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The Will Grier explainer: With an NCAA appeal denied, what's next for Grier and Florida?

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You have questions. We have (some) answers.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As you may have heard: Florida's Will Grier has been suspended for a calendar year and one year of competition after failing an NCAA-administered drug test. And as you may have also heard, Grier's appeal to have that suspension reduced by the NCAA failed this week.

And while you had a lot of questions back in October, when this article was originally published, you probably only have more in November. Here, again, is our best attempt to answer them.

What did Grier do?

Grier failed an NCAA-administered drug test at some point in the recent past. He told assembled media at a Florida press conference on Monday that he "took an over-the-counter supplement that had something in it" without getting assurances from Florida's training staff that it was acceptable to take.

"I really hope that people can learn from this, learn from my mistake," Grier said. "I'm really sorry to ... everyone. Just really sorry."

Florida coach Jim McElwain, who echoed Grier's wording on an over-the-counter (OTC) supplement, also said that Grier made an "honest mistake," but that it "can be prevented, by checking with our medical staff." While McElwain did not mention in his opening remarks that Grier failed an NCAA drug test, he confirmed that later.

Grier's father, Chad, who also doubled as his high school coach at Davidson Day School in North Carolina, sent a tweet Monday evening, calling his son's decision "(an) honest mistake but a mistake nonetheless."

When did this failed test happen?

This much is still unclear. It's likely that it happened at some point in the 2015 season, and seemingly within the last two weeks.

McElwain said Monday that he learned of the failed test Sunday night. But it's quite likely that other Florida officials were informed prior to informing McElwain; here, from the NCAA's 2014-15 Drug Testing Program booklet (its most recent publication), is how schools are notified of positive results:

For student-athletes who have a positive finding of sample A, Drug Free Sport will call the director of athletics or his or her designee. Drug Free Sport will send a letter (marked "confidential") or email the director of athletics or his or her designee. The institution shall notify the student-athlete of the finding.

Drug Free Sport is the operating name of The National Center for Drug Free Sport, which provides drug-testing services to the NCAA.

Why did Grier fail his test? What did he take?

Apart from his and McElwain's explanation of taking a banned substance as part of a dietary supplement, it is unclear; "he took something he shouldn't have taken" really does function as an accurate description for now.

A report from the Miami Herald's Jesse Simonton indicated that Grier took the banned supplement Ligandrol.

That report was amplified by this tweet from ESPN's college football account.

Ligandrol is a selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM) used to treat muscle wasting and osteoporosis. SARMs, as a class, are considered performance-enhancing drugs and banned by the NCAA.

However: Florida — likely through a spokesman — told multiple reporters after Monday's press conference that reports of Grier taking Ligandrol were inaccurate, and ESPN's Brett McMurphy separately reported the same.

And then there were tweets from Amanda Wood, currently working for Scout, about Grier buying a supplement at a Complete Nutrition in Gainesville this summer.

That offhand revelation drew criticism, which led Wood to add a longer explanation with context Monday night.

That, and the bizarrely vigorous examination of Wood's reporting by former ESPN and Gainesville Sun editor Jeff Barlis on Twitter, might point to Grier taking risky supplements without getting them verified by Florida. It might be proof that Grier was knowingly taking supplements and skirting NCAA rules. It might also be a red herring. And it might have nothing to do with what caused Grier to fail his test, especially given the months that passed between that reported purchase in June and Grier's likely testing date in early October.

What Grier actually took, and why he actually failed his test, may remain unknown (to the public, anyway) for a while. Florida also told reporters it would not disclose the specifics of Grier's test results without his permission.

What happens next for Grier?

Grier is set to serve a suspension from competition for a minimum of one calendar year; if it began today, on October 12, as seems likely, he could be eligible to play again on October 12, 2016.

A suspension that runs through October 12, 2016 will cover at least 13 games, and could keep Grier out of as many as 15: Florida will play no fewer than seven more games (six regular-season contests and a bowl) in 2015, and could play as many as nine more (six regular-season contests, an SEC Championship Game, and two College Football Playoff contests) in the 2015 season, and its seventh game of the 2016 season should occur on October 15, 2016, barring postponement or cancellation.

