I can envision the following conversation during Ohio State's hearing before the NCAA Committee on Infractions next month.
"So, you vacated your wins from 2010?" an infractions committee member says.
"Yes," Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee says. "It was the least we could do."
"You're right," the committee member responds. "It was technically the least you could possibly do."
OK, so vacating all the Buckeyes' 2010 victories -- including the Allstate Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas -- wasn't all Ohio State accepted as self-imposed penalties in its response to NCAA allegations on Friday. But that was just about the only new thing the school has imposed. What was lacking from the response was most telling.
The Buckeyes didn't impose scholarship reductions. They didn't implement a bowl ban, not even for one year. Nothing new that would harm the future of the program in any significant way was put on the table. Ohio State did place itself on two years' probation, which is essentially a slap on the wrist.
Not exactly the most painful of punishments, given the lying and covering up by former coach Jim Tressel, who knowingly used ineligible players all of last season.
The school's response says that it got rid of Tressel and suspended the players involved in memorabilia sales for five games this season. And we shouldn't forget that those are part of the measures the program has already taken.
But vacating wins was already an automatic outcome from the NCAA, which would have surely erased the Buckeyes' 2010 victories because of those ineligible players. The best way to appease the infractions committee, as USC learned, is to appear as contrite as possible and get out ahead of the sanctions by imposing your own harsh conditions.
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.
"The responsibility is upon Tressel," the response says. "The institution is embarrassed by the actions of Tressel."
Yes, Ohio State is so mad at Tressel that it waived the $250,000 fine it levied at the coach when it became aware he lied to his superiors about the NCAA scandal. You remember that fine, the one Gee assured the Columbus Dispatch in June that "he will pay it." Well, instead, now the school will pay Tressel $52,250 as part of what now will be known as a "retirement," rather than a resignation. That will surely show him!
Maybe Tressel falls on the sword here and accepts all of the blame. He certainly appears to do so in his own response to the NCAA. (Very convenient how his fine was dropped by the school and he takes full responsibility on the same day, huh?)
But the truth is that Ohio State has not handled this situation well from the beginning, from its flimsy investigation to its insistence on playing rule-breaking players in the bowl game to its initial lame suspension of Tressel. This smells of another half-hearted and even arrogant attempt to try to make this go away as painlessly as possible.
Odds are the Buckeyes will find out after next month's meeting that the least they could do was woefully short of enough.