Foundational Thoughts: Player Suspensions

Written December 23rd, 2010 by MaliBuckeye

Seeking balance

Since this is Festivus, it would be tempting to take time for the airing of grievances, particularly in light of the news that broke today. However, I’m not going to do that.  I’ve got frustrations, and you’ll get a chance to read them, but I wanted to set out some foundational items first.

We rarely have a “state of the union” post here at tBBC, mostly because we’re an anarcho-syndicalist commune with different viewpoints and perspectives, each bringing these things to the cornucopia of coverage that you enjoy on a daily basis. So, it’s not normal for us to have a “this we believe” statement- heck, our posting guidelines took two weeks to come up with.

The news of today, though, is different. We’re getting a lot of traffic and readers who are following the football suspensions either looking for new information, our unique perspectives, or a chance to raise themselves up and feel better about their situations.

As such, here are the important things that anyone reading this little slice of the internet should be aware of in regards to our position on the matter:

  • The players in question chose to violate an NCAA regulation, and should be held accountable for their decisions.
  • The Ohio State University Athletic Department has responded swiftly; we are impressed with the way that this has been addressed in a timely manner that has been as transparent as appropriate.
  • Because this involves several, high profile, student athletes, it would be easy to conclude that this situation is indicative of a larger problem in the football program or the athletic department. We think that this conclusion is unfounded and unwise. Based on the University’s response thus far, it is more logical to believe that they take these issues seriously and seek to respond as is required.
  • We are disappointed that this has happened, and are hopeful that this will be a learning moment for everyone involved. Given what we know about the coaching staff, athletic department, and Ohio State community, we are confident that this is more than likely; but this requires full investment on behalf of the persons in question.

That may seem to be a bit rudimentary, but it gives us a starting point for the number of conversations that are sure to come over the next several months. We’ll be referring back to it often, I’m sure, and may even adapt it as new things develop.

This doesn’t mean, though, that there aren’t a lot of things to discuss. The dialogue and insight we’ve had this year has done a lot to shape this site and opinions of many who read it.

For instance, I’m interested in some of the following:

  • Do the sanctions fit the violation? Is the NCAA being consistent given what we’ve seen over the past 18 months (Reggie Bush, A.J. Green, Cam Newton)?
  • Is the violation just? Should players have the ability to do whatever they want with the things that the University gives them, as long as it’s not excessive ($250,000 for a pair of shoelaces, for instance)?
  • Is this matter an issue of individual oversight, selfishness, or lack of education on the part of the university? Where does the responsibility fall?
  • What role does the current system play into this? The NCAA seems to be very interested in protecting their product, and invested in trying to make sure that finances don’t “corrupt” the game. Have they been successful?
  • Should players get stipends that reflect the money they bring into an institution? Or, are the educational opportunities enough?
  • Seriously? Your gold pants and championship rings? I know the market is somewhat flooded with these, but c’mon…

And I’m sure you’ll come up with more in the comments and over the coming days.

Finally, taking off my “blog administrator” hat- One area that I disagree with Eric is that I’m a bit frustrated with the response of the student athletes. From what I’ve gathered, it wasn’t until recently that those in question came forward, even though they were aware of their transgression much earlier in their careers.

I’ve long been someone who ascribes to Steven Carter’s definition of integrity, which has three components-

  1. Discerning what is right and what is wrong;
  2. Acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and
  3. Saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right from wrong.

These players missed an opportunity to show integrity in this situation by not coming forward once they were aware that their earlier behavior was out of line with university and NCAA expectations. It’s my understanding that they were given a chance to talk about things they may have done at the end of their compliance trainings this year, when the expectations were made more concrete (perhaps due to the A.J. Green situation). It’s one thing to make a bad decision; it’s something else altogether to not be honest about it.

In my career in higher education, I’ve had the chance to work with everything from Division 1 athletics to student life and development. In those roles, I’ve been involved in a lot of “difficult” conversations, including those that involved students on probation or those who were leaving the University. These always bring a bit of perspective for me- we’re talking to and about persons who are still growing into adulthood. In the situation at hand, it’s hard to remember that these famous student athletes are often not even of legal age to drink… not that it excuses lapses in judgment, but, like I said, it gives perspective.

In the conversations I’ve been a part of, it’s always been important to communicate the following: Making a mistake is not the end of the world; not learning from it is much more of an issue.

For these young adults, and for the institution, what happens next is what’s crucial.

