Thursday, December 23, 2010

Improper Benefits at Ohio State, Improper Punishment from NCAA

As taught in any psychology class, punishment (or rewards, for that matter) carries more of an impact when immediately following the action for which the punishment (or reward) is being given. 

So why will the NCAA allow more than half of a year to pass before punishment is handed out to five Ohio State football players (excluding the actual repayment of benefits received, which should be deemed as a no-brainer and not a real punishment) for violating NCAA rules?

Well, according the NCAA release, the players "did not receive adequate rules education" from the school at the time of the transgressions.

Star QB Terrelle Pryor, Mike Adams, Daniel Herron, Devier Posey and Solomon Thomas were found guilty of breaking NCAA rules by selling awards, gifts and university apparel, plus receiving improper benefits in 2009.

As punishment, the players must repay money and benefits ranging in value from $1,000 to $2,500 to charity.

Among the items sold by the Ohio State players were Big Ten Championship rings, Pryor's 2009 Fiesta Bowl Sportsmanship Award and gold pants - a gift from the university for having played on a team that defeated arch-rival Michigan. How ironic that Pryor sold his sportsmanship award. Perhaps the Fiesta Bowl meant to give Pryor the unsportsmanlike award?

Purportedly, Pryor sold his items because he was trying to help out his family. That is a perfectly fine sentiment and very admirable that he was thinking about his family instead of himself. However, his attempt to help his family was a direct violation of NCAA rules and therefore warrants reprimand.

As part of the punishment for the rules violations, not only do the players have to repay the benefits they received but they also must sit out five games, including the 2011 Sugar Bowl and the first four to kick off next season.

My apologies, that is the punishment that the NCAA should have shelled out, but failed to. Instead, the players will be suspended five games starting next season.

Some people contend that the punishment of a five game suspension is to severe for what the crime was. While that argument does have some merit, it avoids the fact that immediate punishment in the means of suspension for the bowl game should have been issued. 

Letting the players participate in one more game before serving their actual penalty six months later is akin to allowing a convicted criminal to roam the streets another six months (perhaps committing more crimes) before serving a jail sentence. Yes, the criminal is more dangerous and committed a more serious offense than these players did, but the delay of punishment and is the same.

According to Tim May of the Columbus Dispatch, the NCAA "has special dispensation for situations like this, what they call 'special games' like championships to not tip the competitive balance one way or the other."

Is anyone else appalled by this? Allowing the players to play one more game this year, with the knowledge of their violations, is disturbing to say the least. Moreover, the players have the opportunity to turn pro next year, meaning the only 'penalty' they could render from the ordeal is repayment of the benefits to a charity. 

Athletics Director Gene Smith called the penalties "harsh" but he is sorely mistaken. Hardly harsh is more like it.

Head Coach Jim Tressel added, "hopefully we'll do the right thing" with regards to the internal punishment to the players. It would be more appropriate to say "we'll do the right thing" but you have to start somewhere, right? If only we could all say, "I hope I'll follow through on what's right, but we'll have to see."

Tressel must have been too focused on his coaching class at Ohio State instead of concentrating on the personal development of his young players into responsible adults. As the head football coach, it is his job, along with the athletics department, to instruct his players on the can and cannot-dos of being a college athlete.  Moreover, it was his duty to provide his student athletes with "adequate rules education."

Compliance might be a thumbprint on Ohio State's athletics website, but it is something that must be lived and breathed by every collegiate institution. Claiming ignorance surely must feel like bliss in this instance. 

The lack of accountability shown by Ohio State is not the biggest issue at stake here, however. As the sole overseer of collegiate athletics it is the NCAA's duty to discipline in an appropriate manner when dealing with rules violations. Sadly, the NCAA's muscles were flimsy at best in the case of its ruling against the offending Ohio State players.

Members of the media on ESPN college football live hypothesized today that if players were paid, this type of behavior might be avoided in the first place.

Do you buy that argument?

Think about it. College athletes on scholarship get a full ride to their program of choice. Room and board, meals, tutoring, gear, and most importantly their education is 100% free. How much more payment should players receive?

After all, they are student-athletes, not athlete-students. There is a reason that 'student' proceeds athletes.

Regardless of the punishment that should or should not be enforced to the Ohio State players the Sugar Bowl on January 4 will still go on as planned. Thousands of adoring fans will embark on New Orleans in support of their respective programs. Ohio State will play Arkansas and people will still watch.

This college sports fan, however, will abstain from supporting the Sugar Bowl in any way, shape, or form this year.

I urge you to join me in boycotting the Sugar Bowl this year in a show of disagreement with the allowance of Ohio State's players to participate in the game.

Who's with me?


Anonymous said...

Are you serious? The idea that players cannot sell their own possessions is absolutely crazy! Please, I am begging you, tell me one good reason for this rule?!

Brian said...

While the rule may be ridiculous... it is a rule, it was violated, and therefore is subject to punishment.

Justin Cates said...

The bowl rings and player awards belong to them in the same way that the hundreds of dollars of gifts received for playing in a bowl game do, tenuously.

Players sell gifts and exchange benefits like it's no big deal. The NCAA is wrong a lot of the time, but in this case they need to set some clear precedent.


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