NCAA ruling leaves behind many questions
Published: Friday, December 24, 2010
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 01:06
The NCAA handed down five-game suspensions for the 2011 season for five Ohio State football players Thursday for receiving money for selling gifts, apparel and awards. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas must sit out the first five games of next season. Freshman linebacker Jordan Whiting was given a one-game suspension.
Still, the ruling left many questions about the future of the players involved and the OSU football program.
Why don't the suspensions include the Sugar Bowl?
The NCAA's press release explained why the players are able to compete in the bowl game.
"NCAA policy allows suspending withholding penalties for a championship or bowl game if it was reasonable at the time the student-athletes were not aware they were committing violations, along with considering the specific circumstances of each situation. In addition, there must not be any competitive advantage related to the violations, and the student-athletes must have eligibility remaining."
For Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, the NCAA released a similar statement. Granted, the NCAA concluded that there is no proof that Newton knew about his father shopping his services around for a six-figure payday.
But if the players inform the NCAA that they were unaware of any wrongdoing, it appears to be enough to maintain their eligibility for the bowls.
"Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement," said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs.
The players claimed ignorance, and ended up giving the NCAA an out. After all, would the Sugar Bowl generate as much revenue or attention if Joe Bauserman were starting for Terrelle Pryor?
Michael Wilbon said something similar on ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption."
"You boys go make us some more money, and you fill those seats, but don't you make any money for yourselves," Wilbon said.
Are the players making valid excuses?
The OSU players in question are using a common answer, the same answer that Newton used in the midst of his scandal. Basically, they didn't know they were in the wrong.
While it's possible that the players are telling the truth, former Buckeye defensive starter and current San Francisco 49er Thaddeus Gibson said that they were told not to sell personal items fairly often. Gibson played for OSU from 2007-09.
"Oh yeah, they (OSU athletic director Gene Smith and the coaches) talked about it a lot," Gibson said Thursday in a phone interview with The Lantern.
This would appear to contradict what Gene Smith said Thursday, unless those warnings didn't start occurring until November 2009.
"We were not explicit with these young men that you could not resell items that we give you," Smith said. "We began to be more explicit in November 2009."
Safety Jermale Hines sided with the suspended players in a Twitter post Thursday.
"I dont blame em for selling whatever they sold, there is no reason athletes you struggle when 90% of yo time go to that sport. And no job," Hines wrote.
Many would argue that Hines has a point, including Gibson.
"I'm with him (Hines) on that," Gibson said. "The thing about it is, like Terrelle for example, his jersey sales are crazy. You know they're (Ohio State) making all this money off his jersey selling, but he's getting in trouble for this."
We've seen this before, recently with star Georgia receiver A.J. Green, who was suspended for four games for selling his jersey earlier in the season.
Perhaps it's irrelevant whether or not the excuses are valid; regardless, the players broke the rules. But are we asking the right questions? Is a free education and minimal financial support from the school a fair trade for the services of these college athletes, considering the amount of money the make for the schools?
Why make the compliance office scapegoat?
The NCAA postponed the suspensions until after the Sugar Bowl because the players said they didn't know they were violating NCAA rules. The NCAA concluded that the athletes "did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred," said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs, in the initial press release.
Smith agreed that the efforts of the compliance staff didn't meet expectations.
"We were not explicit with these young men that you cannot resell items that we give you," Smith said. "They stated in their interviews with us and with the NCAA that they felt those items were theirs, that they owned them, that they could sell them to help their families. … We were not explicit and that's our responsibility to be explicit."
This takes away some of the blame aimed at the players and places it on the university, and might help OSU make its case when it files an appeal.
What does this say about the NCAA?
The next sentence might sound familiar. The NCAA is being criticized for the way it handled a situation involving the potential eligibility of college athletes.
This has become pretty commonplace. Still, the NCAA continues to open the door for this type of criticism.
Four of the six players are starters and those four — Pryor, Posey, Herron and Adams — are all juniors. They have the opportunity to declare for the draft after the Sugar Bowl.