Thinking About Ohio State’s Proposed Sanctions: What Does it all Mean?
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — For Ohio State fans, Friday was either a day of great sorrow or unbridled celebration.
For those hoping to avoid any further punishment after losing Head Coach Jim Tressel and quarterback Terrelle Pryor, the University’s response to the NCAA Notice of Allegations was a punch to the gut.
In accordance with their own self-report, the Buckeyes have proposed sanctions that include two years probation and vacating the entire 2010 season, including wins over Michigan and Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl along with a Big Ten championship.
They did not, however, propose a loss of scholarships or a postseason bowl ban, which likely would have been the two worst sanctions on the table following Tressel’s resignation.
What does it all mean and will that be the end of it? I couldn’t help thinking about those questions on the day after.
What does it mean when a program is put on probation?
The word probation literally means testing of behavior or abilities, and that is exactly what the NCAA will do if they accept Ohio State’s proposed 2-year probation period. During that time, the University would be ordered to follow certain conditions set forth by the NCAA, including a number of improvements to their compliance department.
The OSU athletic department will have to be on its best behavior in all areas, especially with the football program, or else stiffer penalties will be waiting for them the next time they screw up. That is actually one of the major complications in all of this, because Ohio State was technically still on probation from the Jim O’Brien scandal, but that was specific to the basketball program.
Would 2-year probation include a 2-year bowl ban?
No, it would not affect the postseason. Under the proposed sanctions Ohio State sent to the NCAA, the school’s 2-year probation will not include a postseason ban. That would be consistent with other schools that have recently been put on probation, including Alabama, UConn and West Virginia. Only USC received a postseason ban for violations committed by Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo after the NCAA determined the university had a lack of institutional control.
Doesn’t it seem silly and archaic for a team to vacate wins; it’s not like we don’t remember who won the games.
On the surface, it does seem a bit ridiculous to punish a team by taking away wins they already earned on the field. Everyone knows that Ohio State went 12-1 last season. Everyone knows they beat Michigan, and everyone knows they ended their “SEC bowl curse” with a win over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.
Now the NCAA is going to tell us to forget that it ever happened like a judge instructing a jury to disregard the fact a witness just confessed on the stand. It may be inadmissible in court, but no one in that jury box is going to forget it.
On a deeper level, vacating wins does affect some of the things Ohio State fans hold dear. While they may remember the 12 victories from last season in vivid color, the history books will not. That means the Buckeyes will drop from 819 wins, good for fifth-most all-time behind Nebraska (827), to 807 wins, which drops them below Alabama and Penn State for eighth place on the all-time wins list.
It also strips Ohio State of its 37th Big Ten championship, which effectively brings an end to the school’s six-year run at the top. From 2005 to 2010 Ohio State had won a record six-straight conference titles, but vacating last season’s championship leaves Wisconsin and Michigan State as the co-champions from a year ago.
According to an Ohio State spokesperson, consecutive streaks of Big Ten championships and winning streaks over other schools goes back to what the streak was or was not at the conclusion of the 2009 season.
What about the players, aren’t they the ones who pay the real price?
Certainly you have to feel bad for players like Cam Heyward, Dane Sanzenbacher, Bryant Browning and Chimdi Chekwa who will now have their senior seasons forever linked to this scandal. They will have their memories from a 12-1 season, but they will always be remembered as the team that didn’t exist, at least on paper.
While the wins and losses are gone, along with the conference championship and bowl victory, the players will get to keep their statistics from last season. That might bother some who were hoping to see Terrelle Pryor lose his 3,526 yards and 31 touchdowns from the 2010 season, but would those same also hope to see Sanzenbacher lose his 948 yards and 11 touchdowns? Or how about the 76 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss by Brian Rolle?
Will that be enough to satisfy the NCAA?
For all the prognostication going around, there is no way to know for sure what the NCAA will decide when it comes to Ohio State. A lot of it will depend on the testimony of former Head Coach Jim Tressel, who will stand before the Committee on Infractions next month.
In his response to the allegations, Tressel said that he and Ohio State already have paid dearly for his transgressions. The Buckeyes have lost a coach, a quarterback, a number of their key players for five games, the entire 2010 season, a victory over Michigan, a BCS bowl win and the respect of the nation.
Two years of probation may not seem like a steep enough price, but the fact Gene Smith and the University have been working closely with the NCAA suggests that it might be enough to satisfy them. No team has been hit with a postseason bowl ban and a loss of scholarships without being charged with a Lack-of-Institutional-Control and/or Failure-to-Monitor.
Since neither of those charges were in the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations, it would appear as though the NCAA does not have immediate plans to hit Ohio State with a postseason ban. That could change once they review the University’s response to their allegations or after they speak to Tressel and Ohio State officials on August 12. ‘
Until then, we can only speculate as to whether this will be the end of a long, tormented period in Ohio State history.
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