- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Not surprisingly, the NCAA's decision to allow five suspended Ohio State players to participate in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Arkansas has been greeted with a good deal of criticism.
My take: punishment shouldn't be deferred, especially when the violations were committed more than a year ago.
Both the NCAA and the Sugar Bowl's top official defended their positions Wednesday.
It reads in part:
In relation to the decision last week involving rules violations with football student-athletes at Ohio State, several current student-athletes were interviewed as part of our fact-gathering process. They indicated they were not aware there was a violation and learned of the issue based on later rules education, which was confirmed by OSU through interviews and supporting documentation.
Inadequate rules education is often cited in student-athlete reinstatement and other waiver cases (such as inaccurate or misguided academic advising), but it is just one of many factors considered in these types of situations.
The NCAA restated its withholding policy that allows for "suspending a reinstatement condition" -- I love that phrase -- in situations involving championships or bowl games.
Finally, the NCAA responded to claims that its decision was based around money, especially the revenue BCS bowl games like the Sugar Bowl generate.
Money is not a motivator or factor as to why one school would get a particular decision versus another. Any insinuation that revenue from bowl games in particular would influence NCAA decisions is absurd, because schools and conferences receive that revenue, not the NCAA.
Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan also addressed the Ohio State situation with The Columbus Dispatch, telling the newspaper that he encouraged Ohio State to keep the players eligible for the game against Arkansas. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and others also pushed for the players to appear in the bowl.
"I made the point that anything that could be done to preserve the integrity of this year's game, we would greatly appreciate it," Hoolahan said. "That appeal did not fall on deaf ears, and I'm extremely excited about it, that the Buckeyes are coming in at full strength and with no dilution."
Hoolahan knows that a portion of Ohio State fans feel the suspended players shouldn't play in the Sugar Bowl and told The Dispatch, "I appreciate and fully understand the Midwestern values and ethics behind that, but I'm probably thinking of this from a selfish perspective."
Hey, at least he's honest.
I understand that a lot of folks benefit from the NCAA's decision, including the fans who will attend or tune into the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4.
But a phrase like "preserve the integrity" probably doesn't apply to this situation.
2hAndrea Adelson and Austin Ward