How Can the NCAA Justify Sanctions Against Ohio State?

Ben SullivanCorrespondent IMay 26, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Head coach Jim Tressel of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

I’m the biggest NCAA apologist around.  I openly admit it.  I don’t think college players need to be paid and I may be the only person left who prefers the BCS over a playoff system.  But this whole Ohio State mess has me thinking the NCAA has officially lost its mind. 

Recently Terrelle Pryor and other Ohio State football players have been suspended because they traded items, like awards and rings they had won with their play on the field, for free tattoo work. 

As if their suspensions aren't enough of a mess, head coach Jim Tressel is now facing further punishment because it’s come out that he knew this was going on and didn't rat himself out. 

How can the NCAA defend its stance that players shouldn't be allowed to sell their awards?  If the player wins the award it’s theirs, right?  Do they think they should be able to control every aspect of these kid’s lives?  

I don’t think scholarship college athletes are taken advantage of at all, but telling them they can’t sell items they earned fair and square is over the line. 

These players are still adults with rights, rights they shouldn't be required to sign away just because they want to play college athletics. The NCAA feels like they abused their fame as college football players. 

We all use our persona to get things every day, most of us just aren't as successful at it as high profile athletes.  If you don’t allow the player to accept anything from anyone, even from people who aren't affiliated with the school, then you’re keeping from them the same opportunities the rest of us take for granted. 

These rules were put in place to keep schools from circumventing the anti pay for play rules that were on the books for decades.  If someone gives a player something of value and that affects their decision to go to a certain school, then they’re basically being paid to play there. 

So I understand that a player showing up at a school and suddenly being “gifted” a brand new car or a bunch of money just can’t be allowed. 

But these situations all have one key aspect in common, there’s an understanding that the player is taking the gift in exchange for their play.  In the case of Pryor and his Ohio State teammates I highly doubt they were recruited with the promise of free tattoos. 

The NCAA needs to just use some common sense, something that large operations like them don’t do easily.  If your job is to be an investigator for the NCAA then using your common sense is taking the hard route.  The easy way out is to hide behind the letter of the law instead of the intent of the law. 

By taking allowing their investigators to take a step back and use a little basic judgment then we could avoid ruining our college sports by penalizing athletes for things like trading a trophy or two for a few tats.  Punishing teams, players and fans for things like this is just ridiculous. 

And the punishment the NCAA is most likely to enforce is the most ridiculous part.  At this point it looks like they might very well end up vacating wins from last year.  

Could there be a more pointless exercise than trying to pretend the games we all saw Ohio State play they didn't really win?  What is that about?  The NCAA thinks it can change history now?  

Ohio State won those games, the tapes are out there and nothing the NCAA says can change that.  If they really want to affect the behavior of players they need to focus on punishing teams going forward, not wasting their time on trying to convince everyone they can time travel.  

It’s like hiding something in your hand behind your back, everyone still knows it’s there and you just look stupid. 

The NCAA gets a lot of things right, most of which they don’t get enough credit for, but this is one time they’re making all the wrong moves.  If they would just take a step back, look at the situation realistically and honestly they will see that it is simply an example of a couple of kids using what they have lying around their dorm rooms to get some ink. 

Usually that means selling some used stuff on Craigslist. In the case of high profile college athletes it means trophies and rings.  I don’t see the big deal.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.