COMMENTARY | The Ohio State football program is still desperately trying to save face. Ever since Ohio State and its vast football legacy became tarnished by the Jim Tressel scandals, it has feared the worst from the NCAA. But by not acting fast enough when Tressel’s lies were discovered, and when several Buckeyes stars were found to have sold memorabilia, the school put itself in such massive trouble. Now it can only punish itself to try and avoid harsher NCAA sanction, but will vacating its 2010 wins be enough?
Weeks earlier, Ohio State finally acted to accept Tressel’s resignation, although he was most likely fired. The school only made things worse by keeping him around so long, and by only suspending him for the first five games next season at first. But after failing to act for so long, the Buckeyes brass hopes that its recent actions will keep the NCAA from piling on.
Their latest step was to revoke the team’s 12 victories from the 2010-11 season, including the Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas. But that win was tainted from the start, as this entire mess started when Tressel didn’t suspend stars like Terrelle Pryor for the game, after they were caught selling their memorabilia.
If Tressel had done so, or if the NCAA had taken action instead, his cover up might never have been exposed. Of course, the Buckeyes would have then likely lost the Sugar Bowl, since Pryor and the others were the difference in the win over the Razorbacks.
A loss would have further cemented the new-found reputation of Ohio State football, as a program that can’t win in January. But for all the damage done by the Buckeyes’ recent bowl losses, it was preferable to the shattered reputation from this ordeal.
It will certainly be shattered if the NCAA bans the Buckeyes from postseason play, or revokes scholarships, as it did to USC. Since Ohio State didn’t do anything like that, critics argue the program is still not fully committed to cleaning itself up. However, Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel argues the evidence out there now might not be enough to warrant harsher punishment.
Without clearer evidence of a “Lack of Institutional Control” as in USC, Ohio State can still argue that Tressel and the players, and not the school at large, was to blame for the violations. For all of the outrage against the Buckeyes, there may need to be another smoking gun or two to justify more charges.
But with the resignation/firing of Tressel, and the vacation of last season’s wins, the football program hopes that it has punished itself enough already. To many, it hasn’t, especially after the NCAA took a harder stand against USC. Yet the Trojans were at the tail end of their dynasty by then, and the Buckeyes are still in theirs, which may make the NCAA more eager to accept Ohio State’s self-inflicted wounds.
SI.com- “Ohio State’s self-imposed penalties could match NCAA ruling”