Even as the Georgia game nears and most of us have accepted the fact that Will Grier won’t play again this season after being suspended for PED usage, the questions continue to fly: what’s up with his appeal? More specifically, what the hell is taking so long?
I had many of the same questions you did, so I asked around with some people I trust. And while I don’t have all the answers, I do have a few.
The grounds that Grier is appealing on is a “knowledge challenge,” which means that he’s claiming that he didn’t know what he took had a banned substance in it. That part is fairly self explanatory. But this is a wholly subjective issue that’s very difficult to prove, as it’s virtually impossible to prove in a court of law (or to the NCAA) what Grier was thinking.
Try it yourself. Pretend you’re a lawyer, and you’re trying to prove what your client was thinking at a certain moment. How can you convince the court beyond a reasonable doubt that your client was thinking, knew, or didn’t know XYZ? You can say your client didn’t know the gun he was holding and subsequently fired a round into someone’s head with was loaded, but can you prove that in a court of law? Exactly. It’s near impossible. Knowledge and intent are impossible to judge without the use of futuristic technology that can hack into someone’s brain. For every argument you can possibly make, there’s a quick counterargument from the other side. The simplest casting of doubt upon the claim of the accused can ruin even the most well constructed argument no matter how valid that casting of doubt is in actuality.
Since the NCAA has proven over the years to love their rules more than deontologists, getting them to reconsider their punishment is going to be very difficult. The rule states that a positive test for a banned substance test results in a one year suspension. Since Grier admits to taking the drug that elicited that positive test for a banned substance, there’s really no reason the NCAA has to lighten his punishment- even if Grier and Florida somehow could prove that he didn’t know he was taking a banned substance. The sad truth is, there’s really nothing stopping the NCAA from saying, “Yeah, we don’t feel like overturning his suspension, because that was our initial ruling and we see no reason to overturn it.”
And making matters even worse, the NCAA is not exactly the world’s most competent organization. They hand out disproportionate punishments, they royally screw up their own investigations, and they intentionally define the amount of time they’ll need to discuss such grave matters as appeals as vaguely as possible- in this case, “a good faith effort to hear the appeal within 48 hours or the student athlete’s next date of competition.” We’re way past both of those deadlines. So, what gives?
Unfortunately, this is where the answers to my questions stopped coming, meaning any further analysis is pure guesswork, but given what I’ve got, I’m taking my best stab at it. The Grier camp has one and only one objective, of course, and that’s to get Grier back on the field as soon as possible. But all they can do is keep tossing out suggestions that Grier didn’t know that he was taking a banned substance, while having no sufficient proof whatsoever. Of course, the NCAA has no sufficient proof that Grier did know he was taking a banned substance, and they don’t need it, because they aren’t the ones trying to convince another party that they’re right, but rather defending their own actions to the makeshift court- which happens to be themselves.
Due to the Grier camp’s determination, though, they won’t be willing to quit until and unless the NCAA literally tells them to go away and that they won’t be overturning the length of the suspension. And while the NCAA’s moral compass may not be unlike those of fascists, they apparently have enough common sense and good faith to listen to a reasonable (again, very subjective) amount of attempts from the Florida side to persuade them that Grier truly didn’t know what he was putting into his body.
Imagine this as a sort of ping pong game. Grier camp says “He didn’t know, he couldn’t know, because X” and the NCAA camp replies with something along the lines of “You can’t prove that.” The Grier camp comes back with “He didn’t know, he couldn’t know, because Y” and the NCAA responds with “You have no way of proving that.” I’m sure you all know how ping pong works; a lot of balls go flying back and forth before somebody wins. That’s what I imagine will be the case here. Grier’s representatives have to be armed with dozens of possible arguments that Grier didn’t know what he was taking (or dozens of variations of the same argument) and the NCAA will do all it can to shoot each of them down before one side concedes.
So to put it in simple terms: the fact that neither side is particularly interested in backing down- Grier’s camp really wants him to play and the NCAA really wants to stick with its ruling- is what’s taking so long. I know Florida has made its initial appeal, but what’s happened since then is something I can’t find out for sure. I imagine that game of metaphorical ping pong is well underway, and I suppose I won’t know much more until everyone else does.
All I know is that this is a rough deal for Grier, and one that we should continue to support him through as fans. It could take weeks or even months longer, or it could suddenly be over tomorrow. Just stay patient, and in the meantime, focus on the rest of the Gator team- one that can all but wrap up the SEC East on Saturday.