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Commentary: Smith’s bad decision punishes the innocent

Gene Smith dropped the ball.

Ohio State’s football program was hammered on Tuesday by the NCAA for a “failure to monitor’ its football program. After a year of news regarding violations, suspensions and forced resignations, the NCAA made its decision to ban the program from a bowl game next year.

The Buckeyes are eligible to play the University of Florida in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2. 

Smith, athletic director at OSU, said in a statement that the university will accept the penalties and move forward.

But let’s move backward for a minute.

In December 2010, five OSU football players were suspended for five games in the 2011 season. The players were, however, allowed to play in the now-vacated Sugar Bowl.

But wait, three months later, it was discovered that former head coach Jim Tressel knew about the violations committed, and failed to report them. Tressel was later forced out by the university.

About a week after Tressel’s departure, former quarterback Terrelle Pryor departed the university to pursue a career in the NFL.

The university had a meeting with the NCAA on Aug. 12 to discuss the actions of the university from December 2010 onward.

But wait, more improper benefits plagued the program, with the worst benefits being rewarded to senior wide receiver DeVier Posey. Posey, through the suspensions from December 2010 and the later assessed suspensions, was ultimately only allowed to play in two regualr season games. OSU lost both games.

After of these allegations, improper benefits and suspensions, surely a bowl ban is not out of the question. In fact, I actually expected a bowl ban in 2011.

But wait, OSU is allowed to play in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2? Meaning the seniors involved in the “Tattoogate” violations are allowed to participate in another bowl game.

Team voted MVP, senior running back Daniel “Boom” Herron, Posey and others are now going to participate in four bowl games in their career. This includes three BCS bowls, and the Gator Bowl. Incoming freshman will now only be eligible for three bowl games at a maximum.

Where is the punishment? Posey, Herron and other players received suspensions for their actions, but in the end, it seems that the innocent are going to suffer more than the guilty.

Participants in the Gator Bowl this year are set to receive a Fossil watch, Gator Gear headwear, a rolling luggage bag, a commemorative ring and a Gator Bowl football. Incoming freshman next year will not receive any of these girts, nor any other gifts from a bowl game in 2012.

Where is the justice?

Smith should have denied an invitation to the Gator Bowl. The university has been self-imposing penalties all year, in anticipation of NCAA penalties.

He should have self-imposed a bowl ban for this season a long time ago. Well before the season ended with a 6-6 record, Smith should have taken action. Regardless of the Gator Bowl being meaningless, those responsible are not being punished.

With the timing of the decision, the NCAA was left with no choice but to ban OSU from the 2012 postseason. The decision came 13 days before the start of the Gator Bowl, and if the NCAA was to ban the university this year, it would be just as much punishment to Florida.

The bottom line is the bowl ban is punishing the innocent and letting the guilty walk free, and in some cases, walk free to the NFL. 

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