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Really? OSU players didn’t know rules?

December 25, 2010
By JIM NAVEAU, Special to the Herald-Star

COLUMBUS - Earlier this season, one of Ohio State's football players was asked which of his teammates was the smartest guy on the team.

He did not pick Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, Solomon Thomas or Jordan Whiting.

Now we know why.

Those four Ohio State junior starters, plus Thomas and Whiting were revealed to be in violation of NCAA rules on Thursday.

So, unless an appeal by Ohio State gets a game or two knocked off their punishment, all except Whiting will miss the first five games of next season for selling OSU memorabilia and taking discounts from a Columbus tattoo parlor.

Rumors that some OSU players could be in trouble had been circulating for a couple of days before the suspensions came down with stunning abruptness Thursday.

The players will be able to play in the Sugar Bowl but will have to sit out the Buckeyes' first five games in 2011 against Akron, Toledo, Miami (Fla.), Colorado and Michigan State.

Pryor, a three-year starter at quarterback and a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, sold his 2008 Big Ten championship ring, his gold pants charm for beating Michigan in 2008 and a Fiesta Bowl award.

Herron, the team's leading rusher, sold his football jersey, pants and shoes. Adams, a starting offensive tackle, and Posey, the team's No. 2 receiver, sold their 2008 Big Ten championship rings.

So, what will the fallout be from this be? And what have we learned?

The most obvious fallout is the effect it could have on Ohio State's 2011 season.

Right after that is the possibility Pryor, Posey, Herron and maybe Adams could decide to test the interest the NFL has in them a year sooner than expected.

Ohio State wasn't expected to be hit hard by underclassmen declaring for the NFL. Pryor and Posey had said they wanted to return for their senior season. But that could change now as they consider the possibility of missing almost half of next season.

All this has shaken Ohio State's football program and its huge fan base.

This is the heaviest NCAA sanction placed on OSU in recent memory. The long-term effects on Ohio State's reputation probably will be neglible. But in the short term, it could put a crack or two in the pedestal OSU places itself on.

For many fans, it must be dismaying to realize there are some Buckeyes players who don't love Ohio State as much as they do. It must be disappointing to learn some players are in it much more for themselves than they realized.

There was lots of revelation and non-revelation to go around in this distasteful episode.

The NCAA displayed a reluctance to torpedo a big-money game by allowing the suspended players to suit up in the Sugar Bowl before beginning their punishments.

Ohio State, on the other hand, showed no reluctance to give some cover to the players.

Athletic director Gene Smith said the players sold the gear "with the right intent, to help their families" and talked about economic times being tough. Coach Jim Tressel tried to ease the fall, saying the coaches hadn't done a good enough job educating the players that they couldn't sell things.

Obviously, I don't know the state of the finances of the players' families. But, unlike some students and their families struggling with tough economic times, they are getting a college education, worth around $100,000 for free.

As for the players not knowing this was a violation, mark me down as skeptical.

Not too many years ago, an OSU player talked to me about how they had been warned not to sell their game tickets for a profit. Another time a different player told me he and his teammates couldn't play fantasy football because it might be considered gambling.

If they had been warned about those situations, it's hard to believe the suspended players had no clue selling their uniform or championship rings was a problem.

Ohio State will get through this. But it will dominate the conversation about the Buckeyes at least until late next season.

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