Cody Cousino / Asst. photo editor
Ten months have passed since NCAA violations committed by Ohio State football players were first revealed, and additional revelations have surfaced since then. Considering recent suspensions, the OSU athletic department doesn’t appear any closer to stabilizing the football team and according to one expert, there could be major ramifications for the university and athletic director Gene Smith.
Receiver DeVier Posey, running back Dan Herron and offensive lineman Marcus Hall are the most recently suspended Buckeyes. Smith informed media of the suspensions at an Oct. 3 press conference and informed those in attendance the players would be forced to sit for being excessively compensated by a former OSU booster at their respective summer jobs.
Posey will be suspended for the team’s next four games and won’t be eligible to return to action until the team’s Nov. 19 game against Penn State, according to a Friday release by the athletic department. Smith said the NCAA’s decision to suspend the player five games was “harsh.”
Posey, Herron and Hall join — or rejoin, as the case may be — a long list of OSU players that have been penalized by the NCAA during the 2011 season.
In December, six players — Posey, Herron, former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and left tackle Mike Adams, who each received five-game suspensions, and linebacker Jordan Whiting, who received a one-game ban — were suspended for selling team memorabilia in exchange for improper benefits in the form of tattoos.
Former OSU coach Jim Tressel was forced to resign from his post as pressure mounted for not self-reporting the players’ violations. Days later on June 7, Pryor left the university to pursue a professional career in the NFL.
As attention began to turn back to on-field matters, three more players — running back Jordan Hall and defensive backs Corey Brown and Travis Howard — were suspended on Sept. 9 for receiving impermissible benefits at a Cleveland charity event in February.
Smith also said he does not expect charges of “failure to monitor” or “lack of institutional control” from the NCAA to come as result of any of the infractions, but Michael L. Buckner, whose law firm specializes in college sports law, disagrees.
Buckner says that Smith, the university and the athletic department should all be concerned.
“In Ohio State’s case, for what was being alleged against the individuals involved and the type of infractions that the (NCAA) is investigating, I was surprised the (NCAA) has not alleged a ‘failure to monitor.'”
The suspensions are also coupled with the Buckeyes’ dubious 3-3 record through six games this season, which includes an 0-2 record in conference play and a gut-wrenching 34-27 Saturday loss to Nebraska. OSU’s lead against the Cornhuskers swelled to 27-6 in the third quarter before the Buckeyes allowed the largest comeback in Nebraska football history.
In light of the current state of the program both on and off the field, Buckeye football historian Jack Park said he can’t help but wonder what is next for OSU’s embattled football team.
“I can tell you that in all the years I’ve been covering Ohio State football, this is probably the low spot,” said Park, who has covered the team since the 1960s. “This doesn’t look very good, that’s for sure. I’m just disappointed that we have to be going through this.”
The season presses on for the Buckeyes, but Park said he is troubled by the athletic director’s explanation of the suspensions on Oct. 3, which Smith said were “failures by individuals.”
“I didn’t understand how all of this can all be going on and it’s always on the individual,” Park said. “I just don’t have a good feel for what’s going on here.”
OSU President E. Gordon Gee might have tipped his hand about Smith’s job security as athletic director.
On June 1, Gee told The Lantern that Smith’s job was “safe.”
When asked if his stance had changed on Smith’s job security, Gee said in a Oct. 5 email to The Lantern: “Gene Smith is doing an excellent job. Thanks for asking.”
When compared to “lack of institutional control,” Buckner said “failure to monitor” is a charge more likely to be filed, and a less-serious violation.
“When you’re failing to monitor (student-athletes), you do have the things in place,” Buckner said. “You do have people in place. You do have procedures, but you may not be following them.
“These (student-athletes) are bad people — that’s what Ohio State is trying to argue.”
Buckner also said that based on his understanding of OSU’s NCAA transgressions, Smith and the university should be worried about the NCAA Committee on Infractions ruling that it has failed to monitor student-athletes.
Buckeye fans should be equally concerned about the possible punishments that would accompany a “failure to monitor” penalty.
“Normally, you’re going to have one to three years probation with annual reporting,” Buckner said. “There are always some additional penalties like scholarship reductions. You could also have practice reductions.”
OSU is now winless in conference play as it opens the Leaders Division portion of its schedule Saturday at Illinois’ Memorial Stadium. The Buckeyes still have everything to play for on the field, but Park said he can’t help but wonder what could come next off the field.
“I hope there’s nothing coming next, but every time we’re told it is an isolated incident,” Park said. “So, you have to wonder, where does this all stop?”