There is an appeals process available to Grier, and it seems that he (and Florida) will make use of it; Florida said Monday that it would appeal the result, and it's apparently going to try to have Grier's suspension limited to the remainder of the 2015 season.

But it's unclear on what grounds, if any, there's reasonable hope for a reversal or a shortened suspension. Grier tearfully admitting to a mistake in front of the world would seem like a strong admission of guilt.

Indeed, my thinking on Monday was that it was likely that the school was referring to simply having the NCAA review Grier's "B" sample — a second, backup one collected during his test — to see if there are any discrepancies, which is a normal part of the NCAA's drug-testing process for positive results. Grier and Florida could subsequently argue for a reduction in his suspension based on those results, in theory.

But Grier would technically not be formally ineligible for competition until his "B" sample is evaluated, and could possibly be exonerated if it is grossly different from his "A" sample; as the NCAA's booklet notes, "Sample B findings will be final," and it seemed odd that Grier would be standing in front of the world without a final verdict. Given the resignation of everything from Florida's side on this other than a stated intent to appeal, too, I couldn't really imagine a formal appeal being successful if Grier's second sample matches his first.

It was remarkably unclear to me whether Grier had already had that "B" sample tested. My reading on Monday led me to believe it hadn't been. Now, I think I was wrong — this announcement was all coming after the finality of a "B" sample test, which makes the talk of an appeal even less understandable.

Because the "A" and "B" samples are in agreement — a "B" sample doesn't get tested without a positive "A" sample test — and there appear to be no chain of custody issues or medical exemptions to argue about, I can't imagine a way that Florida gets Grier's suspension shortened.

But while Grier is likely to remain suspended for a year, the more signficant penalty for him could have been the loss of a year of eligibility, as NCAA rules seem to dictate. SB Nation's Kevin Trahan and Steven Godfrey talked to multiple compliance officials who suggested that Grier, currently a redshirt freshman, would be formally a redshirt junior in 2016, when he next becomes eligible again.

This agreed with my own reading of the NCAA's policy, as well.

GatorZone's Scott Carter — a Florida employee, mind — reports otherwise:

It seems possible, and perhaps even likely, that the NCAA has made the interpretation of its already arcane rules even more difficult by changing the interpretation of this one. But North Carolina State linebacker D.J. Green missed the entire 2012 season after his own failed NCAA drug test for PEDs, and he returned as a senior in 2013 after serving his suspension as a junior in 2012.

Even more confusingly, it is also possible that even if he were classed as a redshirt junior, Grier could sit and take a redshirt year in 2016, which would allow him to spend his final two years of eligibility as a fifth-year junior in 2017 and a sixth-year senior in 2018. His 2014 season would have to be classified as a medical redshirt season to make that plan possible, but given that he suffered from back spasms during that first season as a Gator, it's not totally out of the realm of possibility.

However: Appealing for a second redshirt season to cover a year half spent suspended would be audacious (and received as such), and that a great many things could change Florida's depth at the quarterback position between now and then, I would not worry much, if at all, about that specific possibility until 2016. The more likely course of action is the far more simple one: Grier serves his suspension, is reinstated, and returns to eligibility.

And if his suspension remains in place, Grier's reinstatement will depend on him remaining clean between now and the expiration of his suspension, and passing an "exit test" for all banned substances no sooner than September 2016.

One other thing to note: While he is suspended, Grier is allowed to practice with Florida, but he cannot travel with the team.

That was super confusing. Is everything the NCAA does like this?

Yeah. Pretty much, yeah.

What happens next for Florida?

McElwain indicated that sophomore Treon Harris will start in Grier's stead against LSU on Saturday — and it's a foregone conclusion that the job is now Harris's to hold for at least the 2015 season. Florida only has one other eligible scholarship quarterback behind Harris, Vanderbilt transfer Josh Grady, and Grady has never made a collegiate start. (Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio, another scholarship quarterback, is sitting out the 2015 season due to NCAA transfer rules.)

