If Ohio State's Noah Spence Sues the Big Ten, How Will That Impact B1G's Image?

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor IJanuary 8, 2014

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Noah Spence #8 of the Ohio State Buckeyes rushes against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Ohio Stadium on October 26, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

When news first broke of Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end Noah Spence's suspension, something just didn't add up. Now we know why. 

Noah Spence didn't get a three-game suspension for a dietary supplement, like was first reported.

Rather, he was suspended for testing positive for "a small amount of ecstasy" in a random drug test prior to the Big Ten Championship game, according to an interview with Spence's father by WHTM-ABC27 in Harrisburg, Pa. 

That's only half the story, though, as the report also indicates that Spence's family is also considering suing the Big Ten over how it classifies ecstasy. 

Whether or not the lawsuit happens or has a chance to work is for another time. Today, the question is: Will the Big Ten stick to its guns on how it classifies the drug going forward?

It may seem like a matter of semantics, but it is an important question because the answer may affect what seems to matter most in this day and age, its image.

Jul 24, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany speaks during the Big Ten media day at the Chicago Hilton. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

See, the Big Ten classifies it as a performance-enhancing drug, while the NCAA classifies it as a street drug. 

The latter carries with it a far less harsh penalty, while the violation of the Big Ten's performance-enhancing drug policy carries an automatic one-year suspension. 

Spence's family, backed by Ohio State, already won an appeal of the original one-year suspension, according to WHTM's report. 

An apparent second appeal went nowhere fast, hence the consideration of a lawsuit to get the rest of Spence's suspension lifted. 

The difference in how one group classifies the drug is quite dramatic, and it brings the Big Ten's image into question. 

Let's face facts—the Big Ten is seen in a lot of circles as the snobby, old-school, stuck-up conference. After all, who wants to hear about being about "academics and athletics" at every turn? 

Especially when the conference pioneered its own moneymaking machine in the Big Ten Network and is currently the most lucrative conference in the country, with the potential to stay that way in the coming years thanks to its expansion into big television markets. 

That aside, it is important to figure out how the Big Ten looks at how it classifies the drug. 

Let's remember that the Big Ten is classifying ecstasy under performance-enhancing drugs because its affects are seen as similar to that of amphetamines and other stimulants that would help a player's performance on the field.

Whether that actually would happen or not is another question and better left for the professionals, but the conference has a reason for classifying the drug like it does.  

But, by acquiescing in its stance on the drug in this one case and giving Spence a three-game suspension, the Big Ten is opening itself up for some serious issues down the line.

What about the player who unknowingly takes a dietary supplement that contained a trace amount of a banned stimulant?

Shouldn't he/she be treated the same way as Spence? After all, they were just given a supplement and didn't have a way of knowing what was in it. 

See, that's the issue with the "he unknowingly ingested ecstasy in a drink he was handed at a party," argument Spence's family is floating and apparently someone else bought. 

Nov 20, 2012; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Rutgers president Robert Barchi (right) and athletic director Tim Pernetti (middle) and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany (left) pose for a photo at a press conference announcing the move of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights fro
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

It opens up Pandora's door, and once you do that you can't close the door ever again. 

Whatever happens down the road, the Big Ten needs to be careful in the precedent it sets with this case. Its credibility and image really can't afford to take a hit with television contracts to be renegotiated soon.

What the Big Ten needs to do is work with the NCAA to clarify its classification for drugs and make sure they are uniform in punishment. 

It gives players, families and coaches a clear picture of the consequences of taking a certain drug, and it avoids the issue of the Big Ten looking like the old fuddy-duddy who won't let its players just have a little fun like the rest of people in college. 


*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.


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