11.4.21 STOKES FILE

Former volleyball coach Melissa Stokes looks out on the court during a match.

The NCAA announced Thursday the Missouri State women’s volleyball program committed numerous rules violations during the tenure of former head coach Melissa Stokes and was assessed with several penalties.

Due to the violations, the program is facing a one-year postseason ban effective this year, meaning the MSU Volleyball team will be ineligible to compete in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in November and the NCAA tournament.

Missouri State said in a release sent out after the NCAA's findings were announced it will not appeal the NCAA's findings and penalties.

Stokes resigned in August 2019 after an independent investigation into allegations of NCAA compliance violations was conducted by Spencer Fane LLP, a firm hired by Missouri State.

The Standard reported in 2019 that Missouri State was in the process of self-reporting the violations to the NCAA after the Spencer Fane LLP investigation was completed.

The NCAA release said Stokes provided or let her staff provide approximately $16,200 in recruiting inducements and benefits, most of which were provided by free housing at properties owned by Stokes.

The release said Stokes and her staff also arranged for free tutoring to allow two prospects to meet MSU’s admission requirements and NCAA eligibility requirements, allowed an ineligible prospect to travel and receive expenses during an international tour, and provided a fund-raising credit to another student athlete to travel on the same tour, which the NCAA release said was inconsistent with Missouri State’s policy. 

There were also violations of student participation rules in regards to summer camps, and exceeding the number of coaches allowed. The release said Stokes paid monthly stipends and provided free housing for volunteer coaches when the program was over the allowed amount of coaches.

The release said Stokes, after her resignation from MSU, provided false or misleading information throughout the NCAA investigation. If she returns to coaching in any way at the NCAA level, she will be suspended for the first 50% of that team’s schedule.

The release said the MSU compliance office was guilty of a failure-to-monitor violation because the office failed to engage in standard practices. Those practices include spot-checking practices, camps and monitoring summer housing arrangements. The NCAA release also said the office did not provide the coaching staff with adequate rules education.

The NCAA classified the case as a Level 1-Standard for the university, and a Level-1 Aggravated for Stokes. The following penalties were assessed:

  • Three years of probation.

  • A one-year postseason ban.

  • A fine of $5,000 plus 1% of the women's volleyball program budget.

  • A 5% scholarship reduction for the program.

  • A 12.5% reduction in official visits during the 2019-20 academic year (self-imposed).

  • A three-week ban on unofficial visits during the 2019-20 academic year (self-imposed). An additional four-week ban on unofficial visits for one year during the probation period.

  • A three-week ban on all recruiting communications during the 2019-20 academic year (self-imposed).  An additional four-week ban on all recruiting communications for one year during the probation period.

  • A five-day reduction in evaluation days during the 2019-20 academic year (self-imposed). An additional five-day reduction in evaluation days for one year during the probation period.

  • A five-year show-cause order for the former head coach.

  • Should the former head coach become employed in an athletically related position within the membership, she will be suspended for 50% of regular-season contests in the first season after the show-cause order.

  • A vacation of team and individuals records of contests in which student-athletes participated while ineligible.

Missouri State Director of Athletics Kyle Moats said this in the Missouri State release after the NCAA findings were announced:

"We accept the findings of the NCAA Committee on Infractions and will not appeal the penalties contained therein,” Moats said. “We have made internal modifications to our oversight processes that were singled out in the report and additional steps beyond the NCAA requirements. From today’s announcement, we are moving forward, and we will continue to make compliance a top priority as a department and as an institution.”

The MSU release said the following procedures were put in place as a result of the various steps of the investigation process:

  • An annual, in-person compliance rules education program has been enhanced for coaches and student-athletes, and further review and enhancement of the rules education program will occur on a regular basis
  • Processes have been put in place to monitor off-campus housing for prospective and current student-athletes
  • Housing documentation is now required of all recruits attending campus on unofficial visits and official visits
  • Additional processes have been put in place to monitor camps/clinics, volunteer coaches, and other areas of NCAA legislation

Current head coach Steven McRoberts was hired in February 2020 after Stokes resigned and the team played a season under interim coach Manolo Concepcion. McRoberts was not involved in any of the violations.

 

Follow Stephen Terrill on Twitter, @stevethe2nd

Subscribe to The Standard's free weekly newsletter here.