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Ohio State, NCAA, ‘Shameful Six’ are embarrassments

Two days before Christmas, six Buckeye players played the role of the Grinch. They, along with the other parties involved, have completely embarrassed themselves.

The “Shameful Six” should be embarrassed. They sold jerseys, pants, shoes, Big Ten championship rings and Gold Pants awards. In a true sense of irony, Terrelle Pryor sold his 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award. Many of them received discounted services (tattoos) in exchange for autographs.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith should be embarrassed. He said that the now-suspended players “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.”

I wasn’t born yesterday. Neither were the players. You’ll never convince me that the players truly thought it was OK to sell those items.

I talked to Gene Smith about compliance in May. I asked him what the key to staying clear of the NCAA was. He gave me a one-word answer: “attitude.”

“Our compliance office does a great job with education, not only our department but across the campus and in the community,” Smith said. “So we have a compliance-conscious environment because I drive it, I talk about it all the time.”

Maybe the “Shameful Six” just had the wrong attitude.

The NCAA should also be embarrassed.

OSU declared the “Shameful Six” ineligible when it self-reported the violations to the NCAA on Sunday. It was the NCAA who reinstated the six for the Sugar Bowl and instead suspended five of the six for the first five games of the 2011 season (Jordan Whiting is suspended for the season opener).

Why? Since 2007, OSU has not made it crystal clear that selling “apparel, awards and gifts issued by the athletics department” is a no. Which brings us back to the players thinking they weren’t breaking any rules.

It gets better.

The NCAA bought that poppycock excuse and used lingo Smith hadn’t even heard of: “NCAA policy allows [lifting] penalties for a championship or bowl game if it was reasonable at the time the student-athletes were not aware they were committing violations.”

To a greater extent, it’s the Cam Newton excuse. Sure, there was no clear-cut proof connecting Newton to his father’s pay-for-play recruitment of his son. You’ll never convince me that discussion of the highest bidder didn’t happen at the Newton dinner table.

And let me get this straight: current USC Trojans can’t play in a bowl game because former player and Heisman winner Reggie Bush took improper benefits five years ago?

Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey and Mike Adams are all not only eligible for the 2011 NFL draft, it’s a virtual certainty that all four of them would be drafted.

Now, do their suspensions look bad on their resumes? Sure. Is it a big risk entering the NFL with no collective bargaining agreement deal in place? Definitely.

But the fact that they can jump ship after the Sugar Bowl and not have to worry about their suspensions is ludicrous.

Scandal-heavy and money-hungry college football is becoming more of an embarrassment by the day.

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