In an interesting development, the NFL has declared that Pryor will not be allowed to practice or play for whatever team drafts him for the first five weeks of the season, the same amount of games he was scheduled to miss at Ohio State. This move is alleged to have been supported by the NFL Players Association.
According to ESPN (I know…) the suspension rationale is based on the following-
“… Pryor made decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL Draft. Those actions included failing to cooperate with the NCAA and hiring an agent in violation of NCAA rules, which resulted in Ohio State declaring him ineligible to continue playing college football.
“Pryor then applied to enter the NFL after the regular draft. Pryor had accepted at the end of the 2010 college football season a suspension for the first five games of the 2011 season for violating NCAA rules. Pryor will be ineligible to practice prior to or play in the first five games of the NFL regular season after he signs.”
Today’s ruling comes following reports yesterday that Pryor had informed the NCAA that he had received improper benefits from his “mentor”, Jeanette PA businessman Ted Sarniak. While the relationship between the two had been cleared by the NCAA, Ohio State had informed Sarniak that he could not provide financial assistance to Pryor while the latter was a student at OSU. The transactions in question are reported to be assistance with car payments and funding for a spring break trip, both believed to have happened during the spring of 2011 (after Pryor had played what is now his final game for the Buckeyes). Ohio State has denied that Pryor shared this information with the NCAA, in spite of what his lawyer reported yesterday.
Today, Doug Lesmerisis of the Cleveland Plain Dealer outlined what might be a likely scenario for this story- that Pryor was asked by the NCAA about funds in his bank account and refused to answer those questions. As such, the University declared him ineligible (changing his status for the NFL draft). If it’s true that Pryor did receive these benefits from Sarniak, it’s unlikely that this would reflect back on the University as they were working to ensure the relationship was appropriate.
At any rate, the 5 game suspension from the NFL is intriguing, and comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement that the league was considering these types of responses. While some may see this as an appropriate deterrent for student athletes who want to disregard the NCAA’s guidelines, others are concerned that it sets a problematic precedent. For instance- Does former USC coach Pete Carroll now have to miss the post-season, since the Trojans got a similar ban during his tenure there (although it could be argued that coaching the Seahawks might take care of that issue over the long run)? Will current pros implicated in Miami’s scandal be forced to miss games and lose money if the NCAA rules against their alma mater? Our friend Michael points out an even more egregious contradiction, and Andy Staples tops him.
It will be interesting to see how this decision plays out in the long term- I certainly can imagine a situation where Pryor’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, would seek to have this changed (even pursuing legal action), and I think he would have a case. I can’t think of a situation where another college student would be held responsible for breaking his institution’s rules by his future employer.
We’ll update this story as it develops.