NCF Nation: Ohio State penalties

How Ohio State ban affects recruits

December, 20, 2011
Midwest recruiting writer Jared Shanker writes that while the NCAA ruling caught recruits by surprise, some commits, including five-star DE Noah Spence, are standing by the Buckeyes.

Click here for the full story. Insider
Jim Tressel turned 59 earlier this month. If he wants to coach college football again, he almost certainly will have to wait until at least Dec. 17, 2016, when he would be 64.

The NCAA delivered, if not a fatal blow, then a serious setback to the idea that Tressel will ever step foot on a college sideline again by issuing him a five-year "show-cause" penalty. The disgraced Ohio State coach had been mentioned for the Akron job and other openings, although it was never clear whether that talk was very serious. Now, he is basically radioactive to any school that might want to hire him.

While the show-cause doesn't specifically prevent a team from hiring a coach, it does effectively serve as a ban in practice. Any school that employs Tressel must go before the NCAA infractions committee as to why it should be allowed to do so, and it could face its own sanctions as a result. The school also would have to issue a report to the committee every two months during the show-cause period detailing how it is monitoring the coach. Any additional violations committed by the coach during that time could really bring the NCAA hammer down on that school. And suffice it to say that most athletic programs don't want to spend any more time than absolutely necessary talking to the infractions people.

No Division I team has ever hired a coach saddled with an ongoing show-cause penalty. Some coaches whose college careers were essentially ended by the show-cause include former Ohio State basketball coach Jim O'Brien, ex-Indiana basketball coach Kelvin Sampson and former Kentucky recruiting coordinator Claude Bassett.

Tressel has other options. He has served as a consultant for the Indianapolis Colts this season. He could easily find employment in the NFL as an assistant, much like the way Sampson did in the NBA. If after five years in the pros he wanted to come back to college, there might be some opportunities for him. I can't see a major program ever wanting to hire a 64-year-old head coach with that kind of baggage, but a team from the MAC or an athletic director looking to make a splash might be willing to roll the dice. Or Tressel could try his hand at being an assistant at a bigger program.

For now, "The Vest" is sidelined as a college coach. He has 229 wins, including 94 at Ohio State. Those numbers would be higher if last season's 11 victories weren't wiped clean by the NCAA. It will be at least five years before he can add any more.
Minimize until forced to maximize.

By now, loyal blog readers know the phrase. It's what I've used repeatedly to describe Ohio State's strategy throughout its NCAA infractions case.

The school's approach went like this:
  • Cooperate fully with NCAA investigators (unlike USC).
  • Acknowledge mistakes but attribute them to individual failings.
  • Defend individuals until forced to sever ties (i.e., Jim Tressel).
  • Place blame on those no longer affiliated with the program -- namely ex-coach Tressel, disaffiliated booster Bobby DiGeronimo and former quarterback Terrelle Pryor -- and, as tactfully as possible, the players still with the team.
  • Never, ever admit to having a systematic problem.

Ohio State held steadfast to this strategy during news conferences by athletic director Gene Smith, in its responses to the NCAA and in other public comments by university brass during the nearly year-long saga. The school tried to show just enough remorse but not too much, while cooperating throughout the process. It imposed some penalties initially and tacked on a few more after the second layer of violations -- the ones involving DiGeronimo. But Ohio State never imposed a bowl ban.

If this case was indeed a big deal, Ohio State placed the burden on the NCAA to prove why.

It was a calculated risk that backfired Tuesday, as the NCAA handed down a one-year bowl ban, in addition to other penalties, in its ruling on Ohio State's case. Ohio State in 2012 will miss a bowl game for the first time since the 1999 season and be ineligible to participate in the 2012 Big Ten championship game.

The other penalties handed down were more or less expected: four additional scholarship losses (total of nine) and an additional year of probation. Everyone expected Tressel to receive a show-cause penalty, although the length and severity of the sanction handed down by the NCAA raised some eyebrows.

The big surprise, at least inside the walls of the Fawcett Center and the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, is the bowl ban. Smith didn't expect it. New head coach Urban Meyer didn't expect it. Current and former players didn't expect it.

