[Ed: Wish we could take the credit for the title of this one, but that must go to Tom Orr.]
We've had a couple of days to process Ohio State's response to the NCAA and as one might expect with a self-punishment that did not include the loss of scholarships or a postseason ban, Buckeye fans are ecstatic, while just about everyone else is incredulous.
The football program was alleged to have violated several NCAA Bylaws, including 126.96.36.199.6, 14.11.1, 16.1.4 and 16.11.16, in addition to a 10.1 charge levied against former head coach Jim Tressel. In turn, the university's response boiled down to the following:
- Suspending five players for the first five games of next season (with a sixth, Jordan Whiting suspended for the opener and a seventh, unnamed player, suspended for the entire 2011 season pending appeal1)
- Accepting Jim Tressel's resignation
- Vacating the football program's wins in the 2010 season, including the Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas2
- Self-imposing a two-year NCAA probation
- Implementing additional measures "to enhance the university's already extensive monitoring, educational and compliance programs"
The school painted Tressel as a good man that made a grave mistake, hoping to avoid any type of institutional culpability:
The University believes that little institutional responsibility exists for the preferential treatment violations in Allegation #1. While the University recognizes that the institution must take responsibility for its employee’s actions with respect to Allegation #2, the responsibility is upon Tressel. No other institutional personnel were aware of the preferential treatment violations, and Tressel had an obligation to report the potential violation to the appropriate institutional officials.
And that's it.
Beyond the annoying thought of returning to 0-fer territory in bowl games against the SEC and having a streak of six Big Ten championships snapped, if the NCAA agrees with Ohio State's response, we'll be a state full of happy campers. The same cannot be said for certain members of the media who have a hard time separating sensationalist allegations with the facts on the ground.
Noted Buckeye troll3 Brett McMurphy of CBS Sports had the following take:
If the Buckeyes were this inept on the field, they never would have won the past six Big Ten Conference titles. Oh wait, that last title will be vacated. Big freakin' deal. Correction: It's only five Big Ten titles in the past six years.
Instead, Ohio State has tried to half-step it, again, just as it did in its 10-day sham investigation last December, and just as it did when it originally announced that Tressel would be suspended for only two nonconference games. The school's response, predictably, tried to lay all the blame at the feet of the departed and disgraced coach.
In columns everywhere (and especially on Twitter), the reaction was more of the same: Utter shock that the Buckeyes could have the chutzpah to avoid scholarship reductions or a postseason ban in their self-punishment.
But you know what? The response matched the allegations.
Despite breathless accounts of rigged raffles and feigned outrage over perfectly legal and entirely permissible car sales, the NCAA has yet to amend their original Notice of Allegations. The university has worked with NCAA and continues to do so to "review information concerning potential violations, including issues publicly raised subsequent to the university's self-reporting", but nothing has surfaced and you have to think that if there was anything close to surfacing, the NCAA would have told Ohio State to hold off on their response.
The penalties, might seem light to outsiders, but when you consider the fact that USC didn't even impose any penalties on their football program4 -- hoping to toss the hoops program out as a sacrificial lamb instead -- they make perfect sense. SI's Stewart Mandel gets it:
There was no Lack of Institutional Control charge (as USC received) or Failure to Monitor charge (as North Carolina recently received). No school employees besides Tressel were implicated of any wrongdoing. The school has no incentive to impose heavier penalties than it issued Friday because the NCAA itself has not indicated anyone other than Tressel and the suspended players should be punished.
While I don't expect the NCAA to amend their notice of allegations or push the hearing back beyond the originally announced date of August 12th, it's only reasonable to think the organization will add another year of probation or revoke scholarships. However, a postseason ban, as so many outside the program have hoped for, is likely not in the cards.
Even if the NCAA adds to Ohio State's penalty, it won't invalidate the university's response. When is the last time the organization has told a member institution to take it easier on itself? You do not want to amputate your leg when all that's needed is a cast.
So there you have it. For the first time in many months, there's optimism in Buckeyeland. We're not out of the woods just yet, but we're inching closer, much to the chagrin of outside observers.
- 1 This player, alleged to have received several hundred dollars worth of free tattoos, is more than likely Dorian Bell.
- 2 Ohio State is actually vacating the entire season, including the lone loss to Wisconsin. One casualty of this is the school's all-time winning percentage, which is now .716, dropping the Buckeyes behind Texas and Oklahoma on the all-time list. This will also throw head-to-head records out of whack. For instance, Michigan still has a loss on the books from last November's game, but the Buckeyes will no longer have the win, meaning the Wolverines are 57-44-6 in the series, while the Buckeyes are 43-57-6.
- 3 A, B, C
- 4 This is particularly egregious when you consider USC violated 31 Bylaws, compared to just five for Ohio State.