Missouri Southern University on probation for football violations

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(AP) — The NCAA placed Missouri Southern State’s football program on three years of probation after finding that former coach Jeff Sims acted as if he and his staff did not have to follow compliance regulations.

The school in Joplin, Missouri, hired Sims shortly after one of his football players died of heat stroke while he was coaching at Garden City (Kansas) Community College in 2018.

In a report released Friday by the NCAA’s Division II Committee on Infractions, Sims is accused of running a program where he “actively promoted an atmosphere of noncompliance” with NCAA regulations.

The committee also found that the university failed to monitor its football program.

Among other violations, the NCAA said the program allowed impermissible recruiting inducements and benefits, academic misconduct and violations of limits on athletically related activities.

For example, Simms persuaded a booster to pay $8,080 in back tuition for a former Garden City Community College player so he could play for Missouri Southern, the NCAA said. Sims also threatened his staffers’ jobs if the athletes did not perform will academically and promoted a confrontational relationship with athletics administration and compliance officials, according to the report.

A former assistant coach and a former academic adviser also were sanctioned by the NCAA for their roles in the compliance violations.

Before he was hired at Missouri Southern, Sims was coaching at Garden City Community College when freshman offensive lineman Braedon Bradforth, of Neptune, New Jersey, died of heat stroke after a football workout in August 2018.

An investigation found that Bradforth’s death was caused by “a striking lack of leadership” by top college officials, including Sims.

Bradforth’s family settled a lawsuit against the college in 2020 for $500,000.

Current Missouri Southern athletic director Robert Mallory declined to comment beyond a statement issued by school President Dean Van Galen, who noted that all the infractions occurred in 2019 and 2020, before current coach Atiba Bradley was hired, and that no current coaches or staff members were involved.

“I have 100% confidence that under Coach Bradley’s leadership that Lions’ football is operating with the highest levels of integrity and transparency,” Van Galen said.

Sims, who was fired in 2020 during his second season at Missouri Southern, did not immediately return messages seeking comment left on phone numbers listed for him. His team went 2-9 in his first year and didn’t play in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The school began an investigation in April 2020 when the human resources department learned of potential violations during an exit interview with an assistant coach. During the investigation, other former members of the football staff and former athletes raised similar concerns, prompting the school to contact the NCAA.

Besides probation, Missouri Southern and the NCAA also agreed to a reduction in football scholarships from 36 to 34.2, a $5,000 fine and vacating all football records in which athletes competed while ineligible.

Sims, who initially denied knowing about the infractions and then stopped cooperating with the investigation, was issued a seven-year show-cause order, which could penalize any institution that hired him as a coach.

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