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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

P.S.R. Op-Ed

Precedence, One Violation at a Time

By recent standards, the findings are relatively scant. In length, at least: the N.C.A.A.’s ruling on U.S.C. encompassed nearly a hundred pages, if I remember correctly, while today’s release on Ohio State’s misconduct spanned four pages. Nor are the missteps as rampant in Columbus as they were in Los Angeles, nor did the N.C.A.A. find as much fault with the student-athletes in question as it did with a specific U.S.C. football player, if we can think back to the summer. Shorter, yes. Equally confusing, if not more so? Absolutely.

Five O.S.U. student-athletes will sit out the first five games of the 2011 season, barring appeal. A sixth, Jordan Whiting, will miss the first game of next season. The five in question are Mike Adams, DeVier Posey, Terrelle Pryor, Daniel Herron and Solomon Thomas — around Columbus, this group is known as the starting left tackle, starting wide receiver, starting quarterback, starting running back and second-string defensive end.

The details of the case involve the unauthorized sale of game-worn jerseys, pants and other paraphernalia; championship rings; and even a pair of Gold Pants, attire given to players for beating Michigan. In my mind, Buckeyes should be allowed to sell at least one of the four or five pairs of Gold Pants they receive while on the football team.

What of the upcoming Sugar Bowl? The N.C.A.A. has ruled that this sextet is eligible to participate in the bowl against Arkansas, further clouding the issue of right and wrong with what seems to be a tip of the hat towards the B.C.S.

The N.C.A.A. ruled that this group could play in that game — though not in the first five of 2011 — because it felt that the Ohio State compliance department had not given the football team an “adequate rules education.”

The decision from the N.C.A.A. student-athlete reinstatement staff does not include a withholding condition for the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The withholding condition was suspended and the student-athletes will be eligible to play in the bowl game Jan. 4 based on several factors. These include the acknowledgment the student-athletes did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred, (Kevin Lennon, N.C.A.A. NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs) said.

Come again? So the six can play on Jan. 4 because they did not receive a proper “rules education,” but must miss the first five games of 2011? What about the poor education? The N.C.A.A. attempts to clarify its ruling on the matter in a later paragraph:

The policy for suspending withholding conditions for bowl games or N.C.A.A. championship competition recognizes the unique opportunity these events provide at the end of a season, and they are evaluated differently from a withholding perspective.  In this instance, the facts are consistent with the established policy, Lennon said.

Interesting. The N.C.A.A. is citing precedent on the matter — unknown precedence — while in the process recognizing “the unique opportunity” end-of-year bowl games provide to football-playing student-athletes, whether eligible or otherwise.

For its part, the Ohio State athletic department accepted culpability in this matter, cleanly spiking the ball lobbed in its direction by the sport’s governing body:

“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. “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.”

You might not have your starting left tackle, wide receiver, running back and quarterback for your B.C.S. bowl? Yeah, they didn’t know what they were doing. They do now, however, and we need them in January.

You can’t blame Ohio State for taking this path: it works, it clearly works, and the athletic department would have been foolish not to admit its own mistakes if it meant a full roster for a potentially season-defining game.

The real issue, yet again, is that the N.C.A.A. is making up these rules as they go, spelling things out in only the barest sense of black and white while leaving immense empty spaces of gray. It was in this gray area that O.S.U. found a way out of a potentially worse situation, though missing a significant portion of 2011 is no easy matter to swallow.

That’s the N.C.A.A. for you: it creates precedence, one violation at a time, but reserves the right to reverse its field whenever it wants, wherever it wants and in whatever situation it wants.

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  1. DaU!!!!!!!!!!! says:

    College athletics is a huge business which abuses the rights and freedom of student athletes. The administrators place profits above the welfare of the students has caused me to question the integrity of the NCAA. The NCAA job is supposed to be the governing body of all the collegiate sports in America and is understood to rectify any wrongdoing within the confines of its jurisdiction. Funny how these “student” athletes are showered with gifts form the corporates sponsors of the bowl games but if someone else were to shower them with gifts they would be lambaste and have their integrity ostracized. Are you honestly telling me that they cannot sell what was given to them or was it because the NCAA did not receive a cut? It pisses me off how hypocritical and unfair the NCAA is at the expense of the “student” athletes they supposedly have the best interest for.

  2. Bob J says:

    Pay ‘em. Make athletes university employees. If they want a college education, they can pay for it out of their university salary.

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