Sweating the Unknown

By Jason Priestas on June 12, 2011 at 7:24a
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has his work cut out for himMaybe not beloved, but not Mike Garrett, either.

With new allegations against the program surfacing every few days, it's hard to say what verdict the NCAA will hand Ohio State. The uncertainty leading up to that point is perhaps the most difficult part of the process, because while we know we're going to get slapped, we don't know how much of a mark the slap will leave.

Even after discovering in early March that the school's initial investigation had widened to include Jim Tressel, the notion of USC-level sanctions heading our way was laughable. Those penalties included a two-year postseason ban, a loss of 30 scholarships and the vacation of a dozen victories, but that case involved agents and a half-million dollar home for the parents of Reggie Bush.

Now, just three months later, there's a very real possibility of something equal to -- or worse -- arriving on our doorstep. MGoBlog, unsurprisingly, is more certain of that happening than you might be:

Unless the raw amount of money funneled to Reggie Bush is a significant factor (and I can't see why that would be since the difference here appears to be between low six digits and mid-fives) it seems hard to make a case that Ohio State shouldn't get penalties harsher than USC's—significantly harsher. I'd be interested to see if anyone can make a Devil's Advocate case that what's currently happening in Columbus is less severe than the Bush imbroglio.

It's nearly impossible to guess what the NCAA will ultimately do. Severe penalties at the BCS school level are infrequent and the organization's propensity to get medieval on member institutions is very similar to that of the Securities and Exchange Commission. A decade of hammer-dropping followed by a decade of largely looking the other way, depending on who is in charge and the makeup of the staff.

About all we do know is that Ohio State officials, including the team's former coach, will have their day before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions on August 12th in Indianapolis. We're also pretty sure the new sheriff in town, Mark Emmert, wants to be more aggressive in dealing with rule-breakers because he said as much last month.

Assuming what we know right now (the events of the past six months have proven that this is subject to change at any moment), Ohio State has a few things working in its favor and a few things not so much. How do these things stack up to USC's case? Challenge accepted.


  USC Ohio State
FINDINGS/ALLEGATIONS 18 specific instances of violations by Reggie Bush or his family, including a house for his parents, a car (with new rims and a stereo), airfare, hotel stays, limo services, meals, car repairs, clothing, furniture and and appliances.

12 similar instances of violations out of basketball player OJ Mayo.

Running backs coach Todd McNair was found to have known or should have known of Bush's activity and was also cited for lying during the investigation.

Further violations by the women's tennis program and a failure of the athletic department's infrastructure when it came to oversight and policing.

Together, these findings led to a charge of Lack of Institutional Control.
An email trail that proved the head coach had knowledge of players forfeiting their eligibility, but did nothing to notify his superiors or compliance/enforcement staff.

UPDATED: Further, Tressel signed a statement attesting to the fact that he was unaware of any violations in the fall of 2010.

Additional athletes may have been involved in memorabilia-for-tattoos.

Potential improper benefits in the form of car deals for football players.

Terrelle Pryor allegedly received benefits in the form of free golf at a country club and is also alleged to have received $20,000-$40,000 in exchange for autographed memorabilia.


FATE OF HEAD COACH Bolted early for the NFL. Forced the resignation of a beloved coach with otherwise excellent reputation amongst peers.
LEVEL OF COOPERATION None Ohio State has reported all findings to the NCAA on their own and has stayed in contact with the organization to assist with the investigation.
TAUNTING Hired habitual scofflaw Lane Kiffin to replace Pete Carroll. AD Mike Garrett claimed the NCAA report was "nothing but a lot of envy". None, unless you wanted to count the fumbled presser on March 8th. Which you shouldn't.


So there you have it. One thing that certainly hurts Ohio State in the court of public opinion is the fact that it's a public institution and must comply with FOIA requests. USC, being a private school, did not have the misfortune of seeing its dirty laundry spilled across the internet ahead of its case.

If Pryor sticks with his stance and doesn't speak to the NCAA and other witnesses don't come forward to speak with the organization (only students, coaches, administrators and faculty are required to speak to the NCAA), a lot of what we're facing are just allegations. It's also safe to assume the NCAA has seen everything we have in the form of email (damning as that is).

USC ultimately received a Lack of Institutional Control charge, but that was for major violations spanning three sports. Ohio State's problem is strictly on the football side of the house. I believe the Buckeyes will avoid a similar charge based on that fact and the self-report and cooperation that just wasn't there for USC. As of right now, I have a hard time seeing the Buckeyes get hit with something worse than the Trojans received, though the penalty could be similar.

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