(I’m celebrating my son’s 21st birthday today (Hi, Kamal!) and didn’t have to finish the article I was writing. Fortunately, I am blessed to know and have worked with one of the finest sportswriters I have ever met, Charles Farmer, a contributor to The Columbus Post and other publications. Charles is one of the best in the business and has forgotten more about Ohio State football, the NCAA and how big money rules over it all than I have ever known. This is a column he wrote after the Buckeyes victory over Arkansas in this year’s Sugar Bowl).
DESPITE DISTRACTIONS BUCKEYES HELD UP THEIR END OF THE DEAL
By Charles Farmer
There was lots of controversy surrounding the Ohio State Football program prior to the team participating in the team participating in the AllState Sugar Bowl. Most became quite familiar with the facts that included six student athletes being suspended from the football team for violations of NCAA rules. Mike Adams, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Terrelle Pryor and Solomon Thomas will miss the first five games of the 2011 season while Jordan Whiting will miss the first game.
The biggest issue for most was why the accused players did not start serving their suspension immediately and who should have made sure that happened? Many people have stated they thought Coach Jim Tressel should have done the morally correct thing and sat the players himself and perhaps are now looking at the coach in a different light. Can we be honest for just a minute, while I cannot speak for Coach Tressel, one thing I do know is he is paid to win ball games and he also probably took in account not wanting to disappoint the members of the football senior class.
These might be considered a lame excuse by some, but I ask while others sit back in their recliners and serve as armchair coaches; who would have taken the stand by his or her self and sat the players despite the opposition they would have faced from the people handling the money? I’m waiting.
The NCAA declared that the players were eligible based on a rule that states they have the authority when to punish student athletes for stated acts and they decided to deliver the punishment later. The organization also stated later that the decision had nothing to do with money, but it did ensure that the Sugar Bowl would be a financial success because the accused players would be able to participate in the game.
While in contrast, the Sugar Bowl Chairman came out publicly and stated how he lobbied for the accused players to be eligible to play in the game. Making these players eligible also allowed the Sugar Bowl, ESPN and Sponsors to make a return back on the initial investment they made into the game. But the $64,000 question remains what would have happened if these players were not allowed to play? What kind of contest would the Sugar Bowl have been without Terrelle Pryor (336 yards of total offense – two td passes and game MVP); Dan Herron (87 yards rushing and one touchdown); DeVier Posey (three catches for 70 yards and one touchdown); and Solomon Thomas (who grabbed an interception late in the game securing a Buckeye win)?
According to Coach Tressel, the accused players had to promise him they would return to school next year, if they wanted to take part in the Bowl Game and all agreed to do so.
The Ohio State University has formally issued an appeal with the NCAA regarding the players’ suspensions and will have a hearing later. History shows that there is a slim chance that the suspension will be reduced, but I wonder how the NCAA can not reduce the players’ sentences when they have clearly used these individuals to make sure that a Bowl Game and its investors received return on their investments.
Perhaps I am too much of a realist but this situation seems a little shaky or wrong too me. I guess we will have our answer when the results of the NCAA hearing are unveiled but this was a clear example of Big Business at work. I thought the focus of this column was to be about college football and student athletics. I digress.
The 31-26 victory was the Buckeyes first against a South Eastern Conference school in ten attempts which dates back to the days of Woody Hayes.
With all the accused players participating, the AllState Sugar Bowl turned into an exciting game and the investors got what they wanted at the players’ expense.
This Bowl game should have sports fans thinking about what is most important, the game itself or what is the right thing to do?
While many have said suspending the players immediately would have taught lessons or even set a precedent for future incidents, but who wanted to deal with the fallout which included being ridiculed by those connected to the money? In this instance cash ruled the day and everything around it, dollar, dollar bill.
The AllState Sugar Bowl needed a great show to take place between Ohio State and Arkansas, and ESPN delivering its television audience a Buckeye team minus Pryor and the others would have been totally unacceptable to those involved with the money.
This postseason the College football bowl ratings were down nine percent, including an 11 percent drop in the national championship game.
The AllState Sugar Bowl was down four percent from last year, but ESPN said the title game received the highest audience rating ever on cable. The BCS cut off 15 million homes that do not receive cable or satellite by shifting all BCS games to ESPN for the first time, the result of a four year deal vaulted by Sports Business Journal at $495 million.
(Charles Farmer is a sportswriter and contributor to The Columbus Post newspaper)