The NCAA might have hit the Ohio State football program with a one-year bowl ban and cut nine scholarships over three years, but it hasn’t affected the school’s recruiting.
According to recruiting experts, no OSU football recruits have indicated they are thinking about switching their commitment. In fact, the opposite is true.
“In actuality, we surveyed most of the commitments that they have and basically it was almost unanimous that they’re going to stick with their commitments to Ohio State,” said Steve Helwagen, managing editor of Bucknuts.com. “I don’t think anybody is planning to back out.”
Kevin Noon, managing editor for BuckeyeGrove.com, said he has also spoken to many of OSU’s recruits and doesn’t foresee any problems.
“We’ve spoken to a lot of the big names of the class and they’ve all said that they want to sign with the Buckeyes,” Noon said. “They’re still excited about their opportunity to be part of the Buckeyes.”
The bowl ban will affect OSU after the 2012 regular season, which would be the freshman year for the incoming recruits. Typically, most freshman at OSU don’t play a large role on the field.
“They’re probably going to be backups if they don’t redshirt,” Helwagen said. “For those guys, to miss a bowl game, they don’t figure to be frontline players. It’s probably not that big of an issue.”
But the bowl ban is something that many didn’t expect. OSU athletic director Gene Smith repeatedly said he didn’t think a bowl ban was likely and said he was “surprised” when the NCAA Committee of Infractions announced their decision Tuesday.
When new head coach Urban Meyer first took the job at OSU, he indicated that he didn’t expect a bowl ban either. Helwagen and Noon said recruits were probably being told not to expect a harsh decision.
“When they hired Urban Meyer, he said that Gene Smith and Gordon Gee told him that they didn’t think a bowl ban was in the cards,” Helwagen said. “I think Urban Meyer was telling recruits what he was being told … (the ban) couldn’t have been unforeseen because it was a possibility. I think it did catch a lot of people off guard though.”
In addition to the bowl ban, the NCAA slashed nine scholarships over three years and put the football program on three years probation. Noon agreed the bowl ban may have come as a surprise, but said the other sanctions shouldn’t worry the recruits in the slightest.
“I think the one-year bowl ban comes as a little bit of a surprise,” Noon said. “But when you look at the rest of the penalties, none of those directly have bearing on kids whether they commit to a program because scholarship reductions don’t mean anything to you if you already have a scholarship.”
Before the NCAA levied its punishments, Meyer had been on quite a roll on the Buckeye recruiting trail. Noah Spence, Se’von Pittman and Tommy Schutt, three highly rated defensive line recruits gave their pledge to the Scarlet and Gray within the past two weeks.
Two of those players, Pittman and Schutt, were previously committed to other Big Ten schools, but Meyer was able to flip Pittman from Michigan State to OSU and Schutt uncommitted from Penn State.
With OSU now facing a bowl ban, some fear opposing coaches might use that fact to negatively recruit against players already committed to the Buckeyes.
But Noon said finally knowing the penalties might actually be a good thing.
“I think Ohio State was already being negatively recruited when the whole NCAA cloud was hanging over its head,” Noon said. “I’m sure that schools will try and potentially use this to see if they can shake somebody loose, but I don’t expect it to be anywhere to the point of where it was beforehand where schools were saying allegedly that Ohio State was going to get USC-type penalties.”
The USC football program just finished the second season of its two-year bowl ban this year and had 30 scholarships cut by the NCAA as part of violations involving former Trojan running back Reggie Bush.
Recruits now know what they’re facing if they choose to enroll at OSU, but that doesn’t mean opposing coaches won’t try their best to convince the recruits to change their minds.
“If they really want those guys, they’re going to go after them,” Helwagen said.