18 Comments

  1. JenniferNo Gravatar
    December 23rd, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    I think that they should have been suspended from the bowl game this year, as well as the first FOUR games of next year. To suspend them five games next year and let them play in the bowl game is ridiculous. They now are most likely going to enter the NFL draft instead of coming back next season, avoiding the suspensions entirely. Isn’t it funny that the suspensions are during non-conference play. They sold enough items achieved because conference play – suspend them during the last 5 games where it really counts to them! Conference play! I am a Michigan fan and know if they were true OSU players – what they achieved would be considered priceless. In their cases, the arrogance and selfishness has shown – I agree – Tressel and OSU should wipe their hands from them. Do they really need the stain!
    Its really simple, they registered with NCAA Clearinghouse back in High School and signed line by line as to what the rules are. They now attend OSU, they have grad students and assistants assigned to them to keep them on the right track, and basically they still screwed up and got caught. Biggest question will the NCAA step up and finish this deal off and suspend them for The Sugar Bowl ?

    [Reply]

    MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    December 23rd, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    The NCAA has ruled- any suspensions for the Sugar Bowl will not come from them.

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  2. EdNo Gravatar
    December 24th, 2010 at 7:45 am

    Is it hypocritical for ESPN so-called experts to throw stones our way……say like last night. Craig ” Mr. Pony Express / SMU football program killer ” James spreadin the sh** really thick on the Poinsietta Bowl’s broadcast, and his counter part playin secon fiddle.

    Freaking laughable, then you have our boy Mark May takin a turn on the train this morning……

    What has really surprised me though is Herbie……i guess he has to work with those folks at Bristol, and he has to stay the company line………what a douche…..

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    EricNo Gravatar
    December 24th, 2010 at 8:34 am

    It’s certainly hypocritical for Craig James to say anything at all, unless you view people as being redeemable after learning from their mistakes.

    What drives me nuts is that ESPN is making everyone think that it was the University’s decision to allow everyone to play in the Sugar Bowl. Now while it’s true that the University’s decision to sit them for the bowl game is null-and-void at the moment, it’s still not a done deal that they’re going to be playing.

    It’s possible, unfortunately, that if ESPN raises enough of a stink about this that the University will eventually capitulate and bench the players anyway. I would much prefer us to bench the players because it’s right, and not because of a PR move.

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    GregNo Gravatar
    December 24th, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Ed,

    I understand your frustration with some of the things which are being said about this situation, and I lay much of the blame for that frustration at the feet of the NCAA. Their policies and enforcement actions seem to be wildly uneven and, in many cases, just plain silly. However, having listened to what Herbstreit had to say, I have to agree with much of his assessment of Pryor. I think, if you look at the message boards in buckeye cyberspace, those same thoughts have been voiced repeatedly. Pryor is talented, he is smart, but he is immature and selfish. I find nothing objectionable in these sentiments, certainly nothing which would give rise to calling Herbie a douche. He is simply stating an informed opinion about a young man who has never had to face his own failings.

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  3. KENo Gravatar
    December 24th, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Can someone cite the NCAA rule they say was violated? I’ve looked through the Division I Handbook without success. How do you distinguish between selling a used textbook bought with scholarship money at the end of a semester, and selling a ring the university gave you?

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    MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    December 24th, 2010 at 11:25 am

    You know, I don’t know what rule was violated… can you drop us a link to the handbook, and we’ll do a little research for you?

    Huh- the textbook analogy is an interesting one.

    I remember that Alabama got hit pretty hard for a textbook scandal… although it was using athletic funds to purchase textbooks for friends and whatnot.

    I would imagine that textbooks, if given to the student athlete from athletic funds, would need to be given back to the athletic department at the end of the term.

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    EricNo Gravatar
    December 24th, 2010 at 11:47 am

    This is *exactly* where The Bylaw Blog would have been really helpful. But no, some jackwagon LSU blogger had to go ruin that for everyone.

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    MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    December 24th, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Ha. “Jackwagon”. I got one of those for Christmas when I was five…

    Memories.

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  4. GoBuks4EverNo Gravatar
    December 24th, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Oh c’mon, you got to be kidding!….I can see a 1 game suspension for gettin’ tattoos for being a “star” and then getting a slap on the wrist..and ONLY a slap on the wrist. As for selling the stuff, totally their business, disrespectful and sad, but their business only. Not any kind of infraction at all. And definitely not any kind of illicit activity. Please, get these guys into a compliance class for a quarter, have ‘em spend time helping kids who can only dream of playing on a fiels, and put them back into the season line-up. No wrong doing here in any way, shape, or form.

