It was, in the immediacy of the stunning announcement that five Ohio State players had been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season, widely assumed that most of the quintet of juniors would take their leave of Columbus and head to the NFL.
Apparently, that will not be the case. For any of the players.
In a press conference Thursday morning, head coach Jim Tressel said that all five players — quarterback Terrelle Pryor, offensive lineman Mike Adams, running back Boom Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas — have pledged to return to the football program in 2011. Otherwise, the coach said, they would not have made the trip with the team to the Sugar Bowl.
Tressel said he told the five they “have to make any decision based on the future and (leaving early for the) NFL prior to us leaving for our bowl game. … It wouldn’t be fair if someone was able to participate” and then leave.
With that prerequisite, the pledge of allegiance was unanimous, Tressel said. …
“I’m excited to say that all of the guys who were involved, knowing perhaps they had some options like playing in this game and then leaving (the program) … and maybe another option would be to take themselves out of this game hoping to the appeal for the future (suspension) would be softened … none of them want to do that,” Tressel said.
“They are going into this opportunity their eyes open knowing they have significant sanctions for their senior year. … They know they have to live with those.”
Of course, there’s literally nothing preventing the players from filing their paperwork for the NFL draft after the bowl game. Any combination of the five could tell the school, the coaching staff anything they want to hear right now, and then burn that bridge at some point between the end of the game Jan. 4 and the Jan. 15 deadline for declaring. For now, though, and taking the players and Tressel at their collective word, it appears all five players will return for the 2011 season and sit out the first five games as penance. Pending an appeal that could reduce their sentence by a game or two, of course.
As for the Sugar Bowl itself, there have been rumblings that the players would be punished by the school by being forced to sit a quarter or a half of the Arkansas game. Tressel heavily intimated that will not be the case.
“The guys will play as to what they deserve to play from a football standpoint,” Tressel said. “They will be evaluated football related.”
In other words, the Buckeyes will be at full strength for the Sugar Bowl from start to finish. Well played, Mr. Hoolahan. Well played.