Gene Smith

Trio of Buckeyes suspended; AD Smith fumbles another press conference


Just a few hours ago, the eligibility status of Ohio State running back Boom Herron and receiver DeVier Posey was in question yet again following an additional NCAA probe into jobs the two athletes held at Independence Excavating.

Following a press conference by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, consider all doubt — and all hope — removed.

Herron, Posey and offensive lineman Marcus Hall have all been suspended for next week’s game at Nebraska for accepting wages in excess of hours worked at their summer jobs. Herron and Posey were already on the tail end of a five-game suspension for receiving impermissible benefits; Hall will be missing his first game.

According to Ohio State’s release on the violations, Herron was paid for 19.5 hours he did not work; Posey was paid for 48.5 hours he did not work; Hall was paid for 15.5 hours he did not work. The release goes on to state that the players failed to report the jobs to Ohio State compliance.

Bobby DiGeronimo, the booster whose company provided the jobs to the players, has been disassociated from OSU, joining reported bag man Terrelle Pryor.

And, yes, that does mean what you think: Herron and Posey received improper compensation — which was discovered because of an NCAA investigation into other Ohio State players who received cash from the hands of another player (Pryor, reportedly) who received impermissible benefits — while suspended for receiving improper benefits.

But the violations aren’t even the worst part. They’re not even in the same ballpark as Smith’s complete nonchalance in congruence with what really is a lack of urgency and awareness by Ohio State’s compliance department.

“These are failures of individuals, not a systemic failure of compliance,” Smith said. “It’s not 30 (players).”

Buckeyes, meet the underside of Mr. Smith’s Greyhound bus. There you’ll be reunited with your former coach, Jim Tressel

A booster’s company provides more wages than hours worked to multiple players while the booster himself gives straight cash to three more athletes — all within a year or so of the tattoo scandal?

Sounds systematic to me, and the number 30 has nothing to do with it.

Ohio State’s compliance spidey senses needed to be on high alert even though the NCAA essentially agreed with their assessment that Tressel was the one to blame for the tattoogate scandal. They weren’t, and now Smith finds himself in front of the microphones again trying to explain the situation.

The most amazing and yet somehow predictable part of it all was that Smith didn’t even seem to care. At this point, he may not. Smith has blamed Tressel, and now he’s blamed the players.

Gene Smith is running out of scapegoats.

USC’s Max Tuerk already questionable for Notre Dame game

TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 11:  Center Max Tuerk #75 of the USC Trojans prepares to snap the football during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona.  The Trojans defeatred the Wildcats 28-26.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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As if the questions about the head coach’s future aren’t enough, now USC could have a rather significant issue in the middle of its offensive line to deal with as well.

Early in the first quarter of what would turn out to be an embarrassing loss to Washington Thursday night, Max Tuerk sustained a sprained knee. Upon further examination, it was determined that the veteran center would be unable to return to the game.

Not only that, Tuerk, who was wearing a brace on his right knee following the loss, is already labeled as questionable for what it in every sense of the phrase a must-win game for Steve Sarkisian against Notre Dame eight days from now.

With Tuerk sidelined for the remainder of the game, he was replaced by Toa Lobendahn. It’s unclear which direction the Trojans would go if Tuerk is a no-go this weekend, although Khaliel Rodgers, who had been dealing with a personal issue, has been Tuerk’s backup.

Tuerk has started 38 games in his Trojan career — 18 at center, 14 at left guard, five at left tackle, one at right tackle. Lobendahn started all 13 games as a true freshman last season, the first eight at left guard and then five at right tackle.

Was Washington loss the beginning of the end of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC?

Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian’s win totals in his six previous seasons are both a positive and a negative.

On one hand, he resurrected a moribund Washington program that went 0-12 under Ty Willingham in 2008 and took them to four consecutive bowl games from 2010-2013. He won nine games his last year in Seattle, then led a talented-yet-thin USC team to a nine-win season and AP No. 20 finish in 2014.

Those are good accomplishments. But the flip side of the argument is Sarkisian has never won double-digit games in a season, something that’s a necessity to keep one’s job at USC. The Trojans’ 17-12 loss to Washington last night — at home, no less — means the road to 10 wins and a Pac-12 title will be awfully difficult.

And worse yet, there are plenty of arguments to be made Sarkisian doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt and a little more time in Los Angeles to turn things around (#SarkAfterDark, his drunken rant at a booster event, certainly doesn’t help). The reaction from national media to last night’s loss looked like this:

Mandel, in his column, argued USC is right where it was two years ago with Lane Kiffin as its coach. And there’s this embarrassing thought, that looks more and more like a truth, for Pat Haden:

This one, however, was the most damning by far for many reasons, most notably that it came at the hands of Sarkisian’s old team. The sense among many Washington fans nearly two years ago was that the Huskies managed to upgrade coaches when the school lured Chris Petersen from Boise State upon Sarkisian’s departure to USC.

They were right.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken similarly wrote that USC needs to drop Sarkisian and bring in Chip Kelly from the Philadelphia Eagles.

This is the state of USC, and it may not get better. The Trojans start a brutal three-game stretch next Saturday at Notre Dame in primetime, then welcome Utah to Los Angeles the next week. A Halloween trip to Berkeley to face Jared Goff and Cal finishes it up. There’s a very real chance USC, for all its talent and all its hype, limps into November with a 4-4 or 3-5 record.

Sarkisian will have to engineer and sustain a major turnaround in these coming weeks, otherwise he’ll give Haden all the ammo he needs to unceremoniously jettison him after two years.