Let’s get this out of the way before we try to make sense of the sanctions laid upon Missouri’s football, baseball and softball programs by the NCAA:
It is patently ridiculous that North Carolina was not more severely punished for a years-long academic cheating scheme, yet Missouri gets hit with major postseason and recruiting sanctions for the alleged cheating by one tutor for 12 student athletes — an investigation in which Missouri cooperated.
This lede by the New York Times in 2017 is all you need to read to show the hypocrisy that major college sports’ governing body continues to embrace:
The N.C.A.A. did not dispute that the University of North Carolina was guilty of running one of the worst academic fraud schemes in college sports history, involving fake classes that enabled dozens of athletes to gain and maintain their eligibility.
But there will be no penalties, the organization said, because no rules were broken.
Blood boiling? Mine too. But now let’s try to take a step back and look at this through a more objective lense.
What this means in the spectrum of recent NCAA sanctions
UNC, actually, is good contemporary for Missouri’s sanctions, but not because of the academic fraud scandal. Instead, it was for impermissible benefits. That came in 2012, when the NCAA banned the Tar Heels’ football program from one year of postseason play. That came after UNC had self-imposed punishments, including vacating wins, reducing scholarships and putting itself on probation.
Here are the biggest sanctions for Missouri’s football program:
- Three years of probation
- A 2019-2020 postseason ban
- A vacation of records (i.e., wins)
- Recruiting restrictions
The NCAA is basically hitting Missouri with UNC’s self-flagellation (for much more wide-spread accusations, mind you), and then tacking on the postseason ban that it “awarded” to the Tar Heels.
If we’re looking at the sanctions through that lens — what has happened to other major programs — then they seem relatively consistent.
However, everything now is going to be skewed because of the NCAA giving the world a giant shruggie emoji (if not a blatant middle finger) after investing the academic fraud allegations at North Carolina.
All that being said, let’s take a quick look at what the sanctions specifically may mean for the football program.
What this means for Kelly Bryant
I do not have any inside knowledge of what Kelly Bryant will do — or even what he’s able to do — but it should be noted that if he signed a financial grant-in-aid (which he almost certainly did), that is non-binding. Given the circumstances of these sanctions and the fact that he has one year of eligibility left, if he were to transfer again, I could not see the NCAA restricting that decision.
THAT BEING SAID, while it’s not stated in the NCAA release, Missouri should be able to appeal this decision. And it absolutely, 100-percent sure.
The key part:
The membership-approved process spells out a 110-day timeline, but it may take longer depending on the complexity of the case. The process is designed to be fair and impartial with no rush to judgment. Getting the right answer is what counts most.
Now, even if Missouri appeals, the uncertainty of both the final verdict and the timeline itself could play a factor in any transfer decision. But, regardless, Missouri can and 100-percent should appeal the sanctions to give Bryant more reason to stay at Missouri.
It should also be noted that postseason play might not even be the end-all, be-all decision for Bryant. While Missouri could certainly be a dark-horse contender in the SEC East with Bryant, we’re not talking about the Tigers as a realistic CFP player. So, a postseason ban in a 9-3 year might take Missouri out of, say, the Gator or Citrus or Music City Bowl.
How big of an issue would that be? Only Bryant knows.
UPDATE: Kelly Bryant is expected to stay at Missouri
Kelly Bryant is expected to stay at Missouri, despite today's NCAA ruling, per a source https://t.co/Zpga7JNVNS— Matt Connolly (@MattatTheState) January 31, 2019
What this means for the future of Missouri’s football program
Let’s just throw 2019 out the window for a second. A postseason-less year (with or without a star quarterback transfer) stings, sure.
But the more concerning factor for the long-term future of Missouri football are the severe recruiting penalties for the 2020 class.
Here those are:
- A seven-week ban on unofficial visits.
- A 12.5 percent reduction in official visits.
- A seven-week ban on recruiting communications.
- A seven-week ban on all off-campus recruiting contacts and evaluations.
- A 12.5 percent reduction in recruiting-person or evaluation days.
Luckily, Missouri avoided a scholarship reduction, which has much-longer lasting implications. Still, the reductions in official visits, the seven-week bans for unofficial visits, recruiting communications and off-campus evaluations/contacts are a huge blow for the 2020 class. If you’re not out there, contacting recruits, seeing recruits, you’re out of sight, out of mind. Seven weeks is a long, long time in the recruiting world.
Missouri started to get some good recruiting momentum in the 2019 class; these recruiting sanctions make that boulder roll right back to the bottom. If the postseason ban sticks, if Kelly Bryant decides to look elsewhere and the 2019 season bottoms out — that on-the-field product, coupled with the recruiting sanctions, could have a huge impact on Missouri’s program for longer than the “one-year” sanctions the NCAA handed down.