(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Urban Meyer’s first Ohio State team won’t be bowl bound. The NCAA hit Ohio State with a one-year bowl ban and other penalties on Tuesday for a scandal that involved eight players taking a total of $14,000 in cash and tattoos in exchange for jerseys, rings and other Buckeyes memorabilia. Tipped to the violations, then-coach Jim Tressel failed to speak up.
The university had previously offered to vacate the 2010 season, return bowl money, go on two years of NCAA probation and use five fewer football scholarships over the next three years. But the NCAA countered with a bowl ban in Meyer’s first year as head coach in 2012, further reduced the number of scholarships and tacked on a year of probation.
The stiffer penalties — including a finding of a “failure to monitor” of Ohio State’s athletic programs — came because of additional problems which followed the tattoo-related violations revealed a year ago, almost to the day.
It was a sobering blow to Ohio State and athletic director Gene Smith, who through a lengthy NCAA investigation had maintained there was no way the Buckeyes would be banned from a bowl game. “I’ll be shocked and disappointed and on the offensive,” Smith said in July of his reaction if there was a bowl ban. “It’ll be behavior you haven’t witnessed (from me).”
But after the initial tattoo scandal, Ohio State and the NCAA discovered two additional problems. Three players were suspended just before the start of the season for accepting $200 from booster Bobby DiGeronimo, and midway through the Buckeyes’ 6-6 season it was revealed that several players had been paid too much for too little work on summer jobs — supplied by the same booster. He has been disassociated from the program.
Tressel, forced out in the wake of the scandal, was hit with a five-year “show-cause” order which all but prevents him from being a college coach during that time. “Of great concern to the committee was the fact that the former head coach became aware of these violations and decided not to report the violations,” the committee wrote in its report. Tressel is now on the staff of the Indianapolis Colts as a video-review coordinator. Under a show-cause order, any school that hired Tressel would have to present its case for why it needed to employ him, and would risk severe penalties if he were to commit any further infractions after that.
The Buckeyes are preparing to play Meyer’s former team, Florida, in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2. Meyer, a two-time national title winner hired to much acclaim on Nov. 28, has built a solid recruiting class despite the ongoing NCAA problems. But a bowl ban could affect those verbal commitments. The NCAA also issued a public reprimand and censure, put the Buckeyes on probation through Dec. 19, 2014, and reduced football scholarships from 85 to 82 through the 2014-15 academic year.
Edward Rife, the owner of Fine Line Ink where Ohio State players began to congregate in 2009 and 2010, has been sentenced to three years in prison following his conviction earlier this year on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.
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