Those who have read my opinion on the incidents surrounding the Buckeye football team the last 12 months should not be surprised by what I am going to say in response to the NCAA’s penalties against Ohio State. My opinion on the matter hasn’t changed since last December.
The Buckeyes and their fans should be thankful that the penalties were not steeper.
Let me reiterate what I’ve said before- I have not studied every instance of NCAA sanctions looking for precedent. I have neither the time nor interest in doing so to be honest. And no matter what Gene Smith and the university say publicly, the fact that they are not appealing the ruling should tell you all you need to know about their feelings.
So the team will have a bowl ban in 2012. Is it unfortunate that the investigation wasn’t completed in time for the bowl ban to take place this year? Sure, but is it not possible that the committee took that into consideration when deciding on a one year ban? It would have been just as easy in early November to say 2 year ban.
I understand the frustrations of the fans and players alike. Those that were responsible for the infractions will play in 4 bowls, while incoming freshman will be eligible for only 3. Seniors next year will get no end of season trip. But when the NCAA gives out these penalties, they are doing so to the institution, not the players. The penalty is supposed to cost the university something. It is supposed to make them tighten the reigns and pay more attention to the players.
Why I think they were lucky-
Unlike the Cam Newton case, in the case against the Buckeyes, there was a smoking gun. The emails to and from Jim Tressel were hard evidence. He knew something was going on, and he did nothing at all about it. But even worse, he lied about it. From the committee report-
“The former head coach failed to deport himself in accordance with the honesty and integrity normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics as required by NCAA legislation and violated ethical conduct legislation when he failed to report information concerning violations of NCAA legislation and permitted football student-athletes to participate in intercollegiate athletics competition while ineligible….Further, in September 2010, the former head coach falsely attested that he reported to the institution any knowledge of NCAA violations when he signed the institution’s certification of compliance form”
Of course, this led to Tressel’s resignation as head football coach. That doesn’t mean the university shouldn’t shoulder some of the responsibility of the head coach. They have a duty to monitor the staff as well as the players.
But even if that would have been enough of a penalty, the incidents involving players (Posey specifically) receiving benefits after the fiasco last December surely pushed the committee to a point in which they had to act. The compliance office at Ohio State has not been thorough enough. Not with the NCAA watching like they were, and everyone knowing they were watching.
The truth is that the program may actually be better off in 2013 because of what has happened. I would be willing to bet that not many programs come out better after going through this kind of ordeal. Early reports are that none of the recent Urban Meyer recruits are even considering de-committing. And honestly, why would they? They will have a freshman season to get their feet wet. Next year was about installing a new system, and developing young players. For Meyer, it takes pressure off as well. They can’t win the Big Ten, so they will be spoilers all season. There is no pressure to win a National Championship. No pressure to beat an SEC team in a bowl game. They get some practice games before the big one against Michigan at home. That is the bowl game next year.