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Ohio State response to NCAA misses the mark, 2010 season sacrificed

Submitted by on July 8, 2011No Comment

A little over six months since Terrelle Pryor and 4 other Buckeye players were officially accused of selling memorabilia for improper benefits, Ohio State has finally prepared a response to the NCAA.

Photo Credit: Jeff Hickley / DISPATCH
The Columbus Dispatch is reporting Ohio State will vacate wins from the 2010 season and place the program on probation for two years as part of self-imposed punishment in their response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations. An obvious step in the right direction considering the season-long coverup involving Jim Tressel withholding knowledge of rule violations despite receiving word of the scandal as early as April of last year. By withholding knowledge of the scandal and the involvement of his players, 4 of them starters, Jim Tressel knowingly played the Tatt Five for the entire 2010 season when their eligibility should have been in question. So for Ohio State to vacate the 2010 Big Ten title season, as well as the Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas should be considered a no-brainer, it was the very least they could have done, the NCAA would have automatically imposed that penalty.

Interestingly, the Buckeyes’ self-immolation does not include scholarship reductions or a post-season ban. A bold move considering how Ohio State managed to somehow convince the NCAA to postpone the suspensions of Tatt Five and keep all 5 offending players eligible for the Sugar Bowl when the case was first brought to light last December. A questionable decision that only further embarrassed the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement staff when details surfaced after the Sugar Bowl of Jim Tressel’s involvement and subsequent coverup of the case as early as last April.

Even vacating the Sugar Bowl is nothing more than an illusion of  punishment for the involvement of Tatt Five, the retroactive erasing what already happened is more of a symbolic gesture than an actual punishment. The Buckeyes have already reaped in most of the benefits of a Sugar Bowl win on national television; tickets have been sold, the offending players played crucial roles in the win, and national exposure of beating a SEC team in a BCS bowl cannot be erased. If the NCAA is truly serious about punishing Ohio State for the use of ineligible players not only during the entire 2010 season, but in the Sugar Bowl, a post-season ban will do the trick.

At this point the Buckeyes are basically hedging their bets that the sacrifice of head coach Jim Tressel will be more than sufficient to appease the NCAA firing squad. A clear strategy of painting sweatervest wearing Jim Tressel as a rouge agent working alone in manipulating Ohio State.

Ohio State concedes major violations of NCAA regulations but says it should not face harsher punishment, because no OSU official other than Tressel was aware of player violations, according to the response that was obtained by The Dispatch.

“The responsibility is upon Tressel. No other institutional personnel were aware” of the violations, and the former coach failed in his obligation to report them, the response says. “The institution is embarrassed by the actions of Tressel.”

Even Ohio State AD Gene Smith has just recently claimed that it was he who asked for Jim Tressel’s resignation a day before it happened, a claim that stands in stark contrast to the unwavering support for Jim Tressel just 13 days prior at the Big Ten meetings in Chicago. Revisionist history? Maybe. But a smart move nonetheless for a program trying to persuade the NCAA that they were being proactive throughout the entire scandal. Now time will tell whether Ohio State’s response today and its scapegoat strategy will pay off. They are set to face the NCAA Committee on Infractions on August 12th.

But considering the two year bowl ban and heavy scholarship losses the NCAA dropped on USC for similar allegations of a star player receiving improper benefits, retroactively vacating the 2010 season and the illusion of a 2 year probation seems like barely a slap on the wrist especially when 5 players, including a star quarterback and its head coach are involved.

What’s worse, even the university has admitted that this allegation makes them a dreaded ‘repeat offender’ of NCAA regulations.

The university concedes it is a “repeat violator” of NCAA regulations but contends that its “corrective and punitive actions are appropriate” and asks that the football program be spared additional punishment.

The Dispatch reported today that Ohio State is increasing compliance efforts and staffing. The report to the NCAA includes new restrictions on how and when players receive awards, in an attempt to ensure they do not sell them.

Players must prove they still have their championship rings and watches and will not receive other items, such as gold-pants charms for Michigan wins and game-worn helmets, until they leave the program.

The university also says that at least one compliance officer will travel with the football and basketball teams to away games to monitor players.

Maybe just too little too late? Remember that USC also increased compliance staff and implemented corrective measures leading up to their date with the NCAA, and they still dropped the hammer.

Now it’s up to the NCAA to decide whether retroactively erasing the 2010 season from the record books and a 2 year probation is sufficient punishment for a coverup of improper benefits that started as early as April of last year, involving tattoos, money and possibly cars, by a head football coach who also presided over the ineligible use of 4 star players, and the subsequent embarrassment of the NCAA by being misleaded into reinstating the Tatt Five for the Sugar Bowl.

I just wouldn’t bet on it.

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