Finishing lunch, during which I watched the press conference with Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and head football coach Jim Tressel. Five Ohio State players have been suspended from playing the first five games of next season by the NCAA. Smith indicated that Ohio State will appeal the penalties. (Another player has been suspended for one game of the 2011 season.)
As an Ohio State alum and fan, I hope that Smith will reconsider that move. The rules are clear: Players are not to exchange goods of any kind, including awards for athletic achievement, team garb, or signed memorabilia, for goods, services, or money. They're to be amateur athletes until, if they're good enough, the NFL drafts them or they're signed to play professional football elsewhere.
The suspensions meted out by the NCAA are light penalties, considering that such egregious violations could be seen as warranting revocations of the players' athletic scholarships.
One of the notions I've nurtured is that, with his emphasis on character development in his players, Jim Tressel is unique among big-time college coaches. I still think that's true, although like the rest of we members of the human race, he isn't perfect. And he certainly can't be expected to know what happens every moment of every day in the lives of his players.
But an appeal of the charitable penalties meted out by the NCAA runs counter to the tone I think Tressel has always worked to foster in the Buckeye football program.
I hope that Ohio State will refuse to compound the sadness of this day by appealing. I would expect such a move by USC, Auburn, and other schools, but not by Ohio State.
Having said all of that, I hope that these players will learn a lesson and be stronger, better people for the experience. (That's my daily project as I cope with the realities of my own sins and deficiencies. God help us all! And I mean that literally.)