Thursday, December 30, 2010

Why Ohio State Should Have Vacated Wins

With word that five Ohio State players were suspended for receiving improper benefits, it became necessary (Once again) to question what the hell is the NCAA doing? Believe me, I'm tired of writing about the NCAA's inconsistency. Yet, it keeps showing up.

Let's recap the situation. Five of Ohio State's best players were found to have accepted improper benefits from the selling of their game memorabilia and the acceptance of free tattoos in exchange for autographs dating back to two years ago. The NCAA, with it's vast knowledge, decided to suspend them for the first five games of 2011 but, inexplicably, allowed them to participate in the Sugar Bowl on January 4th. 

Aren't NCAA punishments supposed to have some eye toward deterring future violations? If you're a pro prospect who is draft eligible, why would you not sell all your memorabilia before the bowl game? You now get to rake in the money, play in the bowl game, and then leave for the NFL having suffered no punishment. I guess at this point, asking the NCAA to look at the ramification of its actions is just too much of a burden on them. 

Now, remember that these violations occurred up to two years ago. At the time of the receipt of improper benefits (or similar violations), the student-athlete immediately becomes ineligible, and schools are punished on a strict liability basis. Strict liability means that the school will be held responsible whether they knew that the student-athletes were ineligible at the time, or not. See the Derrick Rose saga for Memphis. Rose was found to be ineligible because someone took his SAT for him. The NCAA did not find out about this until after Rose's season was over (In fact, the NCAA Clearing House ruled him academically eligible prior to the start of the season), but when they did, they handed down a huge punishment that vacated Memphis' entire season. They had to use the strict liability rationale to defend that punishment because Memphis had no way of knowing that Rose was ineligible since they had followed every guideline. Compare that to this situation. If the NCAA was using the same standard, Ohio State would be guilty of playing ineligible players dating back to the date when the first improper benefits were received. What is the normal penalty for that? Vacating wins that the ineligible players participated in. However, in this case, the NCAA just decided to ignore the precedent set by the Rose case. Not only that, but they also managed to let Ohio State play full strength in the Sugar Bowl by deferring the penalties until the next year. Making up the rules as they go. 

The reasoning for the leniency shown? The NCAA decided that the players were not properly educated on the rules. The dates of the sales have not been confirmed, but given the difference in time between rulings, it seems that some of the sales came after the controversies involving A.J. Green and UNC players. A.J. Green was suspended for the exact same memorabilia sales, but yet, it seems that it never sank in for some of the players. Terrelle Pryor even sold his Sportsmanship Award from the '09 Fiesta Bowl. Did they seriously think that they were allowed to do that? They were also so uneducated about the rules that they thought they could trade their autographs for wildly expensive tattoos. Crazy how that works. Give OSU's compliance department one bit of credit. They sure did fall on the sword with extreme effectiveness.

Having played D1 baseball, I know that before every single season, the compliance department is supposed to have a meeting with the teams and go over a handout of NCAA rules. That pamphlet specifically states that an athlete can accept no outside benefits that they would not have received if they were a regular student. Are we supposed to believe that the Ohio State compliance department didn't have that meeting? Does Terrelle Pryor get a pass because he was either asleep during it or too dumb to get the point? The "I didn't know" excuse has become the backbone of every major appeal, and it seems to be working fantastically. 

Once again, the key here is that the NCAA had to choose between upholding its current standards or allowing the Sugar Bowl to make more money. Money wins again. Rest assured, had this occurred at FIU, the penalty would have been swift and heavy-handed. 


  1. This very article states that the OSU players sold their personal property two years ago, but then turns around and says that they were dumb for not noticing the fallout from the AJ Green situation. How could OSU players have learned their lesson from the AJ Green situation that happened a year later?

    I will go on record in saying that I think all five should be suspended from the Sugar Bowl. But, it seems to me that the real precedent is not the Derrick Rose case, but the AJ Green case. If the standard were truly strict liability, then Georgia would/should not have been allowed to play him the moment the NCAA declared he sold his game worn uniform. The difference between that and paying someone to take a player's SATs so he could enroll in school is immense. Arguing to the contrary is basically taking a Mark May/Skip Bayless stance.

    Suspending the players for 5 games is an extremely harsh penalty. There is very little chance Ohio State will be able to compete for a national championship or have a competitive Heisman candidate. Ask any fan from Alabama, LSU, Florida, or Auburn whether that is a difficult pill to swallow. But, making the argument that Ohio State should vacate wins is absolutely ludicrous and goes against recent precedent laid down by the NCAA in the only prominent case that tackled this exact issue.

    And that is exactly why I come to this: this website is too good to stoop to demonstrating its hatred for Ohio State under guise of bashing the NCAA. It seems like just another "Ohio State sucks, the NCAA sucks" homer piece that doesn't show any homework and sounds like it could have come from any drunk frat guy with a bad haircut at any SEC tailgate?

    Maybe this is all a little unfair since I already know your hatred for Ohio State, but everyone is entitled to a rant without any information to back it up. I just don't have my own website to do it.

  2. UGA suspended Green itself pending the NCAA's ruling. Which was for the purpose of dodging the strict liability issue. Same with UNC. The NCAA loves retroactive punishment.....unless they dont want to.

    Unless I'm mistaken, the selling of the memorabilia continued past the A.J. Green ruling. That was always the impression I was under. Have you seen dates for the sales? I'll fix the article in case.

    This isn't a bash Ohio State article. It bashes a group of dumb players and I guess takes some shots at OSU compliance dept. incompetence. That's IF you believe that hogwash about them not educating them properly.

    It's the wrong punishment. I didn't say it wasn't harsh enough for the program. Just that those 5 players can leave without having missed a single game in their career due to NCAA violation.

  3. I forgot the Rose part. Rose was cleared to play by the NCAA Clearinghouse (Which judges every incoming freshman's academic eligibility). Memphis took the NCAA's word for it, played him, and then paid the ultimate price. They were punished after being told his academics were fine. Tell me again how that's a worse violation?

    Finding ways to get around the amateurism requirement is much more dangerous than a player not having a high enough SAT to play.

    Lastly, the statement made justifying Memphis' penalty was that schools are responsible for their players. If they play an ineligible player, those wins will be vacated. Although, maybe that rule doesn't apply to major football programs