NCAA Sanctions: Ohio State Penalties From A USC Perspective

The Ohio St. Buckeyes got hit today by the NCAA. Did they get hit hard enough?

I'm guessing outside Columbus, there will be little agreement as to whether the Buckeyes struggled with their decision. But I'm guessing many USC Trojans will not be too happy with the decision that was handed down. USC has a very unique perspective on the situation. The Trojans were under investigation for less serious allegations yet got handed a very harsh punishment, particularly in comparison to the "slap on the wrist" punishments Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes will have to deal with. Ohio State should be able to recover in a year or two; USC might have trouble getting back to the top and most definitely staying there for the next half-decade.

So you'd imagine the reaction would be a little heated. I talked with DC Trojan of Conquest Chronicles to get a feel for how USC fans felt about the situation.

How raw a deal is USC getting? Was Ohio State punished fairly based on the accusations levied on the program?


The NCAA insists that there should be no comparisons between punishments as each case is considered on it's own merits. It's hard, however, to look at this and think that SC isn't getting screwed. SC's first bowl ban was based on the assertion that SC should have known when Bush started taking inappropriate benefits - the second was based on a period when Bush clearly was taking inappropriate benefits. So that seems out of proportion. The scholarship ban is pretty light - Bush drew a multiplier, Ohio State did not. So that seems out of proportion. The penalty to Jim Tressel seems pretty heavy duty, but it's also a gift to Ohio State and their vaunted compliance office, who are being let off the hook entirely here. So I think SC's getting a bit of a raw deal.


Would USC have gotten off with a lighter punishment if the AD had been more forthright and Pete Carroll had fallen on his sword like Jim Tressel?

I don't agree with the use of the word "forthright." That implies Mike Garrett had any idea what was going on, which proved not to be the case. From a tactical standpoint, I think that SC made the mistake of too obviously trying to sacrifice basketball with self-imposed sanctions (that the NCAA accepted) and then trying to skate with the football team. SC might have drawn less of a penalty had they self-sanctioned football, but Ohio State tried that and it didn't work. As for Pete Carroll... again, unless you believe - and the NCAA found nothing nothing to substantiate it - that he knew, then falling on his sword probably wouldn't have made any difference. He was criticized for what he didn't know, unlike Tressel, who was hammered for what he did.


Would you say the NCAA treated the Ohio State and USC cases differently? Is Ohio State's punishment fair and consistent based on what happened to the Trojans?


Plainly the NCAA treated the cases differently. To be fair to the NCAA for a moment, they were dealing with three sports' worth of violations at SC, which had to affect the penalties when it came to lack of institutional control. But at the same time, there were more players involved at Ohio State, the coach plainly concealed documentation that was pertinent, and the NCAA chose to ignore other issues like Terrell Pryor's long term test drives. Combine that with the fact that there was a larger Compliance Office making noises about what a great job they did, and I think there's a case to be made that Ohio State wasn't any less lax than SC, and if anything had a bigger lapse in institutional control.


For those who don't remember the details correctly, could you let us know why exactly the Trojans were punished so harshly and why the Buckeyes were able to minimize the damage?

Taking my tinfoil helmet off for a minute: I think it was the combination of multiple sports and the the fact that SC was digging in their heels about self-sanctioning the football program. That said, the COI also applied a new and interesting standard that "high profile players require high profile compliance" and published a timeline which purportedly showed that Todd McNair, the running backs coach, knew about Bush, based on 4 cell phone calls lasting a combined 4 - 5 minutes. All of those things taken together meant that the COI felt it was time to lower the boom.

As far as the Buckeyes minimizing the damage: I think that in some regards it was because the documentation was damning but pretty clearly delineated a specific set of players and specific actions by Tressel. The COI elected not to push any further, and they had a positive relationship with Ohio State, who were much faster to engage with the NCAA and work on the PR side of the event also, in my view.

Putting my tinfoil helmet back on for a minute, I assume that the COI didn't include anyone from Michigan in the second case.


Based on how the Trojans played under sanctions, how do you think the Buckeyes will fare? Do you think it'll be more like their first season or second season?

To be honest, I don't pay any attention to Ohio State except for when they're playing Michigan (I married into Michigan supporters). It's unlikely that Ohio State will have the same "free agency" issues with seniors transferring under the bowl ban rules, and even if they did, that will just free up room under the scholarship limit. With Urban Meyer as head coach, I expect the recruiting class to be good and the standard of play to be high.

By comparison, SC's first year under sanctions was also the first year under Kiffin, who improved dramatically in his second year, and was one beset with defensive issues from transfers, injuries, and inexperience. If Ohio State can get some decent quarterback play next year, they'll be fine.

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