Ohio State head coach, Jim Tressel, has laid down the law for star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and the four other Buckeyes who have been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for selling football keepsakes and trading autographs for free tattoos. Concerned that the suspended players would try and “skirt the consequences” of their actions by declaring themselves eligible for the NFL Draft, Tressel made each player promise to return next season before allowing them to travel with the team to the Sugar Bowl to face the Arkansas Razorbacks.
This Deal Is As Enforceable As a Contract Signed with Invisible Ink
Underclassmen have until January 15th to declare themselves eligible for the NFL Draft. The Sugar Bowl is being played on January 4th. Isn’t it possible that one (or more) of the suspended players will “change their mind” between the Sugar Bowl and the declaration deadline? If so, there will be no recourse for Jim Tressel, Ohio State or the NCAA. Once the bowl game has been played, the incentive for any of the suspended players to return for their senior season will be gone.
Time will tell if these players keep their word and honor the agreement that they made with their head coach to return to Ohio State next year. None of these players showed any regard for the irreplaceable keepsakes that they sold, so it is hard to imagine that they suddenly feel a sense of Buckeye pride strong enough to compel them to honor their deal with Jim Tressel.
When push comes to shove, the allure of getting paid big money to play in the NFL may be too enticing for the suspended football players to resist. While some players may return to improve their potential draft position, the reality is that it will be difficult to do so while missing nearly half of the season serving a suspension.
The decision to allow these players to play in the Sugar Bowl never should have fallen on the shoulders of Jim Tressel. That responsibility belonged to the NCAA, who had the chance to deliver swift and fair justice, but instead chose to delay justice and impose a punishment that exceeded the "crime" committed by these players.
NCAA’s Decision To Delay Suspensions Was All about Money
It has been reported that the CEO of the Sugar Bowl, Paul Hoolihan, lobbied the NCAA to “preserve the integrity of this year’s game” by letting Terrelle Pryor and the others play against Arkansas. One can't help but wonder if Hoolihan actually meant to say "profitability" instead of "integrity."
We'll all know soon enough how this situation will play out. If any of the players decide to “skirt the consequences” of their actions and declare themselves eligible for the NFL Draft, the NCAA will have only itself to blame.