When the Missouri Tigers basketball team announced its upcoming charity exhibition game with Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Mo., it was just the next step in the Missouri athletics department’s plan to aid the Joplin tornado relief efforts.
“Public higher education serves Missourians in many ways, and certainly our outstanding coaches, student-athletes and athletic staff members have been among the first to step forward during this very challenging time for Joplin,” Chancellor Brady Deaton said in a news release.
But the athletics department had to jump through some hoops before that first step could be taken. According to NCAA regulations, schools are allowed a maximum of two exhibition games per season. Missouri had already reached the limit for exhibition games before planning the Oct. 30 charity event in Joplin. NCAA spokesman Christopher Radford said via email that Missouri needed to place a special request to circumvent the rules.
“This particular process began with the University of Missouri requesting a waiver, which would allow the Mizzou to play an additional exhibition basketball game in addition to their previously scheduled contests,” Radford said.
Such requests go to the NCAA Division I Legislative Council Subcommittee for Legislative Relief. Radford said the committee was created in 1993 because of a desire for “more rules flexibility.”
“The SLR waiver process allows for NCAA legislation to be set aside on a case-by-case basis,” Radford said. “The Missouri SLR waiver request was reviewed by the NCAA legislative relief staff, which has been given the authority by the NCAA Division I Subcommittee for Legislative Relief to make waiver decisions.”
Applying for an SLR waiver isn’t the typical course of action for this situation. It is instead used as a sort of last resort when no other committee has the authority to waive specific NCAA legislation, specifically regarding extraordinary situations.
The rule itself, according to Radford, was enacted with the athletes in mind. The NCAA hopes that playing and practice season restrictions will benefit the players on and off the field.
“The NCAA membership has put playing and practice season restrictions in place to limit the demands on student-athletes that may negatively impact the their ability to succeed academically," Radford said. “The great thing about the legislative relief process is that it allows the NCAA to work with its member institutions when unique situations arise.”
Such a situation presented itself in late May when Joplin was torn apart by a major tornado, disrupting lives and businesses throughout the area. Radford said the NCAA’s decision on the waiver approval was made easier by looking at the benefits of such an event.
“Several factors were considered,” Radford said. “The extreme circumstances surrounding the tornado that devastated Joplin, the fact that all proceeds from the contest will directly benefit the community of the impacted institution, the contest involves an institution directly affected by the tornado and is being played within the affected community and the two institutions involved are both located in the impacted state.”
Since the game has been given the go-ahead, the two universities can begin working together to bring aid to the damaged Joplin area.
“The game between the Tigers and the Lions will surely be exciting and will offer a welcome relief from the stresses of the recovery effort,” MSSU President Bruce Speck said. “The MU athletics team has already contributed much to the recovery effort and the entire Southwest Missouri region is thankful."