With Grady's eligibility expiring after this year, Florida is set to have a half-season of Grier, full seasons of Harris and Del Rio, and a full season of then-freshman Kyle Trask — a lightly-regarded prospect — at quarterback in 2016. That could mean the Gators will intensify their efforts to land a second quarterback in the 2016 class, or to pursue another transferring quarterback in the offseason; how Harris performs this season will undoubtedly factor into that decision-making.

McElwain repeatedly said during fall practice that Grier and Harris were close to even in the competition to become Florida's full-time starter, and Florida never released a depth chart distinguishing Grier as the starter and Harris as his backup at any point this season. (Even after Grier's bravura performance against Mississippi, Florida didn't do that, instead not even releasing a depth chart with its pregame notes.)

But it's hard to imagine that Harris will play as well as Grier did in his best moments this fall. Grier looked like a better thrower in his six games of action than Harris did in relief of Jeff Driskel in 2014 and his cameos in 2015, and while Harris offers a different skillset and affords the possibility of diversifying Florida's running game, the reduction in passing game efficiency may well outweigh what is gained.

One thing likely not in Florida's future: Vacating the six wins in which Grier played in 2015. That would only apply if Florida knowingly played Grier while he was ineligible — and given that it sounds like Grier's "B" sample still hasn't been tested, he's not ineligible yet — or if Florida was somehow complicit in Grier taking a banned supplement.

The latter possibility is, kindly, far-fetched. Florida has had a reputation for stringent compliance to NCAA rules since being hammered by the body in the 1980s, and very much enjoys it, which is part of why the school employs (and empowers) a veteran compliance department to keep things on the up-and-up. If someone within Florida provably directed Grier to take a banned substance, and the NCAA learned of that, the NCAA would assuredly hammer the school again — and that's most of why I could not imagine anyone within the program being so stupid.

Setting Florida aside as special for its compliance, in fact, probably undersells just how stupid a college coach would have to be to clearly instruct a college player to take PEDs: That coach, if found out, would never coach again.

But JokerSloth knew about this! So did Florida, right?

This suggestion — that because a message board poster at Florida's 247Sports site cryptically posted about Grier being suspended for "roids" during Florida's game against Missouri, "Florida" "knew" about Grier's failed test, and the supplementary suggestion that Florida thus played him when it knew him to be ineligible — is probably overblowing both what was known and what Florida's responsibility is in this case.

The confusion over whether Florida was announcing a failed drug test based on an "A" sample or a "B" sample helps explain the former. If Florida was merely announcing Grier had failed the "A" sample and would be held out as a precaution, it would be possible that someone in the Florida program had known prior to Saturday that Grier had failed a test, and was in danger of losing his eligibility, and that that information could have gotten to JokerSloth.

But Florida announcing a failed "B" test for Grier on Monday, as seems to have been the case, guarantees that someone in the program knew he had previously failed based on an "A" sample; you don't know about a "B" test without a failed "A" test. And that information could have leaked to JokerSloth, too.

As explained above, though, Grier was not formally ineligible until his "B" test results came back — and given that McElwain said he learned about the failed test on Sunday, it's a fair bet that those results came back on Sunday, as McElwain would've been one of Jeremy Foley's first calls — so he would have played Saturday as an eligible player in limbo and become ineligible on Sunday.

You can sub in "suspension" for "failed test" above, too: McElwain was almost certainly talking about learning of Grier's "B" test on Sunday. Again: Florida knowing about a failed "A" test before learning of a failed "B" test isn't a stretch; it's how the NCAA's drug-testing process works.

We can quibble about whether Florida erred in playing an eligible player it seemingly had to have known was likely to subsequently be suspended for a season on Saturday, but I think that's a judgment call — and I suspect the vast majority of FBS programs, if not all of them, would play an eligible player in the same circumstance. We can also lament that there's apparently someone in the Florida program who would leak this news — and in such a way that a message-boarder going by JokerSloth would know about it.

But what I can't do, given the timeline as we know it and the process for declaring formal ineligibility, is buy any conspiracy theories about a cover-up. Florida knowing prior to Saturday seems likely, and makes the news leaking to a few people possible; Grier's "B" sample not coming back untl Sunday is all but confirmed, and means he wasn't ineligible until then.