"We are surprised and disappointed with the NCAA's decision," Smith's prepared statement about the penalties begins. He goes on to add, "This decision punishes future students for the actions of others in the past."

Just a hunch, but if the NCAA issued the same penalties minus the bowl ban, Smith would be singing a very different tune.

From reading the NCAA's public report on Ohio State's case and hearing from infractions committee member Greg Sankey, it's pretty clear where Ohio State's minimize-until-forced-to-maximize strategy went wrong.

Had the violations been confined to players exchanging memorabilia items for tattoos and cash, and Tressel not coming forward with information about the transactions, Ohio State likely would have avoided a bowl ban. The violations involving players and DiGeronimo put a bowl ban on the table. It was the dreaded second layer. It prompted a second Notice of Allegations sent to Ohio State in early November that included the "failure to monitor" charge. Sankey cited the failure to monitor charge and Ohio State's repeat violator status as key factors in the committee's decision to impose a bowl ban.

Until the DiGeronimo violations surfaced, Ohio State had tried to make the issue a Tressel problem and a player problem. But the DiGeronimo case created a program problem, at least in the eyes of the NCAA.

From Page 16 of the report:
The institution took steps to distance itself from the representative, including having excluded [DiGeronimo] from the sideline, locker rooms and coaches' offices. However, there is no evidence that the institution took any monitoring actions specific to the representative's involvement with student-athletes after 2006. The institution conceded that it could have done more to monitor the representative by taking additional steps to determine whether he had interactions with student-athletes away from institutional facilities and, had it done so, the likelihood of these current violations occurring would have been reduced.

Ohio State received the notice on Nov. 3. At the time, the football team had a 5-3 record but had revived itself in the Leaders division race with upset wins against Illinois and Wisconsin. Imposing a bowl ban at the time would have eliminated Ohio State from the Big Ten title race.

It also would have been the right call.

While it's easy to write that knowing where the Buckeyes ended up -- at 6-6 and heading to the Gator Bowl -- the school would have minimized the damage for the future while sacrificing a so-so season that had a slim chance to end really well. While Sankey refused to speculate on hypothetical situations in a conference call with reporters, it seems unlikely the infractions committee would have tacked on an additional year to a bowl ban had Ohio State self-imposed one for this season.

Ohio State gambled and lost.

Overall, the penalties aren't too bad, especially considering what the NCAA did to USC, which paid dearly for not cooperating with investigators. While there could be some short-term headaches, Ohio State still has a lot of momentum under Meyer, who is cleaning up on the recruiting trail.

But there will be pain on Dec. 1, 2012, when Ohio State will watch the Big Ten championship game from home, even if it has the best team in the Leaders division. And there will be pain later that month and in early January, when the Buckeyes watch the bowls from their couches.

The minimize-until-forced-to-maximize strategy nearly worked.

But in the end, it left Smith and Ohio State feeling small.

Urban Meyer statement on OSU penalties

December, 20, 2011
New Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has issued a statement about the penalties handed down by the NCAA. Meyer had told recruits not to expect anything more than what the school had self-imposed, but the NCAA added a bowl ban in 2012 and more scholarship cuts.

Here is Meyer's statement:
“I agreed to become the head football coach at The Ohio State University because Shelley and I are Ohio natives, I am a graduate of this wonderful institution and served in this program under a great coach. I understand the academic and athletic traditions here and will give great effort to continue those traditions.

“It is still my goal to hire excellent coaches, recruit great student-athletes who want to be a part of this program and to win on and off the field. The NCAA penalties will serve as a reminder that the college experience does not include the behavior that led to these penalties. I expect all of us to work hard to teach and develop young student-athletes to grow responsibly and to become productive citizens in their communities upon graduation.”

