LSU Ruling Bodes Well for Ohio State
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The NCAA Committee on Infractions ruled Tuesday that LSU committed major violations in their recruitment of junior college defensive lineman Akiem Hicks.
However, they did not hit the Tigers with a postseason ban or future scholarships reduction, opting instead to accept LSU’s self-imposed reduction of two scholarships during the 2010-11 academic year.
It also includes a 10 percent reduction in official visits along with reductions in recruiting calls, which the university already began during the 2010 season.
While the ruling does not directly affect Ohio State’s ongoing NCAA investigation, the decision not to lower the hammer would seem to have major implications on next month’s meeting.
Committee chairman Dennis Thomas believes LSU committed “major” violations when former assistant coach D.J. McCarthy improperly arranged transportation and housing for Hicks in 2009.
Thomas said the punishment could have been much worse for the Tigers if not for the university’s immediate action and subsequent cooperation with the NCAA investigation.
“The committee really felt that the LSU compliance staff and institution did an excellent job,” said Thomas, who also serves as commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
“And that they assisted the (NCAA) enforcement staff in the investigation regarding these violations.”
That statement should make Ohio State feel a lot better about their situation heading into the Aug. 12 meeting with the Committee on Infractions.
On the surface, it bodes incredibly well for Ohio State officials, who have worked with the NCAA investigators every step of the way. Like LSU, they self-reported violations after being contacted by the Justice Department back in December and they eventually pushed Jim Tressel into retirement.
Along with that and the 5-game suspensions of the players involved, the University recently proposed a 2-year probation period and a vacating of all 12 wins from the 2010 season.
Based on the committee’s recent rulings against LSU and Georgia Tech, the Buckeyes should be in the clear when it comes to avoiding a postseason ban or major scholarship reductions, but a lot could hinge on the testimony of their former head coach.
Unlike the other situations, the biggest violation committed at Ohio State was Tressel’s failure to alert the proper authorities when he learned that Terrelle Pryor and DeVier Posey had likely committed NCAA violations.
The university initially stood behind Tressel, but now Ohio State is hoping to pin the bulk of responsibility on his shoulders. As the committee’s chairman, Thomas specifically pointed out the fact LSU senior associate athletic director Miriam Segar acted swiftly upon learning of the possible violations committed by McCarthy.
“That was critical,” Thomas said.
“If that had not been done, the institution could have really been under more severe and serious penalties as well.”
It is for that reason that Ohio State must paint these violations as a Jim Tressel problem and not an institutional one. If they can show that Gene Smith and the OSU compliance department acted promptly and appropriately when they learned about Tressel’s misconduct in January, they may receive the same type of leniency from Thomas and the Committee on Infractions.
The fact Tressel did not act according to NCAA standards means he must play the role of the bad guy while Ohio State explains why they did not initially come down harder than a 2-game suspension after it was discovered he knew about potential violations as early as last April.
If they can do that, Ohio State should be able to avoid the kind of program-altering sanctions that come with schools that are hit with Lack of Institutional Control and Failure to Monitor.
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