COLUMBIA — While waiting for the final word from the NCAA on its postseason bans, Missouri got some words of support Friday from the crew of SEC Nation.
The Hearnes Center's west lawn Friday played host to a live, on-site Paul Finebaum Show, and the Southeastern Conference Network's version of travelling pregame show College GameDay, SEC Nation, will air live from 9-11 a.m. today ahead of kickoff between West Virginia-Missouri on ESPN2.
The events give SEC Network a few hours of promotional material on campus of the conference's institutions. Both Barry Odom and Cuonzo Martin made appearances on Friday's episode of Finebaum, and the crew of SEC Nation — former players Tim Tebow and Marcus Spears, as well as ESPN personality Marty Smith, who will fill in while Laura Rutledge is on maternity leave — met with local media briefly Friday afternoon and weighed in on the NCAA's punishment.
"I thought it was a little too much," said Spears, an All-American defensive end at LSU who was a first-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2005 and started working for ESPN in 2014 after a nine-year NFL career. "The bowl ban situations are very hard for me because the players suffer, and a lot of them suffered that had nothing to do with it. So it's always been a little touchy situation for me."
Missouri's athletic department came out strongly against the penalties that were handed down by the Committee on Infractions in late January of this year after both parties agreed former tutor Yolanda Kumar had provided impermissible benefits to 12 students by completing academic coursework for them. The football, baseball and softball programs were penalized, but because Missouri's appeal stayed the decision from going into effect, baseball and softball both participated in postseason play in 2019.
"I would have to look at it again before I comment on it," Tebow, a two-time BCS national champion quarterback at Florida and current New York Mets outfield prospect, said. "I think it's disappointing, probably for a lot of players with it. It's always a little interesting, the rulings that are going to come out, and can't say I probably always agreed with all of them. But it's something you have to accept and deal with and learn how to cope with it as a team."
The NCAA's final decision could come at any time after Missouri delivered its appeal in mid-July. According to the NCAA report, the violations began in the summer of 2015 and continued until the summer of 2016, when Kumar self-reported the violations. Odom was named head coach Dec. 3, 2015.
"I just don't get it," said Smith, a popular ESPN personality who started out covering NASCAR. "It had nothing to do with the current staff. So you just sort of go, 'I don't understand.' I think that the players lose."