Following up on reports that Ohio State was investigating several members of the football program possibly receiving impermissible benefits, that “possibly” has morphed into “definitely”. And, before the 2010 season has even come to an end, has placed a serious shadow over the their 2011 season.
According to a release issued by the university, a total of six players will be suspended for a game or games at the beginning of 2011 for selling awards, gifts and university apparel and receiving improper benefits in 2009. Included in that total is quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who figured to be in the thick of the Heisman race next year but now must decide whether it’s worth even coming back another year.
Pryor, the release states, must repay $2,500 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring, a 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award and his 2008 Gold Pants, a gift from the university. He will be suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season, or nearly half of his final year of collegiate eligibility.
Joining Pryor on the sidelines for the first five game of ’11 — or the NFL, whichever the case may be — are offensive lineman Mike Adams, running back Boom Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. Like Pryor, all four of those players are juniors and thus eligible for the April draft.
The university declared the student-athletes ineligible on Monday (Dec. 20) and requested reinstatement from the NCAA.
As part of their reinstatement, Adams must repay $1,000 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring and Herron must repay $1,150 for selling his football jersey, pants and shoes for $1,000 and receiving discounted services worth $150. Posey must repay $1,250 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,200 and receiving discounted services worth $50.
“We were not as explicit with our student-athlete education as we should have been in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 academic years regarding the sale of apparel, awards and gifts issued by the athletics department,” athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement. “We began to significantly improve our education in November of 2009 to address these issues. After going through this experience, we will further enhance our education for all our student-athletes as we move forward.”
“Once a student-athlete understands a violation has occurred, they must immediately come forward to report it,” he said. “That did not happen, so the additional one-game penalty was imposed.”
Perhaps the only “bright spot” for the Buckeyes in this latest NCAA investigative mess is the fact that all of the players will be eligible to play in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas. Among the factors that led the NCAA to allow the quintet to play in the bowl game was that it was determined the student-athletes did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred.
Ohio State is currently conducting a press conference that includes head coach Jim Tressel, and obviously we’ll have more on this stunning development throughout the day.