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Behind the Ink

The new logo for the NCAA

Tis the day after Christmas and pretty much all the Buckeye Nation still is talking about the suspensions coming down from the NCAA for the tattoos for autographs and cash for memorabilia that as of now has Pryor, Boom, Adams, Posey and Thomas out the first five games of 2011.  Of course that is dependent upon the appeal process that the University is pursuing to see if the suspension can be reduced.  There are so many angles of this that it can be talked about for hours, and it has.  Seemingly every hour on the hour, on every website and blog – it has somewhat hijacked the holiday spirit of the Buckeye Nation.  I mean even Mark May has had his moment in the sun bashing the NCAA and of course the Big Ten while simultaneously singing his ever so predictable song about how this would be different if it were the SEC (I guess he must have conveniently forgotten about the whole Cam Newton thing).

Granted even I see the hypocrisy of the NCAA in this one.  Dealing out a severe punishment but also reinstating the group for the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas doesn’t do anything except highlight the fact that basically they are putting a big giant neon light around the work EXPLOITATION.  Just so I get this straight – the guys violated rules but because of “non sufficient education” from university compliance and the fact that the infractions occurred over a year ago then the powers that be have seen it fit to let them play in a game that the NCAA stands to make a bundle on.

This is not to say that I completely agree with what the players did.  I mean by now they should know by now that taking money for anything other than a job they are performing is a no-no.  Autographs, jerseys, pictures, events – all of that is off limits.  Is it absolutely complete bullshit that they can make a university and conference millions of dollars and not be able to profit from their own actions – yes.  But much like there are rules to the game of football there are rules to the games of the NCAA.  And not to sound cold or callous to the athletes themselves – if you don’t like those rules go play in Canada, the arena league or don’t play football at all for two years and then go on to the NFL.  But if you want to play big time college football you have to play by the rules – and right now that means taking the big hard shaft from the NCAA when it comes to making money off yourself.  Yes, it sucks and is unfair.  So are a lot of things in life.  They broke the rules and have to pay the piper to the tune of a five game suspension should they come back for next season.

I have to admit when the rumblings of this started out I thought it was all about free tattoos for autographs.  Which I thought was somewhat irresponsible and immature.  Then the story actually broke and the talk was selling memorabilia like B10 championship rings, and gold pants for tattoos – and I was livid.  Since the details didn’t come out until later in the day during workday it was hard to know exactly who and what went down until I finally listened to the press conference of tOSU AD Smith and Tressel.  The end result was that supposedly the merchandise was sold for money that was used by the players to benefit their families in time of need and the discount on tattoos was a very small part of the issue.  Basically the tattoo shop owner who gave them discounted tattoos also paid the players cash for a variety of stuff like their 2008 Big 10 Championship rings (Pryor, Posey, Adams, Thomas) and in some cases gold pants from TSUN victories (Pryor, Thomas).  In Herron’s case it was a jersey, pants and shoes.

Even though I am skeptical of the whole benefit of the families thing it could be true.  If it is I feel even more sympathy to the guys that are suspended – you have to put family first and it sucks that it may have cost them 5 games.  Even if it is not is seems ridiculous that an individual is unable to sell their own personal property even though Universities and the NCAA make millions  off the jerseys and merchandise that the same athletes make popular.  The system is definitely broken.   Think about how funny it would be is the way the players paid back the money would be to auction of their Sugar Bowl game gear.  Then the hypocrisy circle would be complete.

Then there is the newly developing undertone where the Buckeye Nation is divided among if Tressel should suspend the players for the Sugar Bowl as a matter of principle to the university and program.  I am a diehard Buckeye fan and I think that this is a colossally bad idea, and that any fan thinking this should be done needs to look in the mirror and ask themselves if they would be prepared to give back the National Championship (Clarett eligibility) and 96 Rose Bowl (Katzenmoyer eligibility) – no way you would.  So now even a more flimsy case of eligibility presents itself and you pull the “good of the program’ card?  Please.  Since the NCAA has seen it fitting to let them play for their motives, Tressel has to let them play because it gives us the best chance to win the game.  Bauserman would be a disaster, and Kenny G, all the backs, Sanzenbacher and great defense might hang around but would not be enough to prevent 0-10.  The entire thing has been completely blown out of proportion by everyone and most likely will result in some or all of the players making the jump to the NFL.  The punishment is already severe, adding to it is just plain silly and only creates more misery for Buckeyes everywhere.

As for the players themselves debating whether they should go pro or not really depends on if the NFL has a lockout or not.  If there is a lockout and therefore no draft then they all come back.  If there is a draft –  I really thought Boom was primed for the jump anyway.  Next year if he comes back he as a lot of talent behind him getting carries and he would be out of the mix for five games and in the doghouse with Tressel.  Thomas really has no choice but to come back, Adams and Posey both I see as a tossup – neither has shown consistency enough to be taken early in the draft but both have potential to be solid players.  Similarly it would be great to have them back and they would be missed next year even if it were for only a partial season, but the Buckeyes would also be fine if they were to make the jump.  When it comes to Pryor it is complicated.  Making the jump now means it is highly likely that it won’t be as  a QB.  But the dreams of winning a Heisman, winning a NC and becoming a Buckeye legend with their jersey number in the ring of honor are completely gone.  The team will not go 5-0 next year and seamlessly integrate the five starters back in flawlessly.  Not to mention that the legacy he now leaves is now tainted.  I have always been a fan of TP’s and I still am.  I would be lying though if I said that the selling of gold pants didn’t bother me.  All the other stuff I can accept completely and understand how a college student needs money.  Call me over dramatic but those are part of tradition.  I have only had the pleasure to holding gold pants once in my life.  A friend of mine made the team as a long snapper in the mid 90’s and was on the Cooper team that got a W.  I remember getting to hold the medallion vividly to this day.  A true Buckeye knows that that they are part of everything it means to be a Buckeye.  I thought Pryor knew that too.

So onward we must go. The Sugar Bowl awaits and Arkansas has to be loving all these distractions for the Buckeyes.  The team gets back together this week and we will see what happens.  Either this galvanizes and unites them into a force to be reckoned with – I mean a motivated Pryor and Boom would be a very good thing.  Or the distractions become too much and the Nation has to get ready for a beginning to 2011 that is nowhere near as sweet at the kickoff to 2010.