Anyone asserting or suggesting otherwise would seem to either be working without a grasp of the facts and timelines or grasping at straws to suggest malfeasance in bad faith.

Why did Grier get a year for PEDs when (insert Florida player) got suspended for a game for marijuana?

The NCAA has a separate — and far more strict — drug-testing policy than Florida does. Treon Harris, Jalen Tabor, and practically every other Florida athlete you associate with a "violation of team policy" that was related to a failed drug test ran afoul of Florida's drug-testing policy, which is principally designed to deal with marijuana use.

The primary difference between the NCAA's drug-testing policy and Florida's — or any school's, really — is the severity of the NCAA's punishments: Michigan forward Mitch McGary's 2014 suspension for a failed NCAA drug test for marijuana would have brought him the same penalties Grier now faces, and helped lead McGary to declare for the NBA Draft rather than return to Michigan for the 2014-15 season and beyond. The reaction to that suspension, and two more for Oregon Ducks players last season, has led to increased scrutiny for the NCAA's policies on drug testing.

Didn't Grier gain a bunch of weight? Is that an indication he was using PEDs?

Let me answer the second question first: It could be. But some PEDs aren't used for weight gain, and given that everyone who knows the truth about Grier's results is playing coy with details, it's connecting dots, at minimum, to conclude that much.

The answer to the first question is "Yes — but not as much as you might think." Since this afternoon, stories have bloomed on the Internet that have the detail that Grier "gained 43 pounds in a year," or something similar. These stories, invariably, are citing an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report from August (ignore the date line; it's been updated) which cited a College Spun post and suggested that Grier "weighed 172 pounds when he enrolled at UF" in 2014 and now weighs 215.

I took issue with the reporting of those posts back in August:

If Grier has bulked up to 215 pounds from the 197 pounds he was listed at on Florida's official roster for its spring game, that's probably really, really good news for his chances of being Florida's starter: At that weight, one expects he'll have the strength to get more zip on the ball.

It's also evidence that players really do transform their bodies in college. Grier was listed at just 190 pounds in Florida's media guide last fall, and listed in the high 180s as a recruit. Adding 30 pounds of what appears to be good weight is evidence that Grier has done what strength coaches have told him; hopefully, it will also pay off on the field.

(Note: I don't believe the notes about Grier jumping from 172 pounds to 215, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Charles Kingsbury alleged, sparking a series of other mentions about the same. I can't find any contemporary notes about that weight: Scott Carter mentioned his weight as 181 pounds in January 2014, and Florida listed him at 190 pounds in its official announcement of signees in February 2014. The one mention of Grier being 172 pounds I could find from prior to last week was this report on Grier's commitment from December 2012, in which Student Sports' Brian Stumpf writes that Grier "measured 6-3, 172 pounds at last spring's Charlotte Nike Camp." Could it maybe be that Grier was actually 172 pounds about 20 months before enrolling at Florida — the camp in question was held in May 2012 — rather than when he arrived at Florida, and that a spate of lazy aggregation is propogating a too-good-to-be-true falsehood? Nah, right? It's the Internet. Everything is true here!)

Carter also reported some official statistics from Florida's training staff on Monday:

And Luke Stampini of 247Sports added his own longer timeline:

Unless Florida's underreporting Grier's weight by 14 pounds, he has never weighed in at 215 pounds at Florida. And that also means he's never "gained" 43 pounds, as these reports indicate. So let's be clear: These reports are ignorantly inaccurate at best and intentionally deceptive at worst.

Putting aside the seemingly obvious fact that Grier did not actually weigh in at 215 pounds at Florida, though: Is a 43-pound gain of weight over more than three years, more than half of which was spent as a college athlete, so ridiculous that the only logical conclusion is PED use? I don't think so. Would a 20-pound gain over 17 months, something that seems more in line with official reports from Florida, be that ridiculous? I don't think so. Is a six-pound weight gain from a listed weight in the spring to a listed weight in the fall remarkable? Clearly not.

Is it still very much possible that some (or all) of Grier's increase in weight and/or muscle mass since 2012 or 2014 or from the spring to the fall was a result of PED use, or that he used PEDs completely unrelated to weight gain? Of course.

