When the Ohio State Buckeyes take on the Miami Hurricanes in Miami this Saturday, they will be relieved to have Jordan Hall, Travis Howard, and Corey Brown back on the team.
Having served their two game suspension for taking improper benefits at a charity event in February, the players have been cleared by the NCAA to return this week. This is great news for a Buckeye team that played a somewhat lifeless game against Toledo last week. Jordan Hall, arguably the best offensive player on the team and definitely the team’s biggest playmaking threat, will be a sure boost to an offense that struggled to put Toledo away. Travis Howard is perhaps the team’s best defensive back (no disrespect to Dominic Clarke who has been excellent so far this year).
But is it possible that those 3 players aren’t the only ones who are returning from discipline for this charity event? If you believe Brooks Melchior, founding editor of the popular Sports by Brooks blog, then it’s possible.
In the letter OSU sent to the NCAA to self-report the improper benefits, they mentioned that five current players attended the event. Three of the five (Hall, Howard, and Brown) acknowledged that they accepted the money. The other two, however, did not receive any money. The names of those two players were redacted when the letter was released to the media.
In a post titled “NCAA Report: Prized Ohio St QB At Charity Event”, Brooks writes:
The two “current student-athletes” referred to by Ohio State in its report to the NCAA – with the names redacted by the the school in its release of the report to the media – are Braxton Miller and current Buckeye football player Nathan Williams.
This is the 2nd to last paragraph of the post. Of course, Brooks makes no mention of how he knows this. Did a source tell him this? Does he have first hand knowledge of who was there? Unfortunately, those questions aren’t answered, and it makes this report seem a little flimsy.
The majority of the post is spent speculating that because neither Miller nor Williams played against Toledo, then they must be the other guys who were there. He stops short of specifically saying they were secretly suspended, but he certainly implies that it could have been a “contributing factor” to them not playing.
Never mind the fact that Williams is injured, and in fact just had surgery on his knee on Wednesday. Never mind that Ohio State was in a tight game all day with Toledo and perhaps Luke Fickell just didn’t trust his true freshman QB enough to give him snaps.
Above all else, though, it really makes no sense that Ohio State would handle it this way if Williams and Miller were there. Ohio State knew all the facts before the first game. The letter Brooks cites is dated September 1st, 2 days before the Buckeyes’ first game. So if Hall, Howard, and Brown were suspended already for Game 1, then why wouldn’t Williams and Miller have been held out of that game if that is what the situation called for?
And why would the other 3 guys have their names announced as a public suspension while Williams and Miller were held out of the game in secret? Is it just because they didn’t take any money? Well, if that’s the case, if they were there but didn’t take the money, then disciplinary action probably isn’t called for, and again, even if it was, it would have been done for the first game, especially considered how inferior Akron is as an opponent compared to Toledo.
It would be one thing for Brooks to speculate that maybe Miller and Williams were there and that is why they didn’t play against Toledo. But he doesn’t report this as speculation. He reports it as fact that Miller was at the charity event.
You would think that this would be pretty big news. OSU’s QB of the future being at this charity event that was not cleared by compliance and already falling into the NCAA’s grey areas. Yet if you look around at some of the top sites for college football news, nobody else has picked up on Brooks’ report. I checked Yahoo’s CFB site, ESPN’s, Every Day Should Be Saturday, Dr Saturday, and CollegeFootballTalk, and none of them are reporting this.
Of course this doesn’t inherently make Brooks’ claims false. However, I would argue that it does show the weak level of proof that Brooks offers for his claims. Brooks is a smart guy and he’s very good at what he does. He is careful with how he words things so he can often walk that fine line between rumor and truth. It would be an unfortunate thing, though, to report rumors about a freshman as fact, particularly if it turns out that Braxton wasn’t really there.
So was he? I guess it depends on who you believe. When Brooks tweeted that Braxton Miller was at the charity event, former OSU wide receiver Dee Miller quickly replied with a simple “#False”. Columbus Disptach reporter Bill Rabinowitz tweeted “I’ve been told by people close to Braxton Miller that he was not at the charity event in Cleveland.” 97.1 The Fan in Columbus’ radio host Adam Neft tweeted that “Rumor is 100% false”.
I don’t know if Miller was there or not. I’m not here to say that Brooks was definitely wrong on this one. Maybe in time he will be proven right. However, what I’m saying is that his post reporting this as fact is very weak and offers no concrete evidence or origin of facts. He doesn’t even cite “sources”. He just says “They were there”, and asks us to just believe him.
The denials from the Ohio State community came quick and were pretty strong. Rabinowitz at least bothers to let us know that his information comes from sources close to Braxton.
For Brooks’ sake, I hope he’s right. It’s awfully dangerous to start throwing out a bunch of rumors just to see which ones stick. Sports by Brooks is a very popular site and now those who read this post will automatically accept Braxton being at the event as fact. Even if it is later proven that he wasn’t, that won’t matter. In the court of public opinion, first impressions tend to be all anyone remembers. If Ohio State eventually releases the names that were originally redacted, and it turns out not to be Braxton, hopefully Brooks will release a correction.
Perhaps this is why Ohio State shouldn’t have redacted the names in the first place. It might just be opening the door for this kind of rumor and speculation, and rather than protecting the guilty, it instead implicates the innocent. Talk about unintended consequences.