Monday, August 22, 2011

For its next act of NCAA contrition, Ohio State will forfeit its Sugar Bowl payout

Anyone hoping for wailing and rending of garments from the conference room where Ohio State officials met with the NCAA's Committee on Infractions this morning was sorely disappointed: The entire proceedings took about half the usual time, and no shoes, hammers or pianos were dropped. The committee's formal verdict on Ohio State's case, along with any further sanctions it deems necessary in its infinite wisdom, are expected to follow in 6-to-8 weeks, or whenever they get around to it.

But OSU has added inflicted another lash on its already swollen wrist: The university announced it now plans to pay back $338,811 to the Big Ten to cover its share of the conference payout for the Buckeyes' appearance in the 2011 Sugar Bowl. It's the least they can do, really, considering that a) Ohio State twisted the NCAA's arm last December to allow four offensive starters to play in the game even after they had been declared ineligible and suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for exchanging memorabilia for tattoos, cash and other benefits from a local tattoo parlor; b) All of the suspended players played a key role in the Buckeyes' 31-26 win over Arkansas on Jan. 4; and c) The victory has subsequently been wiped from the books, along with the other eleven wins in which the offending players participated in 2010. After the BCS victory, the Big Ten championship and coach Jim Tressel's job, the money was just about the only thing left to take.

At least, that's how Ohio State hopes the committee sees it. Since it threw Tressel to the wolves on May 30, the university has worked to position itself as a model of NCAA compliance that was duped by a single, rogue employee, who subsequently got what was coming to him. The NCAA seemed to buy that, incredibly, declining to add a "failure to monitor" or "lack of institutional control" charge to the two major violations it outlined in April. Those are the accusations OSU had to answer for today, and if you believe the oracle bones, there's a very good chance it won't face the potentially crippling scholarship losses and/or bowl ban that the NCAA dropped on USC last year.

As the season approaches, then, the committee's verdict looms as the biggest remaining question in the process. The second-biggest question is whether there are more formal charges on the horizon involving former quarterback Terrelle Pryor, which remains a distinct possibility. In the meantime,

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.


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