But it's okay to still try to get the facts right in regards to circumstantial evidence, rather than running sensational headlines that seem to have no basis in truth.

Okay, what I really want to know is this: Why? Why, Will?

Your guess is as good as mine, and all we're likely to have in the near future is pop psychology. I'll get into some theories I have later; for now, this post is going to stand as an explainer based on facts and interpretations of what we know, not the pure conjecture I'd have to get into to answer that most burning question.

What does it mean that Grier's appeal has failed?

Grier's out of chances to get his suspension reduced or overturned, barring some unprecedented lawsuit against the NCAA based on evidence that the body wasn't presented in the appeals process, and the chances of that sort of thing happening are remote.

So Grier will remain suspended until October 11 or 12 (it's unclear), 2016, meaning that he will miss the first six games of Florida's 2016 season, and first become eligible to play again before the Gators' game against Missouri on October 15.

What will Grier do now?

It's up for debate, but he would seem to have three major options:

He can stay at Florida, serve his punishment, and return to the mix at quarterback for the Gators in October 2016. Grier can practice with Florida, after all — though he hasn't done so since his suspension, seemingly at the direction of Jim McElwain and as an effort to minimize distractions for the Gators. He just can't travel with the team.

He can also leave Florida and transfer to another school. While this won't save him any eligibility, and would likely cost him a chance to see the field in 2016, Grier might well want a fresh start that simply can't be had at Florida.

A third, and even less likely option, would be Grier redshirting in the 2016 season so that he could possibly get his 2014 redshirt season qualified as a medical redshirt at some point down the road. This seems extraordinarily unlikely: Not only would it slow down any of Grier's plans to potentially leap to the NFL, it wouldn't pay off in any meaningful way until 2018, as Grier still has the eligibility to play through the 2016 and 2017 seasons as a result of his redshirt in 2014.

I think those options are presented more or less in order of likelihood, with the first seeming to me to be significantly more likely than either other one. And I would be surprised if Grier does anything other than stay, wait, and work toward once again being Florida's starting quarterback.

What will Florida do now?

That said, Florida's interests lie may or may not align with getting Grier back on the field as soon as possible. Grier is clearly be the best option at quarterback this year, as evidenced by him beating out Harris for the role and performing very well in stretches this fall.

That may not be true next year. Harris could get an entire offseason to work as Florida's presumptive starter, which could produce development of his skills and comfort with the Gators' offense, and other quarterbacks — Alabama/Oregon State transfer Del Rio and Texas high schooler Trask, at minimum — would be competing with Harris even before Grier got a legitimate shot at winning his old job back. And then there's the very real possibility that Florida could reel in one of the handful of big-time high school prospects — LSU commit Feleipe Franks seems like the most likely target at this moment — it has been pursuing to add to its 2016 recruiting class.

Rolling with Harris, who has vexed with his inconsistency this fall, would irritate a Florida fan base that has been embittered by Grier's suspension and the perceived missed opportunity in the drop-off from his best play to Harris's, especially given the exceptional defense this iteration of the Gators puts on the field. Fans have already been frustrated enough with Harris that many will assuredly clamor for Del Rio or Trask without ever seeing either one, and adding a top-tier prospect to the mix would only increase the noise in the system.

But it was also widely assumed that Harris would transfer after the season if Grier won the starting role in 2015, and that Grier would do the same if Harris did so. The current situation seems to lend itself to both players remaining at Florida, and while a quarterback situation that had appeared very clean after Grier won the starter's job is muddled again, if both stay, it's a boon for Florida's depth at the position.

Why did Grier get suspended for a year when (insert player) got (insert lighter sentence) for (insert crime)?

I answered a variation of this question above, but it has remained popular since Grier's suspension, with the players most often inserted in those blanks being former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, who served only short suspensions from baseball and football in 2014 after a litany of alleged and actual crimes, and Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, who served a one-game suspension from the Buckeyes after being arrested for operating a vehicle while under the influence earlier this month.

The most important reason Grier's punishment was more stringent was that he failed an NCAA drug test, and thus ran afoul of a governing body far greater and more powerful than Florida alone. Had Winston or Barrett failed NCAA drug tests, they would be subject to the same punishments.

