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Thursday, July 7, 2011
Ohio State to respond to NCAA on Friday

By Brian Bennett

In what will likely be the key piece to Ohio State's immediate future, the Buckeyes plan to submit their official reply to the NCAA's charges of major violations on Friday.

That's the deadline to respond to the notice of allegations that the NCAA sent to the school on April 21. Ohio State is scheduled to go before the Committee on Infractions on Aug. 12.

Athletic director Gene Smith declined to reveal the specifics of the response, but told the AP that he felt good about the process. He also expressed his disappointment in the situation.

"It's been hard," he said. "This has hurt our fans. We've been damaged.

"We've really been hurt by the fact that everybody in the athletic department has been indicted because of the actions of a few."

Of course, just about every team that has faced NCAA sanctions could say the same thing. The sticking point is which few committed the actions, and why didn't the school know what was going on? The fact that some of "the few" in this instance were the school's most high-profile figure and its most recognizable star athlete doesn't help the argument much.

As we saw in the USC case, Ohio State's best bet is to show as much contrition as humanly possible. Obviously, the Buckeyes' response will include the fact that the program has already forced out head coach Jim Tressel. It will be fascinating to see how much the athletic department will try to pin blame on Tressel and Terrelle Pryor, since both are now gone from the team. "See," the school can say, "we already cleaned up our mess? Nothing else to see here."

Ohio State's response will also include self-imposed penalties that the school will hope will be enough for the NCAA infractions committee to accept without further punishment. So how far will the Buckeyes go? Will they institute a bowl ban on themselves, and if so, for how long? Will scholarship reductions be part of the response? Those penalties seem almost guaranteed to come from the NCAA, so Ohio State would be wise to get out in front of the curve and appear sufficiently self shamed.

Odds are that whatever Ohio State self-imposes will be the minimum punishment fans can expect from this situation, so the response will give us an idea of what restrictions the football team will be dealing with in the next few years. We may even know if the Buckeyes are eligible for this year's Big Ten title game. The reply is expected to be made public early next week, but details may begin to emerge sooner.

It promises to make for page-turning summer reading.