Three more Ohio State players, including two projected starters, will join the so-called "Tat-5" (now Tat-4) on the sideline Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
Running back Jordan Hall and defensive backs Travis Howard and Corey Brown have been suspended for Saturday's opener against Akron for receiving impermissible benefits at a local charity event they attended earlier this year. The players each received less than $300 in benefits. Ohio State self-reported the violations, and while it has petitioned the NCAA to reinstate the players for the remainder of the season, the school is considering "additional sanctions."
"We take this matter seriously," athletic director Gene Smith said in a prepared statement. “Our commitment to institutional integrity is steadfast, and we must hold everyone associated with our athletics programs accountable for lapses in judgment. We believe in transparency with the NCAA, all regulatory bodies and all of Buckeye Nation."
There are a few ways to look at this. The timing certainly doesn't help, as Ohio State is awaiting a ruling from the NCAA's Committee on Infractions for violations involving former coach Jim Tressel, former quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four current players -- RB Dan Herron, WR DeVier Posey, LT Mike Adams and DL Solomon Thomas -- who are suspended for the first five games.
The NCAA could level additional allegations against Ohio State -- the dreaded second wave that might result in more severe penalties -- or simply rule on what it discussed at an Aug. 12 hearing in Indianapolis. If no additional allegations come down, Ohio State should survive major penalties.
Ohio State's cooperation with the NCAA throughout the Tat-5 case seems to have helped its cause, and these new violations were self-reported by the school. Ohio State wants to convince the NCAA it is monitoring its players as closely as possible.
Still, Smith's claim this past December that memorabilia sales and players receiving benefits aren't a systematic problem seems very tough to believe. This issue goes deeper than the Tat-5.
Thursday's announcement gives the NCAA more incentive to keep studying the Ohio State program. The infraction committee's ruling on Ohio State is expected sometime in the next two months.
As for the on-field effect, Hall's suspension and Jaamal Berry's lingering hamstring injury mean Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith likely will log plenty of carries against Akron. Running back depth remains a strength for the Buckeyes, but things could change if both Hall and Berry miss extended time before Herron returns from his suspension.
Sophomore Dominic Clarke should get the start in place of Howard at cornerback. Ohio State isn't deep at cornerback, as redshirt freshman Bradley Roby will make his first start on the other side Saturday.