Notes from NCAA call on Ohio State

December, 20, 2011
The NCAA just held a conference call with reporters to answer questions about the penalties it handed down to Ohio State. SEC associate commissioner Greg Sankey, a member of the NCAA committee on infractions, handled the questions. Here are some notes from that Q&A session:
  • Sankey said there were two key factors in the Buckeyes getting a bowl ban: the failure to monitor charge, which was levied after the additional allegations involving booster Robert DiGeronimo came out, and the fact that Ohio State was a repeat violator (DiGeronimo plus the tattoo-for-memorabilia scandal). Sankey also said Ohio State gained a competitive advantage by playing ineligible players during the 2010 season, which resulted in an Allstate Sugar Bowl berth.
  • The committee had not already made a decision on what to do with Ohio State between the original Aug. 12 hearing in Indianapolis and early November when an additional notice of allegations was sent to the school about the DiGeronimo violations. Sankey said the committee had "some level of deliberations" following the Aug. 12 hearing but that it "stopped rather quickly" when the additional allegations became known. The ultimate decision, he said, was based on the entire set of circumstances in the case.
  • Would Ohio State have been better off taking a bowl ban this season, when the team finished 6-6? Sankey declined to say whether that would have prevented a 2012 ban.
  • You can bet USC fans are upset that their program received a harsher penalty (30 scholarships eliminated, two-year bowl ban) than Ohio State. While Sankey didn't talk much specifically about USC, he did mention that Ohio State did not have "a lack of institutional control" charge like the Trojans did. He also said the Buckeyes were cooperative throughout the investigation. (USC appeared more standoffish during its process). Sankey said Ohio State's compliance office "was doing its job. It simply did not have the information it needed" when former coach Jim Tressel lied about knowing details of the tattoo-for-memorabilia incidents. "From an institutional standpoint, the committee found that the university cooperated," Sankey said.
  • Tressel's five-year show-cause penalty was one of the harshest the NCAA has handed out in recent years. "There's an expectation that head coaches set a tone and conduct themselves in a certain manner," Sankey said. "When a head coach engages in misconduct [of this kind] ... that's considered to be very serious and, frankly, very disappointing."
  • The committee found Ohio State had a competitive advantage in 2010, yet the NCAA let five suspended players play in the Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas. Does the NCAA regret that decision? "That decision was made almost a year ago by the student-athlete reinstatement subcommittee," Sankey said. "At the time, the committee based the decision on the information in front of it. ... It would be inappriroate to speculate on the outcome of that decision if that information had been known."
  • Some wondered if the NCAA would try to make an example out of Ohio State, given the reform movement currently underfoot in college athletics and the NCAA's desire to seem tougher in infractions cases. Sankey said that did not happen. "From the committee's perspective, it assessed the penalties related to the fact and circumstances of this case," he said. "The committee did not have a deliberation about [it being a] new day."

Video: Effect on Ohio State recruiting

December, 20, 2011

Tom Luginbill discusses how the sanctions against Ohio State might affect recruiting.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has issued a statement regarding the NCAA penalties handed down to his football program today. The Buckeyes were banned from the 2012 postseason and had four more scholarships reduced, among other sanctions.

Here's what Smith said:
“We are surprised and disappointed with the NCAA’s decision. However, we have decided not to appeal the decision because we need to move forward as an institution. We recognize that this is a challenging time in intercollegiate athletics. Institutions of higher education must move to higher ground, and Ohio State embraces its leadership responsibilities and affirms its long-standing commitment to excellence in education and integrity in all it does.

“My primary concern, as always, is for our students, and this decision punishes future students for the actions of others in the past. Knowing our student-athletes, however, I have no doubt in their capacity to turn this into something positive — for themselves and for the institution. I am grateful to our entire Buckeye community for their continued support.

"All of us at Ohio State are determined to ensure that our compliance programs and protocols are best in class. We will assume a leadership role in representing our university and its values.

“It is important to remember that Ohio State has one of the nation’s largest self supporting athletics programs, with students succeeding both in competition and in the classroom. We have more than 1,000 students who compete in 36 intercollegiate sports, and the overall grade-point average of our student-athletes is just over 3.0. During the last two years, the University has had more student-athletes named to the Academic All-Big Ten Team than any other school. Further, Ohio State finished second in last year’s Directors’ Cup, which recognizes the best athletics programs in the country.”

Timeline of Ohio State's NCAA case

December, 20, 2011
Ohio State's infractions case with the NCAA came to an end today after the events leading up to it had played out -- at least publicly -- for almost exactly one year. Here is a timeline of the Buckeyes' trying times:

April 2, 2010: Then-Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel gets his first email from Columbus lawyer Chris Cicero informing him that quarterback Terrelle Pryor and other players were trading their team memorabilia to local tattoo-parlor owner Edward Rife in exchange for tattoos. Tressel does not inform any of his superiors about this.

