|ESPN.com: College Football||[Print without images]|
At the time Bryant was first ruled ineligible, a person close to the receiver told ESPN's Joe Schad that if he were unable to regain eligibility to play sometime this season, he would enter the NFL draft.
That person said that Bryant in fact would plan to leave school and begin training for the NFL draft. Bryant is projected as a first-round pick."I'm not thinking about that," Bryant said. "I'm helping my team and continuing my course of study." The NCAA said in a news release that Bryant's penalty actually constituted "relief" from even more severe penalties for breaking the agency's rules for ethical conduct and preferential treatment. Bryant could have been forced to miss as few as six games or be permanently ineligible. The NCAA said mitigating factors presented in Oklahoma State's case resulted in a lighter penalty for Bryant. The decision was based on whether Bryant "actively and deliberately concealed, omitted or provided inaccurate or false information" to the NCAA and whether he had multiple chances to provide accurate information but did not do so. E-mail exchanges between an Oklahoma State compliance official and the NCAA indicate that there was concern that Bryant's meeting with Sanders was a way to connect him to an agent, something Sanders has denied. Bryant claimed in a letter of apology to the NCAA that he jogged briefly with Sanders at a Texas athletics center without breaking a sweat and then went to Sanders' house for dinner but did not eat. Oklahoma State said in its reinstatement request that it would classify the meeting as a violation of NCAA rules prohibiting preferential treatment. Bryant caught 87 passes for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns last season while also scoring twice on punt returns. This season, Bryant led the team with 17 catches for 323 yards and four touchdowns through OSU's first three games. While Bryant played in OSU's first three games, OSU compliance officials were investigating an apparent meeting he had with former NFL players Sanders and Omar Stoutmire that he later lied about to the NCAA. Bryant sent a letter with his initial application for reinstatement, asking to play again this season and that his "punishment is not so bad that I do not get to play football again at OSU." Bryant had not commented publicly since the university ruled him ineligible because he "failed to openly disclose to the NCAA the full details of his interaction with a former NFL player not affiliated with OSU." Sanders later identified himself as that player, and Bryant also referred to him in his letter to the NCAA. After his initial suspension, the university released a statement from Bryant saying "I made a mistake by not being entirely truthful when meeting with the NCAA." Information from ESPN's Joe Schad and The Associated Press was used in this report.