With future in NCAA’s hands, suspended QB David Moore is determined to find his way back
David Moore is known to have a sense of humor. His father, Michael, thought he was being pranked when he received an unexpected phone call.
This time, David wasn’t kidding.
The phone rang Oct. 7, just two days after the Central Michigan quarterback threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-16 blowout win over Eastern Michigan.
“Dad, I’ve got some bad news,” David said to open the conversation.
His voice was filled with complete devastation as he explained to his father that he had been suspended by the NCAA for testing positive for a banned substance, immediately losing a year of eligibility.
“He’s never knowingly taken anything,” said Michael, who declined to provide further details due to the ongoing appeals process. “Does he look like he’s on steroids? He’s a tall, skinny kid. It’s just been extraordinarily frustrating.”
The NCAA hearing for David’s suspension is scheduled for March 18. A decision is expected soon after.
Michael used three words – big, faceless and all-powerful – to describe the NCAA, the institution which holds the decision on his son’s future. He maintains his belief that David “never took anything” that would increase his performance.
Another person that had a front-row seat to the CMU quarterback’s unfortunate situation was Quincy Avery, David’s quarterback trainer.
“He was broken about it,” Avery said. “The way it happened, it caught him by surprise.”
Now a senior, David had been the starter for the four-straight games when he learned of his suspension, and the Chippewas were 3-3 overall. The two contests to open the season were started by graduate transfer Quinten Dormady until a knee injury in Week 2 forced him to the bench.
Beginning his college career by losing the starting job twice at Memphis – in the 2016-17 seasons – and taking the NJCAA route at Garden City Community College in 2018, David finally found his niche at CMU.
He made dynamic plays, like his touchdown pass in his first career Division I start that resembled a laser to receiver Kalil Pimpleton in a 45-24 victory Sept. 14 against Akron. Coach Jim McElwain called it “as good of a throw as you’re going to make.” He showed tenacity, almost upsetting the Miami Hurricanes on Sept. 21 at Hard Rock Stadium. And he got his first taste of rivalry football Sept. 28 against Western Michigan and beat in-state foe Eastern Michigan a week later.
“He was doing really good stuff in the opportunities he had to play,” said offensive coordinator Charlie Frye, who played in the NFL from 2005-09. “I’m really proud of who David has become. Some of the throws he made just showed his toughness.”
But before David had a chance to enjoy anything more than those four games, his season was wiped away. Michael was told to “kiss this season goodbye” due to the length of the appeals process.
“I know what David has gone through to get to the point where he was at, to get on the field,” Michael said. “It’s been a grind for him for a number of years without having an opportunity to feel the joy that the sport can bring. He finally gets out on the field and shows his capabilities, then the suspension happens.”
If David’s suspension is upheld, he will remain absent from the field until Oct. 7, 2020. He would be eligible to return for an Oct. 10 road clash against Northern Illinois. There’s always a chance, however, that David gets reinstated, making him eligible to start the Sept. 5 opener against San Jose State.
David has prepared for his return since he was suspended. Understanding his search for the way back wouldn’t be easy, the quarterback is determined to see the field again, regardless of what the NCAA decides.
‘How could this happen’
While CMU did not deny David's positive test, it cited the use of an over-the-counter nutritional supplement as the likely cause. McElwain confirmed the substance was something anyone could purchase at the store without a prescription.
"One of the things that is stressed in all those meetings is that before you do anything, you want to check whatever is in it with the trainers," McElwain said. "In this case, it's an innocent mistake. You just feel bad.”
The university, which found out about David's positive test Oct. 7, did not detail the specific supplement the quarterback used.
Athletic director Michael Alford met with McElwain and his quarterback. He announced the decision to appeal the NCAA's ruling.
“The university partners with the NCAA to ensure its student-athletes play by the rules and exhibit the highest level of conduct," Alford said. "Based on the university’s review of the available evidence, the university has decided to appeal this ruling.”
There were 45 days between the time Alford announced the university’s choice to appeal David’s case and when it was submitted to the NCAA. The reasons, Michael said, were due to the process at the compliance office, switching attorneys and making sure all appeal guidelines were met since David’s chance to play again in 2019 was all but gone at the time.
Nobody wanted to rush the process.
“The process had to play out,” Michael said. “We started with one attorney, and it didn’t work out with him, so we went to another. The process for the NCAA, as I understand it, takes time.”
This is the second time McElwain has had a quarterback suspended by the NCAA for failing a drug test. The first occurred when McElwain was the head coach at Florida from 2015-17.
In October 2015, Florida quarterback Will Grier was ruled ineligible for a full year after testing positive for a banned substance, later made known as Ligandrol, from an over-the-counter nutritional supplement.
The NCAA denied the appeal from Grier and the Gators.
“Everybody can say what they want," McElwain said when asked about the coincidence that two of his quarterbacks were suspended for an over-the-counter product. "I mean, obviously they are all separate situations. This one, you just feel bad, really bad. I felt bad for both of them. It’s unfortunate.”
As for David’s suspension, there’s no telling how the NCAA will respond.
“For a moment, this caused him to question, ‘How could this happen,’” Michael said. “At the end of the day, he has faith in God, God’s plan and himself. He has faith in his ability to keep his nose to the grindstone, work hard and make positive things happen.”
Preparing to start
David always knew he was capable of starting as a Division I quarterback. He searched for the right opportunity and finally found a home at CMU. When his name was called, he made the most of his chance.
Now he’s waiting for his name to be called once again – whether that’s the season opener or mid-October conference clash against Northern Illinois.
When David’s next opportunity arises is completely up to the NCAA, but he’s preparing to receive positive news.
He's kept his starters mindset. It’s the only way he knows.
Frye emphasized that David handled the situation of his suspension "like a pro." He was allowed to remain with the team for practices.
"He went down to the scout team and didn't make it about him," Frye said. "He gave the defense some good looks.”
David was on the scout team for the remainder of the season and competed in 10 spring practices – which have since been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak – before spring break.
Multiple times since his suspension, David has worked out with Avery, a quarterback guru that trains high school and college athletes. They’ve focused on his consistency.
“It’s critical to his future,” Avery said about David’s persistence throughout his suspension. “He has an opportunity to play football after Saturdays. He’s got to be focused, not only on himself but the team to move in the right direction.”
In the past week, David has trained at Avery's QB Takeover camp alongside some of the nation’s best quarterbacks in Georgia’s Jamie Newman, Miami’s D’Eriq King, Penn State’s Sean Clifford, Texas A&M’s James Foster II and former Boston College star Anthony Brown, who is now in the NCAA transfer portal.
Unaware of what his future holds, David stays motivated by holding to the hope that he will one day find his way back to the field.
“He’s already lost many games that he’ll never get a chance to get back,” Michael said. “That’s a very difficult pill to swallow. We are hoping the NCAA appeal will allow him to get on the field at the beginning of the season.”