With an extra week before the Georgia game to mull things over, the question has been bouncing around between members of the Gator Nation, and only gets asked louder each time it’s asked: does Will Grier have a chance to win his appeal against the NCAA?
That is an excellent question, and one that I don’t know the answer to because the NCAA has proven to be highly unpredictable with this kind of thing. But what I do know- what I believe from the bottom of my heart- is that he should.
First, I’d like to establish that “winning the appeal” means getting his suspension shortened, likely just through the end of the 2015 season. He did do something wrong, and has admitted as such, so the NCAA will almost certainly not reinstate him this year. The goal is to get him back for next year.
Now then: yes, what Grier did was a violation of NCAA rules, because he took a supplement that has a banned substance in it. But he was doing so wholly by accident, as opposed to taking it to gain an unfair advantage over his opponents.
Season long punishments should, in my opinion, be reserved for PED users like Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa, and that group. Those guys took steroids with the clear intention to gain what the MLB deemed an unfair advantage over their opponents. Had Grier been healthy, taken steroids for no reason other than simply to get stronger and put on more muscle, that would be not only a clear violation of NCAA rules, but an egregious effort to try to gain said unfair advantage. But since that wasn’t the case, the NCAA is put at a crossroads.
If the NCAA keeps their season long suspension of Grier for what seems to be a clear and honest mistake, they are doing one of two things: they are either telling future student athletes that positive drug tests with motives similar to McGwire and Sosa will result in punishments that are exponentially worse than a ban for the rest of the season (i.e. something between a two season ban and a permanent loss of scholarship) or they are saying that they simply don’t care for the nature of the offense, and that Brian Bosworth had them pegged right when he wore this shirt on the sideline for the 1987 Orange Bowl.
The one year suspension is also wholly unfair when stacked up against those administered to violators of other sorts of rules.
Let’s compare Grier’s punishment to those that some other Gators have faced for doing things that are, from a moral standpoint, far worse. What Grier did does not in any way have a detrimental affect on anybody around him, yet people who do things that do carry damaging results for other people are essentially let off the hook.
In 2010, Florida’s Chris Rainey literally told his girlfriend that it was time for her to die, and wound up being suspended for one month. Brandon Spikes was suspended for one half of a game for trying to take a poke at a player’s eyes. LSU defensive back Jalen Mills was suspended one game for punching somebody outside his apartment. These are just three examples of hundreds of thousands of laws broken by college football players who were subsequently punished less harshly than Grier is scheduled to be (though those punishments are usually doled out by the schools, but still… the school-imposed suspensions cause them to miss games just like NCAA suspensions do. Suspensions are suspensions). And you don’t have to look far to other find other governing sports bodies who seem to care for others’ welfare even less, as evidenced by Ray Rice’s two game suspension for decking his fiancé in an elevator.
The fact that players’ arrests are punished by the school (usually) and not the NCAA is irrelevant. The fact is that these players did things that violated laws. And so if the NCAA suspends Grier for the full year, the message they’ll be sending is that it’s at least three times and much as fifteen times worse to accidentally take performance enhancing drugs than it is to cause or threaten to cause physical damage to the body of another human being, pending the results of the Gators’ season. Do the math yourself; if the suspension holds, Grier will miss between 13 games (as Florida is guaranteed to play in a bowl game) to 15 games (if they reach the SEC Championship, make the playoff and win the semifinal game). Rainey’s four game absence is, mathematically, less than one third as severe the minimum of 13 games Grier is set to miss with the current suspension, and Mills’ suspension of one game is one fifteenth as harsh as the 15 game maximum Grier is facing.
Make no mistake, Grier did something he shouldn’t have done. But he’s guilty of being ignorant and thoughtless as opposed to malicious and a cheater. And I implore the NCAA to recognize that before making their decision, so they don’t teach kids around the country the wrong-headed lesson that truly honest mistakes about taking over the counter drugs are several times worse than assaulting fellow human beings. The NCAA is supposed to be a gateway to the real world, after all, and this is not an accurate representation of society’s values and moral code.
Please, NCAA. Use common sense. You have a chance to do the right thing here. Do it.