Dec. 7, 2010: The U.S. attorney’s office discovers Ohio State football memorabilia in a raid of Rife's business.

Dec. 23, 2010: Ohio State announces that Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, offensive tackle Mike Adams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas would be suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for trading their memorabilia. All five players are allowed to play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, thanks to some lobbying by the Big Ten. The Buckeyes would go on to defeat Arkansas in the game.

Jan. 13, 2011: Ohio State unearths Tressel’s emails with Cicero, igniting an investigation.

Feb. 19: A group of Buckeyes players are paid $200 by booster Robert DiGeronimo for attending a charity event in Cleveland.

March 8: The school announces that Tressel will be suspended for the first two games of the 2011 season and will be fined $250,000. His bosses voice their support of Tressel, with school president E. Gordon Gee infamously saying, "I'm just hopeful the coach doesn't dismiss me."

March 17: Tressel’s suspension is extended to the first five games of the season.

May 30: Athletic director Gene Smith forces Tressel to resign. Luke Fickell is named interim coach.

July 8: Ohio State announces it has vacated all wins from the 2010 season and is self-imposing two years' probation stemming from the Tressel/tattoo controversy. The school later also says it will return its proceeds from the Sugar Bowl.

Aug. 12: Ohio State goes before the NCAA Committee on Infractions in Indianapolis.

Sept. 1: Less than 48 hours before the season opener against Akron, running back Jordan Hall and defensive backs Travis Howard and Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown are suspended two games each for accepting cash from DiGeronimo at the charity event.

Sept. 20: Ohio State publicly disassociates itself with DiGeronimo, who had given more than $70,000 to the athletic department in the previous 25 years.

Oct. 7: Posey is suspended an additional five games, while Herron and linemen Marcus Hall and Melvin Fellows are suspended one game for being overpaid for summer jobs at a company owned by DiGeronimo.

Nov. 3: The NCAA sends another notice of allegations to Ohio State concerning the DiGeronimo accusations. The NCAA says the Buckeyes will face a "failure to monitor" charge. The Buckeyes respond by stripping themselves of five total scholarships over a three-year period.

Nov. 28: Ohio State hires Urban Meyer as its new head coach. Meyer and Smith both say they are not worried about any serious NCAA penalties. Smith says there is no precedent for receiving a bowl ban in cases similar to this one.

Dec. 20: The NCAA doles out its punishment to Ohio State: a 2012 postseason ban, the loss of four scholarships on top of the school's own reduction, an extra year of probation and a five-year show-cause penalty for Tressel.

Ohio State on Tuesday received a postseason ban for the 2012 season among other penalties from the NCAA, which ruled on the school's infractions case, The Columbus Dispatch and ESPN are reporting.

The penalties from the NCAA's infractions committee include a one-year bowl ban, nine lost scholarships during the next three years (three per year) and two years of probation. Former Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel also received a show-cause penalty from the NCAA, which makes any school that hires Tressel subject to penalties unless it proves why it should escape sanctions.

The bowl ban prohibits Ohio State from playing in the Big Ten championship game in 2012.

Ohio State had self-imposed penalties after admitting to several NCAA violations. The school's penalties included vacating all wins from the 2010 season, giving back its share of Big Ten bowl revenue, losing five scholarships during the next three years and imposing one year of probation. Athletic director Gene Smith repeatedly stated that he didn't think Ohio State's violations merited a bowl ban, although he added that the school would accept one if handed down.

Colleague Joe Schad is reporting that the school is unlikely to appeal the sanctions.

There are several layers to Ohio State's NCAA violations that ended with today's ruling.
  • Six players admitted to trading memorabilia items in exchange for cash and tattoos.
  • Tressel admitted to knowing about the players' violations and not telling anyone from Ohio State, the Big Ten or the NCAA about them. He knowingly played ineligible players throughout the 2010 regular season.
  • Four players were found to have accepted money from former booster Bobby DiGeronimo for work they didn't perform.

Two members from the infractions committee will speak with reporters at 3 p.m. ET. We'll have much more on this breaking story throughout the day.