Will Grier tearfully apologized for letting down his team.
Florida’s redshirt freshman quarterback has been suspended for a calendar year for violating the NCAA’s policy for performance-enhancing drugs.
Grier said he took “an over-the-counter” supplement and was “really sorry.”
“I didn’t check with the medical staff before taking it,” he added. “I hope people can learn from this, learn from my mistake. I’m really sorry to everyone.”
The school announced the quarterback’s suspension Monday afternoon, with head coach Jim McElwain saying: “Obviously this is hard. … We feel for him. We feel his pain.”
Grier tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance, but Florida did not disclose what the banned drug was.
UF will appeal the suspension’s length, but not Grier’s test results.
The NCAA drug policy is strict, as “student-athletes lose one full year of eligibility for the first offense (25 percent of their total eligibility) and are withheld from competition for a full season.”
Based on the rules, Grier would be a reclassified as a redshirt sophomore and is eligible to return Oct. 12, 2016 — after missing UF’s first six games next season. Florida will not face any forfeiture of wins this season.
“We’ll do everything we can to help him,” McElwain said. “As a university, we’ll appeal this. And we support Will, his family, obviously in every way possible.
“And yet, we also know that there’s certain steps that go along the way, you know, when taking an over-the-counter supplement. Doesn’t matter what it is. That’s the way it is. So with that we’ll move on.”
The news couldn’t come at worse time for Florida, suddenly one of the nation’s hottest teams.
The No. 8 Gators (6-0, 4-0 SEC) travel to No. 6 LSU (5-0, 3-0) on Saturday for a showdown under the lights in Death Valley (7 p.m., ESPN).
Grier is 5-0 as a starter, engineering a dramatic comeback against Tennessee and spearheading an upset over then-No. 3 Ole Miss with four first-half touchdowns.
The redshirt freshman had completed an SEC-best 65.8 percent of his passes for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Grier had thrown for more than 200 yards in three straight games, too — a feat no UF quarterback had accomplished since Tim Tebow in 2009.
With Grier out, sophomore quarterback Treon Harris will retake the reins.
Harris, a former star at Miami Booker T. Washington, started UF’s opener against New Mexico State but has played sporadically since. He was suspended for the Tennessee game for violating team rules.
The timing of Grier’s suspension is ironic as well; last season, Harris was accused of sexual assault during the week of the LSU game. He was reinstated when the allegations were withdrawn later in the week but still missed UF’s 30-27 loss.
“I’ve felt we’ve had two really good quarterbacks,” McElwain said. “Now it’s Treon’s opportunity to take the reins and run with it. He’ll do a great job.”
Harris started the final six games in 2014, going 4-2.
McElwain said he learned of Grier’s violation Sunday, and the quarterback addressed his teammates Monday before his emotional conference with reporters.
McElwain was proud of the way Grier handled the moment and expressed remorse for the situation, but Florida’s coach acknowledged it was “a mistake” that was easily avoidable considering how rare PED suspensions are in college football.
“Before you even take cough medicine you’ve gotta check with the medical staff to allow you to be even able to do it,” he said. “Everybody knows the policy. You police yourself. You’re no different. You either do it or don’t.”
Grier is ineligible until the appeal process is resolved. He can still practice with the team but cannot travel.
Jesse Simonton: @JesseReSimonton