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Don’t expect the NCAA to do right by Missouri

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After announcing tame penalties in an alarmingly similar case at Mississippi State, the NCAA has set itself up for an epic flubbing of Missouri’s sanctions appeal.

NCAA Football: Liberty Bowl-Missouri vs Oklahoma State Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Amazon is burning. A trade war has locked U.S. farmers out of fertile markets. And every few months, a new super hurricane bombs the coasts.

That may not be what you want to hear right now, but it’s good to have perspective.

It’s good to remember that football isn’t all that important. As much joy as it brings us, it’s ephemeral. You may take pride in your school winning eight, maybe nine, and — if the gods look upon you favorably — maybe 10 (!) games. Rest assured, though, you’ll be back in the same place eight months later— full of hope and just as dogged by reservations.

Is that a slightly hyperbolic and existential view of a sport? Absolutely. But we care deeply about sports, giving them intrinsic value to us and our community of lovable loons.

Few fanbases are as fatalistic as Missouri, but even the most mizzerable, jaded True Son can find things to get excited about this year. The Tigers have one of the nation’s most exciting quarterbacks. The rest of the roster is dotted with potential all-conference performers in what is arguably the nation’s best collection of programs. Its new facilities promise great things for the future, both at on-and-off-field levels.

Hell, the administration is pushing you to consume booze inside the stadium now!

Don’t let anyone — or any group of faceless bureaucrats — tell you otherwise. It’s an exciting time to root for the Missouri Tigers. Nothing said for the rest of this article can change that, come hell or high water.

That being said, it’s getting harder to ignore the storm clouds that have been gathering over Columbia since February. The initial announcement of the NCAA sanctions was troubling, but there was always hope for a better future.

After all, the NCAA would eventually notice its own mistakes, right? After getting crucified on the internet, the cartel — already utterly, hilariously unpopular — would surely see the benefit of scaling back Missouri’s punishment... right??

It was easy to picture. Jim Sterk and his band of merry dissenters would assemble a thorough, reasonable appeal that gave the power brokers in Indianapolis room to maneuver. Walking back harsh penalties would earn some good press or, at the very least, stem some of the eternal rage that ebbs and flows its direction. It’d be a win for Missouri, a win for the NCAA and a win for those seeking to bridge the chasm between the academic and the athletic.

The classic win-win-win scenario, you know?

Well, you may want to pump those brakes, because the NCAA has some news for you.

They are not interested in win-win-win scenarios. In fact, they’re more interested in making this whole process about as messy and colossally stupid as possible.

On Friday, the NCAA announced sanctions for Mississippi State’s football and men’s basketball program for a “scandal” which broadly resembled that in Columbia. Reading the governing body’s explanation is like toking an acid-dipped cigarette you purchased from a bare-footed hippie humming an out-of-tune cover of “California Dreamin.’”

It’s simple, almost so simple that you’d think someone in the NCAA offices could have easily mixed up the memos. Rogue tutors. Completed classes. Different programs. The two cases are basically a more adult — and bland — version of “Can You Spot the Difference?” you could find in a three-year-old Highlights magazine at your dentist’s office.

The main point of interest comes by the way Mississippi State was able to mitigate its own penalties, despite them being remarkably similar in nature to Missouri. Taken from the NCAA’s statements, the association explained that Mississippi State got the chance to sit down with the NCAA and work through a “negotiated resolution process.” Basically, the school admitted certain infractions occurred, worked to find a joint resolution with the NCAA and submitted it to the committee on infractions. Please, Mr. NCAA Sir, punish me for I have been oh so naughty.

This process, seemingly instrumental in Mississippi State’s lesser penalties, wasn’t implemented until August 2018, only months after Missouri’s appeal had been submitted. How convenient!

The NCAA also noted how Mississippi State both self-reported and self-detected the violations, calling for scaled back penalties. And Missouri? They were quick to self-report, but failed to satisfactorily self-detect.

Did you catch that? The program was exemplary in reporting something they didn’t even detect!

Roll me over, Big MO. This world has no meaning, and I feel I may have truly lost my mind.

Once again, there existed an opportunity for the NCAA to step back and see reason. Missouri didn’t get the chance to work through this new process! How (logically) unfair! At the very least they could get the same benefit of the doubt that was passed down to the good folks of Starkville.

Right?

[long wet fart noise]

Negotiated resolutions may not be appealed and do not set case precedent for other infractions cases.

Then again, why would they set case precedent for other infractions cases? That would make too much sense. Such a brash move would mean the NCAA backpedaling over its giant-ass clown shoes, tripping through the wet cardboard wall of reason they’ve built up around themselves with a resounding, cartoony “BONK” for effect.

The truth is, it isn’t technically time to say die just yet. Against all the odds, the NCAA could rule in Missouri’s favor, meaning we all spent seven months hand-wringing over nothing. It would also mean I wasted the time it took to work on this instead of doing other things— like hanging out with my newborn son.

However, this latest development in the NCAA’s never-ending cavalcade of jackassery makes it nearly impossible to see the light at the end of this particularly damp, particularly stupid tunnel.

Until the gavel is rapped and the judgement is passed, a perfectly viable exit ramp exists. The NCAA could easily produce a solution that lifts a punishment slated to fall on a group of players who weren’t even on campus when the violations occurred. You would think anyone, no matter how deliriously out of touch, would see it standing right in front of them.

Don’t expect that of the NCAA, though. If Friday’s ruling is any indication, the NCAA is committed to dashing our hopes and dreams in the most idiotic way possible, stealing away a fan base’s hope in a time when hope is all that they have.