Terrelle Pryor and four other Buckeyes will miss five games next year, but will play in this year's Sugar Bowl. An odd punishment, one that illustrates the corporate interests at play and the apparent validity of the "I didn't know" defense.
The players, Pryor, Mike Adams, Daniel Herron, Devier Posey and Solomon Thomas, will repay the low-four-figure amounts they received for selling merchandise including 2008 Big Ten championship rings. They'll sit out the first five games of next season, but they'll be in uniform and playing on January 4th in New Orleans. This despite the transgressions having occurred in 2009. Why let them play against Arkansas?
These are significant penalties based on findings and information provided by the university," Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs, said in a statement released by the NCAA.
The players are eligible for the bowl game because the NCAA determined they did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred, Lennon said.
Waitaminute. You're telling me, after all the hullabaloo over Cam Newton, that the NCAA is still willing to accept ignorance as a mitigating factor? Leaving aside the question of whether it's right or wrong for student-athletes to profit from their sport, it's insane to think that they didn't know it was against the rules.
"We were not as explicit with our student-athlete education as we should have been in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 academic years regarding the sale of apparel, awards and gifts issued by the athletics department," said OSU AD Gene Smith. Maybe true, but isn't Ohio State still at fault in that case? Shouldn't the school still be punished for their own lax education?
Ironically, the "leniency" shown by the NCAA is a harsher punishment for the school. What the hell do they care about the Sugar Bowl? They'll still get their bowl payout. The game doesn't actually mean anything. But losing a starting quarterback (this assumes Pryor stays in school, which we probably shouldn't), receiver, running back, and left tackle for five games is huge when a single loss essentially disqualifies you from the National Title picture.
So why does the NCAA consider letting them play in the Sugar Bowl a reward for mitigating circumstances? It's hard not to see it as them protecting their bowl sponsors and broadcast partners. Sure, Ryan Mallett's good, but I'm guessing there are millions who would rather see him match up against Pryor than Joe Bauserman. Less ratings equal less money, both now and in the long run. That's millions of dollars in play for the NCAA — a little bit more important to them than the $2500 Terrelle Pryor now owes.