But the outrage over Grier's suspension also speaks to an irksome double standard: While the NCAA could theoretically step in to suspend players at schools for various reasons, it generally only gets involved in eligibility matters relating to amateurism and failed drug tests it administers, declining to get involved in discipline for criminal acts or drug tests administered by schools. (The NCAA's rules also factor into academic ineligibility, but the NCAA's largely not "involved" in those disputes, with its rules instead serving as the framework for the system.)

That double standard, and the arguably extremely punitive suspension of a full year for a failed NCAA drug test, will remain sources of anger for Florida fans, especially those misinformed or willfully ignorant of what Grier did — but this is really a result of Grier's actions, and he's being punished by the rules as they exist. Any injustice done here is systemic injustice done by an arguably "bad" NCAA rule, not the capricious application of it, and it's hard for me to work up my own passion for a player doing something wrong (by his own admission) and being punished, even unusually punitively, when there are much greater issues with the NCAA.

And if Florida fans want other schools to be more punitive with their players, well, that's fine, but it also sounds like sour grapes. Florida's handling of a sexual battery complaint against Harris that was later withdrawn and its stringent DUI policy — one that automatically suspends athletes for a third of a season of competition based on an arrest alone — would likely have meant stiffer punishments for Winston and certainly meant a stiffer one for Barrett had they been Florida athletes.

But Winston and Barrett, and most other players held up as comparisons to Grier, are not Florida athletes. And expecting a truly level playing field in regards to scores of schools' philosophies of discipline is asking for the NCAA — the same organization most of these same fans revile for its rules and rulings in regards to Grier — to become more involved in athlete discipline, not less, a move which I vehemently oppose because of how often the NCAA errs while trying to do what it already does, among other reasons.

Grier made a mistake perceived as much more "harmless" than endangering a life by driving impaired or allegedly committing a rape, and he made one big mistake rather than the series of smaller ones Winston was eventually punished for making. But, ultimately, he made his mistake in the most punitive jurisdiction possible, and got the book thrown at him as a result.

It's like getting a speeding ticket in Waldo, really. (There might be other parallels.)

How much does this hurt Grier, Florida, and Gators fans?

I think this probably disqualifies Grier from ever making a meaningful run at awards in his collegiate career, and obviously hurts his chances of going down as a Florida great, something his tantalizing flashes of potential in leading the Gators back against Tennessee and helming a rout of Mississippi had some fans imagining. I also think it probably hurts Grier considerably on a personal level, as was painfully obvious in his emotional address of reporters back in October, but I don't feel right about speculating beyond that.

As for Florida, though, it's arguable (and will be more so after the results of the next three weeks) that Grier's suspension cost this team a very good chance at SEC and national championships. While Florida might well have struggled through much of the rest of its fall even with Grier under center — it struggled and he struggled for much of this fall when he was, something conveniently forgotten by some — it's close to inarguable that Grier's average quality of play outstrips that of Harris, and inarguable that his best stretches play trumps Harris's best by a considerable margin.

Does that mean the Gators would have beaten LSU with Grier, or that they would beat FSU and Alabama with him? No. And Florida being less likely to beat the Seminoles and Crimson Tide with Harris still doesn't mean that they won't do so. But I'm convinced that Grier being Florida's starter gave and would give Florida a better chance of winning games than Harris being Florida's starter, and I think that opinion is shared by the vast majority of both Florida fans and less partial observers.

What's more, Grier being suspended — especially given the timing of his suspension, right before the season's new biggest game to date — put a damper on what has otherwise been a phenomenal season for Florida. McElwain's team has exceeded all expectations and won an SEC East title, and yet Grier's appeal has been the other shoe waiting to drop for more than a month now, and it seems possible that a fine regular season will still yield a relatively forgettable finish.

The good feelings of a great and unexpected resurgence are tempered by the frustration with Grier and the NCAA, and it feels like many Florida fans won't feel any better about that until Grier returns as an avenging angel in 2016. Whether that's rational or not is very much debatable, but it's undeniably true.

This one hurts a lot. It will take a while for these wounds to heal.