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Established October 31, 1996
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Last updated: 03/17/2011 11:41 PM

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NCAA Upholds Original Ruling On Suspended Players; Tressel Asks For His Suspension to Match Players'
By Tony Gerdeman

The NCAA has upheld their original five-game suspension for Buckeyes Terrelle Pryor, Boom Herron, Devier Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas, denying a University appeal to have the sanctions reduced.

Along with the suspensions, the players in question will also repay money and benefits ranging from $1,000 to $2,500.

From the University's release:

"While we are disappointed that our appeal request was denied, we respect the NCAA and accept its ruling," said Gene Smith, Ohio State associate vice president and athletics director. 

"The players are sorry for the disappointment they have caused, will learn from their mistakes, and will strive to earn the confidence and support of everyone associated with the university through their future conduct."

"The university remains steadfast in its commitment to continually improve the compliance education process," said Dr. John Bruno, faculty athletics representative to the Big Ten and NCAA and Ohio State professor of psychology.

"We believe that we do a good job in educating our more than 900 student-athletes, but we strive to do better to help them make good decisions."

The University was obviously hoping a portion of the suspensions would be reduced, citing no previous precedent of suspensions being increased by a game because a student-athlete "failed to come forward with information" after violating the same Bylaw.

Also, as the University correctly points out, it's rare for a student-athlete to freely admit wrongdoing. From the University's appeal:

"While the institution appreciates and shares the expectation of its student-athletes to 'self-report', the reality is that the vast majority of violations reported to the NCAA are discovered by the institution, conference or NCAA national office staff and not as a result of a student-athlete coming forward to self-identify a violation. In fact, it is rare for a student-athlete to self-identify an impermissible benefits violation."

The lack of precedent in non-reporting was not the only area of their appeal, however. The NCAA also considered the five student-athletes' participation in the Sugar Bowl in arriving at its five-game suspension. Those players were able to play in that bowl game because of an NCAA rule. And, as the University's appeal points out, using the bowl game participation to come to a decision "is inconsistent with stated NCAA procedures".

Again, from the University's appeal:

"Furthermore, to apply the suspension (here, 'suspension' refers to the suspension of the five-game ruling, i.e. allowing the players to play in the bowl game), the NCAA necessarily determined the the student-athletes must be 'innocently involved.' The fact that the NCAA permitted the student-athletes to play in the bowl game because they were 'innocently involved' is evidence of the athletes' lower level of culpability.

"The policies and procedures do not provide for a 'trade off' of bowl game participation in exchange for an additional 10% withholding. To determine otherwise, would ignore the student-athlete lower level of culpability."

Essentially, the University was fine with a four-game suspension, because that would equate to a 30% withholding of games, which there is precedent for. However, as the two main areas of their appeal stated, there was no precedent for an additional 10% withholding in either instance, and that was the crux of their disagreement.

Immediately following the appeal's denial, Jim Tressel made a request to Gene Smith to have his two-game suspension increased to the same five games that his players will miss. Smith subsequently complied.

In a statement, Tressel said the following: 

“Throughout this entire situation my players and I have committed ourselves to facing our mistakes and growing from them; we can only successfully do that together.

" I spoke with Athletics Director Smith, and our student‐athletes involved, and told them that my mistakes need to share the same game sanctions.

"Like my players, I am very sorry for the mistakes I made. I request of the university that my sanctions now include five games so that the players and I can handle this adversity together.”

“Coach Tressel has requested that he sit out the first five games of the 2011 season," Gene Smith's statement read.

"I have accepted his request and we are taking action to notify the NCAA. Until the NCAA has completed its investigation, we will not be publicly discussing the details of this case.”

The voluntary increase in punishment begs the question of whether or not this will be enough for the NCAA, and did the University simply succumb to public pressure for what many felt was a lenient, and/or hypocritical, punishment?

You can't help but wonder how much Tressel's recent situation  played into his players' appeal being denied.

Right now, it would seem the NCAA has no intention of giving Ohio State any benefits of any doubts. And that can't be an easy feeling for Tressel and the University as they await the NCAA's final verdict on the head coach.

The Ohio State 2011 Football Schedule

Sept. 3 Akron
Sept. 10 Toledo
Sept. 17 at Miami (FL)
Sept. 24 Colorado
Oct. 1 Michigan State
Oct. 8 at Nebraska
Oct. 15 at Illinois
Oct. 29 Wisconsin
Nov. 5 Indiana
Nov. 12 at Purdue
Nov. 19 Penn State
Nov. 26 at Michigan

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