Ohio State Football: How Will the NCAA Penalize the Buckeyes?

I recently commented on what coach Jim Tressel could do to improve the sad state of affairs facing his Ohio State Buckeyes.  Regardless of whether or not he heeds my advice (I don’t hold out much hope for that), the big question now involves what the NCAA will do to the program.

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The NCAA infractions committee has set a hearing date of August 12th.  Ohio State will await its fate as the committee rules on what penalties the school will pay.  What will be the likely fallout?

1. Ohio State’s self-imposed penalties will stand

I fully expect the NCAA to accept the fine and suspension levied against Jim Tressel by the university.  His behavior has cost him $250,000 in fines and will cost him the first five games of the 2011 season.

However, these steps alone are not sufficient, and the NCAA will almost certainly add its own consequences.

2. The 2010 season will be vacated

The NCAA is likely to strip Ohio State of its 2010 victories.  The key to this part of the punishment is the inclusion of the charge that Tressel “knowingly used ineligible players”.  In all probability, the NCAA included such language in order to establish grounds for vacating victories in which those players participated.

3. The 2011 Sugar Bowl win will stand

Prior to the start of the BCS bowls, the NCAA ruled that Terrelle Pryor and the five other players accused of receiving illegal benefits could play in the Sugar Bowl.  Because that decision was made in advance of the game, it would be difficult for the NCAA to vacate that particular win.  The decision to permit Pryor and his teammates to participate in the Sugar Bowl was controversial, but probably won’t factor in to the forthcoming penalties.

4. Ohio State will be bowl-ineligible for two seasons

Like the USC Trojans, the Buckeyes’ post-season hopes are about to be temporarily derailed.  The NCAA has been fond of this penalty in the past, and it’s easy to see it being invoked again here.  If this does come to pass, recruiting will take a hit, though as USC proved, players aren’t completely deterred by such decisions.

5. Ohio State will face probation and scholarship reduction

These are almost a given.  Both are common punishments, and it’s difficult to see how the Buckeyes can escape either result.  I doubt it will be a large number of scholarships forfeited, and the probation might only be two years.

6. Jim Tressel, if still coaching, will face personal reprisals

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Over the past several years, the NCAA has proven itself to be inept, inconsistent, hypocritical and unfair.  When it comes to adjudicating cases, the infractions and enforcement committees have done more or less whatever they’ve wanted to do with little regard for precedent.  So in addition to the other penalties (some of which are more or less baseline consequences for major violations), I think the NCAA might take the unusual step of punishing the offending coach on an individual level.  

It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the NCAA add to Tressel’s suspension and make him sit out the entire season.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see an additional fine.  But given the way this disaster has unfolded, I have a feeling that it won’t just be the program as a whole that pays the price.

 No matter how severe or lenient the NCAA is, Ohio State football is going to suffer through some serious setbacks.  And the blight on its reputation won’t be easily forgotten.  Had Tressel come forward in the beginning, much of this would have been avoided.  Instead, the Buckeyes must accept their fate.  It could have been worse, had the NCAA elected to charge the program with “failure to monitor” or a “lack of institutional control”.  But even as it stands, it will certainly be bad enough.

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