The Suspended Players Starting A Bowl Game Debate… Bucks Eye Integrity

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

I think we were all kind of shocked when we found out that the NCAA had suspended five players, including star Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, for the first five games of the 2011 season when an investigation concluded that he and four teammates sold miscellaneous team memorabilia like team jerseys, rings, and the coveted “golden pants.” Like the apparent idiot that I am, I immediately assumed that they would also be sitting out the Sugar Bowl matchup against Arkansas. But I forgot we are presently living in an era where the NCAA likes to play, “Can You Top This?” They are inexplicably allowing the five culprits to play, and I have yet to find a valid reason why. These suspensions should begin IMMEDATATELY!

When reading the original press release by the NCAA, one phrase originally jumped out at me. The release states the players “did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred.” Now, even the biggest Ohio State fans I know – Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek – have to admit this is a load of Buckeye crap (Editor’s Note: Yes, they do). If these kids weren’t aware that this would be a rules violation, I don’t know who it makes look worse, the Ohio State compliance department or the student athlete? Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith contends that players weren’t educated about the consequences of selling such items until November 2009, well after the items had been sold. Yet, Georgia Bulldog fans may recall that several players of their favorite team sold SEC championship rings after the 2003 season. It wasn’t against NCAA rules at the time, but the NCAA soon altered its rules. Perhaps Smith and the compliance department at the university missed the memo.

Something else bothers me about this entire situation. Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan is on record saying that he lobbied Ohio State really hard to make sure they did everything possible to get the five guys eligible to play in the bowl game. He had a game to sell. He had sponsors to please. He had television ratings to get. I respect that aspect of it. He is, after all, just doing his job.

However, what he said bothered me. He said, “I made the point that anything that could be done to preserve the integrity of this year’s game, we would appreciate it.” Integrity…hmm. Who has integrity in this case? Not Ohio State. Not the five players. Certainly not the five players. Is there anyone outside Big Ten country who is pulling for Ohio State now? If there was before December 23rd, there isn’t now.

I’m anxiously awaiting the opportunity to read the argument from Babe Ruthless. Are we supposed to feel sorry for these players? Were we supposed to feel sorry for A.J. Green when he took $1,000 for selling his Independence Bowl jersey?

I can’t see valid justification for these Ohio State players playing, and no, giving Ohio State a fair shot at finally beating an SEC team in a BCS bowl game is not valid justification. The NCAA once again got it wrong!

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