Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel announced this morning that all five players scheduled to receive a five-game suspension will return for their senior season in 2011. Each player made their pledge to Tressel in return for a chance to play in next Tuesday's 2011 Sugar Bowl. All agreed unanimously to return when given the option of missing the bowl game versus not returning in 2011.
In case you are living under a rock, starters including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, wide receiver Devier Posey, running back Dan Herron, left tackle Mike Adams as well as backup defensive end Solomon Thomas all received five-game suspensions for receiving "improver benefits" after selling memorabilia including gold pants, uniforms, autographs and awards in return for cash.
The players stated that they didn't know of the transgressions at the time, and that they didn't inform the university or the NCAA when they were educated on the matter later in the year. Obviously they were either lying, or the biggest idiots on the planet. I vote for both.
According to Tressel, all the players involved in the NCAA improprieties will be playing next Tuesday without any university sanctions added to the five-game ban.
I'm an Ohio State fan, and in a perfect world, I want these five players in the game. Win or lose Tuesday night, I want the test against the Razorbacks to be without any excuses. Unfortunately, I still can't figure out what the NCAA, Ohio State and now Tressel are thinking? Are we supposed to believe that this is being done with the best interests of the students involved?
"...the notion that the NCAA is selective with its eligibility decisions and rules enforcement is another myth with no basis in fact. Money is not a motivator or factor as to why one school would get a particular decision versus another. Any insinuation that revenue from bowl games in particular would influence NCAA decisions is absurd, because schools and conferences receive that revenue, not the NCAA."
Now I could attack this from many different angles, starting with the sponsorship money, but it would take days to cover. It's relatively obvious that cash cows in the current system receive the benefits of a seemingly corrupt NCAA. Let me be clear: it is my belief that the only reason that Ohio State received sanctions favorable to their 2010 finish is because they are a pre-eminent university with regards to the 2010 season. In other words, they are involved in one of the BCS bowls.
Ohio State will pay the price next year. The NCAA nailed them with the required four-game suspension for their transgressions, and added an extra game for not complying with the university and the NCAA once they found out about them. All five starters will miss the first five games, and while some say it's not a big deal, they do play at Miami and against a loaded Michigan St.
Look at a team like Auburn, also in this BCS (and Heisman) scenario. They will likely find out in the next few years that Newton wasn't eligible, will lose their wins and potential national title, while the NCAA will still garner the benefits of having him "win it" (the Heisman and perhaps the national title) and "play in it" (the national title) this year. Auburn will likely end up with sanctions of some sort in years to come, while the NCAA enjoys this year's success, and Newton moves on to the pro ranks before any of this truly affects him.
All in All, these are pretty idiotic scenarios.
There's also the question of this "pledge" that the players made to Tressel. This screams of Carlos Boozer to me. If you are NBA fans, Carlos Boozer pledged to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers after they released him from the last year of his contract. They released him, and the next day, Boozer signed a mammoth deal with Utah.
While I do believe these five players said they'd come back next season, what governing body is going to police this? Are they slaves to the university? Last I knew, this was a free country, and just saying, "I'm staying" holds about as much validity as a politician making promises during an election year. This really means nothing in the end. Like Boozer with the Cavs, these five players have the right to do whatever they want. They may return, but there is no guarantee.
What it does is give the NCAA, Ohio State and Jim Tressel the balance to allow them to play next week...right or wrong. I love my Buckeyes, and want them to run Arkansas into the ground, but this decision is just plain wrong.
Yes, the NCAA rules that these players broke are utterly ridiculous, as I stated last week. The NCAA is the most hypocritical organization on the planet. They are a self-serving monopoly that stand at the top of a mountain and dictate who and what happens to their universities at will. This is 100 percent about money and power.
Still, the rules are the rules, and these players broke them. What would the NCAA have done if the offense required a permanent NCAA ban? Would they have allowed these unfortunate five to play in the Sugar Bowl then? While I'd like to believe that the answer is no, look at Cam Newton. Are there any doubters that eventually the NCAA will retroactively do something that is dramatic to Auburn, as they did with Reggie Bush?
I'm not a judge, a jury or an executioner, and I'll always be a Jim Tressel fan, an Ohio State fan and a supporter of Buckeyes athletics. With that said, they have made a bad call here. These players should have been suspended from the Sugar Bowl, and that...is that.
Unfortunately, it's not the money thing to do.
Hopefully, in the future, the NCAA and their ridiculous governing body will be put in check. Until then, the universities need to take up where the NCAA leaves off, and tend to these kids in an appropriate way. Ridiculous rules or not, they need to be followed, regardless of the financial outcome to any university. Allowing rule-breakers to play in the big game sends another message across the bow that accountability fits, as long as there isn't a bowl game on the line, or sponsors, or tickets or...well...money.
I do believe that Tressel thinks he's doing the right thing, and obviously, he knows these kids better than I do, or ever want to. Regardless of the press out there reporting that Tressel is crooked, he's run as clean a program as any over the past several years, and has answered most of the calls with regards to transgressions swiftly.
He's a players' coach as well, and takes care of those that come under his tutelage, as he's done with Maurice Clarett after the infamous running back got out of jail last year. Tressel got him back in school, and then got him back in football, playing in the minor league UFL.
Player after player praises Tressel for his help past their days on the football field. I'm sure that this is an extension of that. Right or wrong, Tressel likely sees the five games next year as a balance to playing in the bowl game this year.
I just don't happen to agree with "The Senator" on this one, and he'll take a hit for the decision.