Questions In Columbus

Last night the NCAA denied the appeals of the five Ohio State players who violated NCAA rules by selling memorabilia and accepting discounts on tattoos.  Those players — Mike Adams, Daniel (Boom) Herron, DeVier Posey, Terrelle Pryor, and Solomon Thomas — therefore will serve their full five-game suspension at the start of the 2011 season.  Shortly after the NCAA announcement, Ohio State’s head football coach Jim Tressel declared that he had decided to voluntarily increase his suspension to five games as well.  The University has accepted his request and is notifying the NCAA; no doubt it will be a while before the NCAA announces whether it is satisfied with Coach Tressel’s enhanced punishment.

The Columbus Dispatch story linked above quotes Coach Tressel as saying in a statement:  “Throughout this entire situation my players and I have committed ourselves to facing our mistakes and growing from them; we can only successfully do that together.  Like my players, I am very sorry for the mistakes I made. I request of the university that my sanctions now include five games so that the players and I can handle this adversity together.”

I’m not sure what to make of this latest development.  Many in Buckeye Nation will see this as a noble gesture by Coach Tressel, who is standing in solidarity with his players and sharing in their punishment.  In my view, however, this latest decision is strange on several levels.  Why announce a two-game suspension of Coach Tressel only 10 days ago, endure a hailstorm of criticism from the national media, and then voluntarily increase the suspension to five games after the hubbub had died down?  It makes it look like Ohio State’s earlier announcement was simply testing the waters.  Are the players’ sins of commission and Coach Tressel’s apparent sin of omission really equivalent?  And what about the players who didn’t violate the rules?  Why should they be voluntarily deprived of their head coach for three games?  Ironically, one of the reasons Ohio State cited in allowing the five suspended players to compete in the Sugar Bowl was that it would be unfair to punish the graduating seniors by depriving them of the chance to play in the bowl game as a complete team.

I remain convinced that we have not heard everything there is to hear about this story.  Lingering questions remain to be answered.

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