Five Reasons NCAA Gave Ohio State Postseason Ban
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was shock and awe in Columbus Tuesday as the NCAA handed Ohio State a 1-year postseason ban that will be imposed following the 2012 football season.
Both Athletic Director Gene Smith and University President E. Gordon Gee expressed surprise and disappointment over the decision, but realistically, they probably should have seen it coming—especially after the NCAA hit DeVier Posey with five additional games for his involvement with Bobby DiGeronimo.
Here is a closer look at five reasons the NCAA decided to ban Ohio State from the postseason.
1. Jim Tressel. The NCAA showed exactly what they thought of Ohio State’s former coach when they slapped a 5-year “show-cause” penalty on Tressel Tuesday. Remember, Bruce Pearl only got three years for the recruiting violations he committed at Tennessee. What that says is that the NCAA doesn’t buy Tressel’s tale and they no longer view him as a man of honesty or integrity. Even if Tressel was protecting his players—and an ongoing federal investigation—when he received the email from Chris Cicero in April, that still doesn’t explain his silence in December.
The NCAA report even reveals that Tressel contacted Cicero via text message in Dec. to ask if the “tattoos-for-memorabilia” scandal was related to the email. At that point he obviously knew (as if he didn’t know before that?). Dennis Thomas, the Chairman of the NCAA’s infractions committee mentioned several times Tuesday that they were displeased with the fact Tressel withheld his prior knowledge in December, passing four separate chances to report, and instead allowing the perpetrators—Terrelle Pryor, DeVier Posey, Boom Herron, Mike Adams, Solomon Thomas and Jordan Whiting—to participate in the Sugar Bowl.
Ohio State earned its first-ever victory over an SEC team in that bowl game, but the NCAA would likely not have allowed those players to participate—or Tressel to coach—in the game had they known what they know now.
2. Bobby DiGeronimo. Ohio State would like to sell DiGeronimo as a rogue booster who went off the grid to hand out secret envelopes of cash and extra money to a number of Buckeyes players. They quickly cut ties with “Bobby D” and sent a trail of information about their attempts to limit DiGeronimo’s exposure to the program while pushing him further and further away from the inner circle.
What the NCAA saw was not a booster, but an “insider” who has been allowed unparalleled access to the Ohio State coaches and players since the late 1980s. He was allowed on the field and in the locker room during John Cooper’s tenure as head coach, and continued to meet with Cooper and OSU players long after Tressel took the head-coaching job in Columbus.
It appears as though Tressel did attempt to limit DiGeronimo’s access, especially during and after the 2002 BCS national championship season. However, Ohio State was still accepting monetary donations from DiGeronimo and OSU compliance was still allowing players to attend his charity events and work for his excavation company during the off-season.
They did not sign off on the latest charity event in Cleveland—the one that led to the suspensions of Jordan Hall, Travis Howard and Corey Brown—but only because DiGeronimo did not file the proper paperwork. To the NCAA, this was proof Ohio State failed to properly monitor DiGeronimo.
3. Public Perception. Do not underestimate the role public perception played in the NCAA’s decision to ban Ohio State from post-season play. It is both idealistic and naïve to think the NCAA operates inside a vacuum, away from the realities of time and space. The NCAA knew there was going to be outcry regardless of their decision, but the magnitude of that outcry would have been deafening had they decided to accept Ohio State’s self-imposed penalties and nothing more.
Even with their latest ruling, the committee chair had to answer questions during his teleconference concerning the severity of the USC sanctions vs. what they gave Ohio State. Remember, the Trojans were hit with a 2-year bowl ban and a loss of 30 scholarships. The chairman insisted that this case had nothing to do with that case, and he’s right. The USC case was a completely different situation with an entirely different set of issues, but there were always, always, always going to be comparisons drawn between the two rulings.
4. Repeat Offender. Don’t forget about this. If Ohio State came into this whole investigation with a clean slate, it is possible the NCAA may have seen fit to spare them something as severe as a postseason ban. But Ohio State has not been squeaky clean over the past decade.
The NCAA warned back in April that it could treat Ohio State as a repeat offender stemming from the violations involving former quarterback Troy Smith, who took $500 from a booster and former men's basketball coach Jim O'Brien, who gave $6,000 to a recruit.
While unrelated to the latest investigation, the Troy Smith violation had to be the most concerning, especially considering a number of former OSU players talked about their knowledge of Fine Line Ink tattoo parlor dating back to the beginning of Tressel’s tenure (and likely before). While the numbers are not large, there is a history and pattern of abuse at Ohio State, including a former agent who told Sports Illustrated that he used to hand money to wide receiver Santonio Holmes.
That report has never been substantiated—and Holmes unequivocally denied it—but there has been too much smoke surrounding Ohio State for the NCAA not to think there had to be some fire somewhere. They decided to put it out the best way they know how.
5. Sending a Message. It seems unlikely the NCAA was trying to make an example out of Ohio State—although they seemed to be making one out of Jim Tressel—otherwise they would have hit the Buckeyes with a penalty that more closely resembled the one USC received.
Committee chairman Dennis Thomas agreed that Ohio State had done its part in cooperating with their investigation, and the Buckeyes were not shy about self-imposing suspensions and sanctions after everything that happened with Tressel.
So why the bowl ban? It seems as though the NCAA is making a statement about the landscape of college football. Enough is enough. Cheating has always been a part of sports, and it has been particularly rampant in college athletics, where universities create unbreakable ties with big boosters who have deep pockets. That kind of money changing hands has and always will be a breeding ground for corruption.
The NCAA is the governing body of college athletics, and in many ways it has been truly inept over the years at stopping schools from blatant cheating. People want to point to SMU receiving the death penalty as an example of the NCAA wielding its power, but the reality is that the NCAA gave SMU chance after chance after chance before they finally delivered the deathblow. SMU was still paying players even after receiving a postseason ban and the NCAA finally said, “enough is enough.”
That seems to be the case here, although it will be interesting to see how they handle the scandals at Miami, North Carolina and South Carolina.
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