Perhaps the NCAA officials who came up with the punishment for the Ohio State football players had selected the Buckeyes in their bowl pick ’em contests.
That’s as good an explanation as any for why quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, tackle Mike Adams, and reserve defensive end Solomon Thomas have been suspended for the first five games of next season but not the January 4 Sugar Bowl against Arkansas.
The players were punished for selling championship rings, jerseys, and other awards, in addition to receiving free or discounted tattoos at a Columbus tattoo parlor. Pryor netted $2,500 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring, 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award, and, perhaps worst of all, his 2008 “gold pants,” awarded to Ohio State players who beat Michigan. The other players received between $1,000 and $1,505 each.
While Auburn’s Cam Newton avoided any sort of punishment by passing the blame to his father, the Ohio State players avoided additional penalties by saying they didn’t know the rules. The statement from the NCAA said that the players were not suspended for the bowl game because they “did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred.”
If that doesn’t make you scratch your head, well, you’re probably an NCAA employee. If the punishment for the crime is five games, why would it skip over the team’s next game?
Ohio State should probably go ahead and suspend the players for the bowl game. Instead, the university will appeal the suspensions handed out by the NCAA. Athletic director Gene Smith said he thinks the sentence should be reduced because the players were using the money to help support their families. I’m still waiting for Smith to tell us how free tattoos helped the families.
|It’s possible Pryor sold this as well. (Credit: Michael Tolzmann)|
At the heart of the problem in this case, the Newton scandal, and others like them, is the NCAA rulebook. It is arcane and riddled with loopholes. This holiday season seems like the perfect time to toss the book in a fireplace and start new. This is 2010: The off-field landscape looks a lot different than it once did. There are many more millions of dollars to be made if schools have successful athletics programs.
Clearly the current rulebook isn’t cutting it, and this year’s college football season alone has affirmed that. If the NCAA policy allows players to participate in championship or bowl games if they “were not aware they were committing violations,” then why punish them at all? They are basically saying some penalties warrant suspensions, so long as the games missed aren’t important.
To the NCAA, Coach Tressel, or anyone with the power to take action, I say: Don’t let these players participate in the Sugar Bowl. Then again, I picked Ohio State in my bowl challenge, too.