By now the news has made its way around the college blogosphere. Terrelle Pryor and several other Buckeyes, including running back Daniel Herron have been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season, after an investigation by OSU revealed NCAA violations.
Pryor, Herron and the others committed violations that are, while perhaps not the worst ways to violate NCAA rules, still pretty terrible from a fan’s perspective. The players sold their memorabilia — championship rings, awards, and most importantly to OSU fans, their gold pants. The pants (not really a garment, but rather a golden pendant / charm that looks like a pair of football pants) represent a victory over Michigan in the schools’ annual rivalry game. Many fans have reacted to the revelation of this sale with emotions ranging from dismay to disgust. It’s as though Pryor and the others put a price on tradition, something that is important to college football fans.
Though the details of the violations have gotten quite a bit of attention, much of the discussion lately has focused on the punishment. A five game suspension is significant, but many are wondering why the players weren’t suspended for the upcoming Sugar Bowl. After all, suspension for the Sugar Bowl and four games of the 2011 season would seem to send a stronger message about rules violations than suspension for just the first five games of next season, especially when one considers that some of these players may leave for the NFL and thus escape punishment entirely.
So… did the Buckeyes make the right decision? I think they did. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not happy about what the players did. I don’t think it was right, and I think more than anything it was an insult to the fans that have supported them through their Ohio State careers. But… the reputation and recruiting prospects of the Big Ten depend on continuing the conference’s new found success in bowl games. This will not be accomplished by schools’ shooting themselves in the foot in the name of making an example of players. This is even more true when one considers how other conferences treat those that violate NCAA rules *cough*Cam Newton*cough*. Far be it from me to suggest the Big Ten emulate the behavior of the SEC, but unless the athletes in question commit crimes or have violations that suggest serious integrity lapses, I think they should be allowed to play in the bowl games. One or two mistakes should not be allowed to erase a season of accomplishment.