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NCAA Upholds Postseason Ban For Missouri, Denying School's Appeal

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The NCAA on Tuesday announced the sanctions levied Jan. 31 against Missouri’s baseball, football and softball programs, including a postseason ban, would be upheld following the school’s appeal.

The penalties result from an academic misconduct investigation of a tutor who worked with a dozen players across the three sports. The ruling initially shocked Missouri’s athletic department and it quickly moved to appeal the decision, which enabled the baseball and softball teams to compete in 2019 without the postseason ban.

But in the end, the NCAA’s Division I Infractions Appeals Committee upheld the decision. In addition to the postseason ban, Missouri also was hit with a five percent scholarship reduction, a fine and recruiting restrictions, including a reduction in evaluation days.

Coach Steve Bieser issued a statement Tuesday.

“Our program as a while is clearly disappointed with today’s news from the NCAA,” he said. “My heart is specifically broken for this group of student-athletes currently on the team. These student-athletes have done everything right since becoming a Tiger, but yet are cruelly penalized for the actions of one individual from years’ past. While we obviously strongly disagree with the NCAA’s final decision, we will without a doubt rally with each other and make the most of the upcoming 2020 campaign.”

The NCAA’s initial investigation found that a tutor completed coursework for 12 players. The violation occurred a few years ago, while former coach Tim Jamieson was at the program's helm. The baseball players involved are also no longer at the school.

The postseason ban came down just 15 days before Opening Day last year and likely contributed to a slow start by the Tigers. They went just 4-4 against North Florida, Florida A&M, Northeastern and Rhode Island in a season-opening trip to Florida.

Bieser in April told Baseball America that the news affected the team.

“I think we’re a better team than what we started the season off,” Bieser said. “We were competing in every game, but it was just that little bit of extra edge that maybe we thought we had but we didn’t have, and I think it took some time for us to shake that.”

Missouri bounced back from that start to go 34-22-1 last season, but just missed out on making the NCAA Tournament and was officially listed as one of the first four teams out of the tournament by the selection committee. Missouri was in position to make the tournament late in the season, but it lost six of its last seven games, including getting swept at home by Florida to end the regular season.

While that sweep dropped the Tigers to 13-16-1 in the SEC, their RPI was still No. 31 on Selection Monday. A more normal start to the season might have boosted Missouri’s metrics enough to push it to the other side of the tournament bubble.

Now, the sanctions will affect a second season of Missouri baseball. Missouri has spent the whole offseason uncertain of whether it would be eligible for the postseason in 2020. The school’s appeal wasn’t heard until mid-July and the final ruling itself didn’t come until nearly the end of November.

On the field, Missouri has a team that should again be strong enough to be in the mix a regionals berth. Even after outfielder Kameron Misner and lefthander TJ Sikkema were both drafted in the first 40 picks last June, the Tigers have an impressive array of talent, especially on the mound. Righthanders Konnor Ash and Ian Bedell this summer broke out in the Cape Cod League and should this spring pitch in critical roles.

They and the rest of the Tigers could have spent this spring trying to help Missouri reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. Instead, Missouri’s 2020 postseason fate has already been decided – far away from Taylor Stadium and through no fault of anyone currently with the program.

Centralarizonajc Billmitchell

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