HOOVER — It might have been among the biggest surprises in college football’s offseason — Missouri’s roster remained intact after the school got hammered by the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions for academic violations in the athletic department.
The sanctions were severe given that the school was lauded by the NCAA for its cooperation during the investigation. The NCAA handed down three years of probation, a five-percent reduction in scholarships and, more importantly, a one-year postseason ban for the football team.
The university is waiting to hear on its appeal, hoping to get some relief. But in a day and age when player movement is at an all-time high, not a single Missouri player entered the transfer portal after the sanctions were announced. Quarterback Kelly Bryant, a graduate transfer from Clemson, also stayed with the program even though he could have left for another team.
Coach Barry Odom said at SEC Football Kickoff Media Days on Monday that the lack of player movement in the wake of the sanctions is a tribute to the culture he is trying to build within the program. He credited the team’s leadership with being paramount in the team staying together.
“I think there's a number of reasons why it did,” he said. “Number one, the leadership of the team inside the locker room by our players, you look at the things that they've done together, the investment they had with each other, the brotherhood, the love, and the care for each other.”
Obviously, Missouri has been using the sanctions as motivation heading into the season.
“I think they drew a line in the sand and said this is what we're going to do in 2019 as a team together, and they stood by it,” Odom said. “That's a close, close group, and I think those opportunities that were presented to us are going to help us as we get down into the fall into the season.”
For DeMarkus Acy, a senior cornerback, the decision to stay with the Tigers was easy. Even though there were opportunities to leave, he said it was about staying loyal to the school that was loyal to him coming out of high school.
“Mizzou was the only SEC school to offer me, so I never really had any intentions to leave,” Acy said. “You should have offered me out of high school, so it’s really too late. Mizzou has given me everything on and off the field.”
Missouri will find out if the penalties are lessened later this month. Odom and the Tigers hope to have the postseason ban overturned, but the fourth-year coach has told his team to not focus on what it can’t control. Missouri (8-5) finished last season by winning five of its final seven games.
“The thing I talked about with the momentum I have going in our program, the amount of time we would spend on any of those thoughts, really it doesn't do anything for us beneficially to move our program forward. It's wasted. It's out of our control, wasted thoughts,” he said. “Now, you look at the opportunity when that's going to come about, we don't know. We anticipate that hopefully we'll get some closure soon.”