It was an eventful week in Columbia, with surprisingly strong NCAA penalties for the Missouri football team, and then a feel-good moment for the basketball team on Saturday, a 77-67 home win over Vanderbilt at which Tiger fans raised $55,000 for children’s cancer research.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Missouri football got a one-year postseason ban, along with some recruiting restrictions and scholarship reductions, after a long investigation about a tutor doing class work for some students athletes. The baseball and softball programs received similar penalties.
The postseason ban was fairly shocking to the athletic department and media covering the team. Compared to other recent academic scandals, a tutor doing classwork for 12 athletes over three sports seemed mild. But the postseason ban came regardless.
The short reason is the NCAA has a penalty matrix, and a tutor doing work for student-athletes is a level one penalty, and so these are the prescribed penalties. But the maddening aspect is the NCAA admitted there is no evidence anyone told the tutor to do work for the athletes, and Missouri self-reported the issue and fully cooperated with NCAA investigation, Maybe the NCAA tried following the letter of the law, but it seemed to fail to take into account the surrounding circumstances. It also made it seem like there’s no motivation to be honest or cooperative with the NCAA.
Missouri will appeal, but it’s hard to be too optimistic there. Missing out on a middle-tier bowl is somewhat palatable, but not being able to spend the long offseason dreaming about a surprise SEC East title run and playing in the SEC title game is tough. MU board of curators chairman and former Tiger basketball player Jon Sundvold issued a strong statement, calling on the SEC to keep Missouri eligible for the SEC title game.
Missouri basketball at least gave a measure of positivity to end the week. It was the fourth annual “Rally for Rhyan” game. It started as a fundraiser for Rhyan Loos, daughter for then-assistant coach Brad Loos, who was battling cancer. It turned into a general fundraiser for children’s cancer research, and the Tigers are now 4-0 in Rally for Rhyan games. Rhyan, now cancer-free, was on the court at halftime Saturday.
This was a nice win for the Tigers (11-9, 2-6 in SEC play through Sunday), ending a three-game losing streak that culminated by giving up 59 in the second half at Auburn on Wednesday.
Vanderbilt (9-12, 0-8 in SEC) is not one of the better teams in the conference, to put it charitably, but Missouri played with better energy and much better defense.
Jeremiah Tilmon had a monster game, 19 points and 8 rebounds while playing 35 minutes without fouling out. Xavier Pinson continued to show promise, with 9 points on very efficient shooting and no turnovers in 17 minutes, a great stat for a point guard. Senior Kevin Puryear didn’t score, but he reeled in 10 rebounds.
Missouri has another winnable home game Saturday, against Texas A&M (5 p.m. on SEC Network).