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University South Carolina vs University of Missouri

Missouri Tigers head coach Barry Odom talks on his headset during a game between the University South Carolina vs University of Missouri at Faurot Field, at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Before we get to our weekly review of Missouri’s latest game, we need to set some things straight regarding Mizzou’s NCAA sanctions and appeal situation. The more the Tigers win games, the more confused fans seem to get, at least judging by my email inbox and Twitter mentions.

Here are some answers to some Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: First and foremost, when will the NCAA announce its ruling?

A: As of Monday, Missouri had not heard from the NCAA on when the Infractions Appeals Committee will release its final ruling. The NCAA typically gives the school a one-week’s notice before releasing its findings. Then the NCAA will send its final written decision to the school one calendar day before publicly announcing the decision.

If by the end of Monday Missouri hasn’t received its one week’s notice, it’s fair to expect the ruling won’t be released until next week at the earliest.

Q: Why is the appeals process taking so long?

A: A few things to remember here. The people who serve on the committee have other jobs. The panel includes a university president, an Ivy League school associate athletics director and a conference associate commissioner. Those jobs take up the bulk of their time, not their NCAA committee assignments. The committee faced a backlog of cases before getting to the Missouri case. The final written report is typically a lengthy document that’s carefully vetted, similar to a legal document. These reports take time to produce. In 2018, the appeals committee ruled on 12 different penalties in its caseload. The committee confirmed/upheld nine of the penalties, vacated/overturned two penalties and remanded one penalty, which means it sent the case back to another committee for clarification.

Q: Is Missouri eligible for the postseason now or not until after the appeal ruling is announced?

A: All sanctions that Missouri has appealed, including the postseason ban, are on hold until the NCAA Appeals Infractions Committee announces its final ruling. That’s why the Missouri baseball and softball teams were allowed to play in the postseason this past spring, even though both programs were also hit with a postseason ban.

Q: Does Missouri’s postseason ban keep the Tigers from playing in the SEC championship game or just a bowl game?

A: Both. If the postseason ban portion of the sanctions is upheld, Missouri is barred from playing beyond the regular-season finale against Arkansas. No SEC championship game, no bowl game, no playoff games.

Q: If Missouri wins the SEC East but the postseason ban is upheld, who plays in Atlanta against the West Division?

A: The East team that finishes in second place will represent the division in the championship game. Missouri will be placed at the bottom of the East standings with an asterisk noting that the team is ineligible for the postseason, similar to how the league handled Ole Miss in 2017 and 2018 during its two year-postseason ban.

Q: If there’s a three-way tie among Missouri, Georgia and Florida for first place and Missouri is banned from the postseason, what determines the East champion?

A: Instead of triggering the three-team tiebreaker system, the SEC will determine the East representative with its two-team tiebreaker: head-to-head result. In this scenario, the winner between Georgia and Florida’s regular-season game would play in Atlanta.

Q: Can the SEC make Missouri play in the SEC championship game even if the postseason ban is upheld?

A: No. The SEC will honor the NCAA ruling. In 1993, Auburn was under a postseason ban but went undefeated during the regular season and finished in first place in the SEC West. Alabama finished second in the division and represented the West in the SEC championship game.

Q: If Missouri is in first place in the SEC East and the appeal ruling hasn’t been announced, what’s the latest the NCAA could announce its ruling and keep Missouri from playing in Atlanta?

A: This one is tricky because there doesn’t appear to be a cut and dried answer. Mind you, this is very hypothetical. Missouri has played just two of its eight conference games. But … if Missouri remains in first place after the Nov. 29 finale against Arkansas and hasn’t received a one week’s notice from the NCAA, logic serves that the Tigers would clinch a place in Atlanta for the SEC championship game. The SEC would need time to arrange the logistics in Atlanta, disperse tickets to the respective fan bases, book hotel rooms, etc. Once the East-West matchup is set, the NCAA couldn’t swoop in and announce the ruling a few days before the championship game and force the league to replace Missouri with another East team. That would be a logistical nightmare for all parties involved.

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