The 2011 Big Ten Race has just been drastically altered, and we haven't even finished the 2010 season. Quick recap: Several Ohio State players were accused of receiving free tattoos in exchange for some footbal memorabilia.
They are no longer accused. The results are in, and I wish it were only tattoos for jerseys.
They have been found guilty, and will miss the first five games of 2011, but can play in the Sugar Bowl. Those players are:
WR Devier Posey
T Mike Adams
RB Dan Herron
Additionally, LB Jordan Whiting will miss the first game of 2011 for receiving discounted services.
More on the penalties and the implications for next season after the jump.
Not only did these guys receive improper benefits, but they also sold some things for cash that a lot of Buckeye fans find kind of sad, at least I do. And one makes me angry as hell. Adams, Posey, and Pryor all sold their 2008 Big Ten championship ring. Seriously? You bleed, sweat, and strive for a difficult goal, are rewarded for it...and then sell it? Wow. Disappointing in a lot of ways. Additionally, Pryor sold his 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award and his 2008 Gold Pants, which is a gift from the university for beating Michigan. Thomas also sold his 2008 championship ring and gold pants, and all of them received a discount for services (I imagine that would be the free ink, but the report doesn't specify). They must all payback the money they received and donate it to a charity.
This is a lot more than receiving free tattoos. This is selling merchandise, which everyone knows is illegal. if it was a "hey give me a jersey and an autograph and I'll give you a free tat" that's one thing, but this...this is a lot more troubling, to be honest. I don't think it's an insitutional control problem, and Ohio State was swift in their actions.
The fact that they sold stuff isn't anything new for any program, but what troubles me as an Ohio State fan is that they would sell off one of the most cherished things a player can receive as a Buckeye, the gold pants. College football is all about traditions, and it's one of the main reasons why we all cling to our teams. The gold pants award is one of the most important things a player can receive while at Ohio State, and I find the fact that they chose to sell those...offensive...in some way. Probably just an overreaction on my part, but sell an autographed jersey or cleats, whatever. I'm not saying selling one is okay over the other, because selling anything is against NCAA rules and should have been punished. But to have a kind of callous disregard for what a lot of Buckeye fans view as close to sacred is like pissing on Ohio State tradition.
No, it's not LIKE pissing on an important Ohio State tradition. It IS pissing on an important Ohio State tradition.
I don't know if you saw the HBO documentary about the UM-OSU rivalry, but multiple OSU players held up their gold pants charm showing one, two, or three pairs of pants on a gold bracelet as 'their most prized possession'. Yet Posey and Thomas sell them for a few hundred bucks. That's going to be a tough thing for a lot of OSU fans to swallow, at least it is for me. No, I don't hate them, and I don't think they should be banished, but they need to be told and it needs to be reinforced what it means to be a Buckeye, what the rules are for a student-athlete, and what it means to be a leader.
It's time for Terrelle Pryor to grow up.
It's not unforgivable, but it does make me look at these players in a different light, to be sure. And I can't disagree with the punishment. Had it been free tattoos for a jersey or autographed picture, this would have been a draconian reaction. But yeah, selling merchandise for cash, Ohio State and the NCAA did the right thing. I can't argue with it.
Now, how does this affect next season? Well, OSU's first five games break down like this:
at Miami (Fla.) (9/17)
Michigan State (10/1)
Akron and Toledo are...Akron and Toledo. Miami was a tough draw to begin with, but winnable, and Colorado at home should be okay. But OSU's 2011 Big Ten schedule is brutal to begin with, with MSU at home. I can't see the Buckeyes being favored for that one, but yes, a lot of things can happen between now and then. However, the first game back for these guys---if some of them don't bolt for the NFL to avoid the sanctions---will be at Nebraska, then a second straight road game at Champaign.
With a shaky reputation on the road to begin with, it's not unrealistic to conceive an Ohio State team that starts off 0-3 in the Big Ten.