannot be appealed and they do not set case precedent for other infractions cases.

Mississippi State’s penalties were set by ranges identified by the Division I membership-approved infractions penalty guidelines.

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