Andy Gottesman / Lantern photographer
To say that Ohio State has changed significantly since Dec. 28, 2010, is an understatement.
On that day, five OSU football players — Terrelle Pryor, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, Dan Herron and Solomon Thomas — apologized for selling Buckeye football memorabilia in exchange for improper benefits in the form of tattoos.
After eight months and numerous NCAA violation revelations, former coach Jim Tressel, Pryor, the 2010 season and a BCS bowl game victory no longer exist in Columbus. It goes without saying that considerable damage may have been done to the reputations of both the football program and the university during this time, as well.
OSU officials are now set to meet with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions on Friday in Indianapolis. They will then await a final ruling to see what further repercussions may come with the NCAA’s decision.
Here’s an overview of Friday’s proceedings, the people involved and what is at stake for OSU.
Who is attending Friday’s meeting in Indianapolis with the NCAA?
The list of OSU staff members traveling to Indianapolis for the Friday meeting with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions reads like a laundry list of past and present campus celebrities.
President E. Gordon Gee, athletic director Gene Smith, director of compliance Doug Archie and coach Luke Fickell will lead a contingent of seven OSU staffers to Indianapolis.
OSU spokesman Jim Lynch confirmed that Tressel is expected to attend Friday’s meeting. Lynch said that Tressel, who is not required to attend the meeting, will be accompanied by attorney Gene Marsh.
Rounding out the list of current OSU staffers that will be on-hand Friday are faculty athletics representative and psychology professor, Dr. John Bruno, along with Chris Culley and Julie Vanatta from the university’s Office of Legal Affairs counsel.
How will the NCAA respond?
There’s a chance that the Committee on Infractions could choose to accept OSU’s self-imposed penalties, which include vacating the 2010 season and a two-year NCAA probationary term.
They could also choose to administer harsher penalties, like a postseason ban or loss of scholarships.
In an article published by The Lantern on April 25, Mark Neyland, who served on the NCAA Enforcement staff for three years, speculated that a postseason ban could be in the future for the Buckeyes.
At that time, Neyland said that postseason bans are reserved for the most egregious NCAA violations.
Since Neyland’s April conversation with The Lantern, Tressel was forced to resign as a result of knowingly playing ineligible players.
Sadly for Buckeye Nation, it probably doesn’t get more egregious than that.
When will the NCAA make its ruling?
OSU’s meeting with the NCAA takes place on Friday, but don’t expect an immediate ruling.
In a Monday phone call to The Lantern, Lynch said there is no timeline for the NCAA to render a decision and that the Buckeyes could learn their fate in the middle of the upcoming season.
“It is our (the university’s) expectation that it will take the Committee on Infractions 6-8 weeks,” Lynch said in a Wednesday email to The Lantern.
Will possible sanctions hurt Ohio State on the recruiting trail?
With the specter of NCAA sanctions looming over OSU football, the short and realistic answer is “Yes, the Buckeyes could suffer on the recruiting trail.”
But the news of Pickerington, Ohio, native Roger Lewis’ commitment to the Buckeye’s 2012 freshman class, reported by RIVALS.com, seems to suggest otherwise.
Lewis, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior wide receiver from Pickerington Central, is listed as three-star recruit by RIVALS and joins 12 other high school seniors, four of which are four-star recruits, on OSU’s growing list of commits for 2012.
Ohio State football representatives declined to comment on Lewis’ commitment.
Buckeye Nation should be encouraged by this commitment, which comes as the figurative eye of the NCAA sanctions storm approaches Ohio Stadium. Lewis didn’t have to commit to playing his college ball in Columbus, and he certainly didn’t need to do so three days before OSU officials meet with the NCAA Committee on Infractions — but he did.
The task of permanently retaining Lewis’ commitment could be complicated if tougher penalties arrive when NCAA sanctions storm makes landfall.
On July 28 at this year’s Big Ten Media Days, Fickell said he has not seen a large negative impact on recruiting.
“I don’t know that we’ve seen a big backlash of any sorts,” Fickell said. “…It’s bigger than any one person, any one team, any one coach or era. I truly believe that Ohio State will always attract top-notch student-athletes around the country no matter what.”
If Fickell and his coaching staff are making progress on recruiting trail in times like these, there’s reason for optimism.