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  5. KENo Gravatar
    December 24th, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Here’s the handbook:

    http://www.ncaapublications.com/p-4180-2010-2011-ncaa-division-i-manual.aspx

    If it weren’t Christmas Eve, I’d waste a bunch of time reading it.

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    MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    December 24th, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks, KE- You’ve obviously got much better familial obligations than I do. :)

    Merry Christmas.

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    EricNo Gravatar
    December 24th, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    I think what is being cited is this:

    16.11.2.1 General Rule. The student-athlete shall not receive any extra benefit. The term “extra benefit”
    refers to any special arrangement by an institutional employee or representative of the institution’s athletics interests
    to provide the student-athlete or his or her relatives or friends with a benefit not expressly authorized by
    NCAA legislation.

    Which can be found on page 233. I’ll have to do a more in depth study to be sure, but I think the argument goes this way:

    University’s and other organizations are allowed to grant awards – such as rings, trophies, etc. – to players for their play on the field/court or academic performace. This so long as the award satisfies the appropriate NCAA bylaws.

    However, that award is not granted as a source of monetary benefit, it’s granted as a symbol of personal achievement. By selling it, the student athletes are doing an end around of the rule above – the institutions would be inadvertently offering an “extra benefit” that the NCAA doesn’t permit.

    It is very clear that an institution is not allowed to help a student or his/her family in anyway outside of the base academic scholarship. It’s easy to realize that if the NCAA allowed players to sell their trophys, rings, etc. that they would be allowing an end-around for the extra benefits rule. A team who wanted to fork some money over to a player need only hand him a trophy and tell him to go pawn it somewhere.

    I’m going to peruse this some more. If I learn anything else new I’ll write an article on it.

    [Reply]

    EricNo Gravatar
    December 24th, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Also, I believe the other big rub is that the Students profited off the resale of these items above and beyond the actual value of the items themselves. Conference Championship rings are, by rule, allowed to cost the university no more than $325 per player. (Figure 16-2, page 235)

    By accepting more than the face value of the ring the students have marketing in their on-field achievements. I.e. the rings are not only valuable for the monetary worth of their materials and labor, but also in symbolism of the ring itself. This means that the ring Pryor sold isn’t just a ring, but “Pryor’s Big Ten Championship ring” – a marketing in his name that enhances the value of the item.

    Given the wording of the rules, part of me can see why there was a confusion. It is never explicitly stated that a student athlete cannot sell an award – it is only implied through the “extra benefits” clause – at least as far as I can see. That said, it was immediately apparent to me upon reading the “extra benefits” clause that what they did was wrong.

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  6. ChrisNo Gravatar
    December 25th, 2010 at 10:19 am

    If Pryor (or any of the five) is so concerned about leaving a legacy at tOSU why would he sell the very things he achieved during that time? If I had the opportunity to win a pair of gold pants you would have to pry them out of my cold dead hands. It just really shows how much being a buckeye means to him (and the rest of them)and that his legacy is all talk. I personally would like to see all five players walk away and declare for the NFL. We win with people and I’d like to keep it that way.

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    MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    December 25th, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I hear you, Chris… but I blame Mich1gAAn for all of this.

    If they weren’t so pathetic, gold pants and conference rings would be more precious. :D

    Let it also be known that not everyone got rid of their awards… I’ve read that Boom sold other items (pants/jersey?)

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    JenniferNo Gravatar
    December 30th, 2010 at 5:18 am

    Why blame Michigan? Michigan players didn’t hold their hands when they went and did this…they didn’t tell them to sell or trade in…..I mean seriously if it was a true OHIO STATE PLAYER, them gold pants would mean something since it such a big rivalry and all and that showed they were true to the game of football and what the Buckeyes/Wolverines Rivalry truly is.

    Plus if Michigan wasn’t so pathectic, you very well might not have them gold pants and rings, which makes them so much more valuable.

    Sold his football Jersey by autographing it. Whats he going to wear to the football game?

    It’s just a bunch of stupid crap to get their heads all big and crap and to get a little more attention.

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    MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    December 30th, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Thanks for weighing in, Jennifer…. but if we can’t blame Michigan, then who can we blame? The Illumnati? :D

    [Reply]

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