The NCAA just held a conference call with reporters to answer questions about the penalties it handed down to Ohio State. SEC associate commissioner Greg Sankey, a member of the NCAA committee on infractions, handled the questions. Here are some notes from that Q&A session:
Sankey said there were two key factors in the Buckeyes getting a bowl ban: the failure to monitor charge, which was levied after the additional allegations involving booster Robert DiGeronimo came out, and the fact that Ohio State was a repeat violator (DiGeronimo plus the tattoo-for-memorabilia scandal). Sankey also said Ohio State gained a competitive advantage by playing ineligible players during the 2010 season, which resulted in an Allstate Sugar Bowl berth.
The committee had not already made a decision on what to do with Ohio State between the original Aug. 12 hearing in Indianapolis and early November when an additional notice of allegations was sent to the school about the DiGeronimo violations. Sankey said the committee had "some level of deliberations" following the Aug. 12 hearing but that it "stopped rather quickly" when the additional allegations became known. The ultimate decision, he said, was based on the entire set of circumstances in the case.
Would Ohio State have been better off taking a bowl ban this season, when the team finished 6-6? Sankey declined to say whether that would have prevented a 2012 ban.
You can bet USC fans are upset that their program received a harsher penalty (30 scholarships eliminated, two-year bowl ban) than Ohio State. While Sankey didn't talk much specifically about USC, he did mention that Ohio State did not have "a lack of institutional control" charge like the Trojans did. He also said the Buckeyes were cooperative throughout the investigation. (USC appeared more standoffish during its process). Sankey said Ohio State's compliance office "was doing its job. It simply did not have the information it needed" when former coach Jim Tressel lied about knowing details of the tattoo-for-memorabilia incidents. "From an institutional standpoint, the committee found that the university cooperated," Sankey said.
Tressel's five-year show-cause penalty was one of the harshest the NCAA has handed out in recent years. "There's an expectation that head coaches set a tone and conduct themselves in a certain manner," Sankey said. "When a head coach engages in misconduct [of this kind] ... that's considered to be very serious and, frankly, very disappointing."
The committee found Ohio State had a competitive advantage in 2010, yet the NCAA let five suspended players play in the Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas. Does the NCAA regret that decision? "That decision was made almost a year ago by the student-athlete reinstatement subcommittee," Sankey said. "At the time, the committee based the decision on the information in front of it. ... It would be inappropriate to speculate on the outcome of that decision if that information had been known."
Some wondered if the NCAA would try to make an example out of Ohio State, given the reform movement currently underfoot in college athletics and the NCAA's desire to seem tougher in infractions cases. Sankey said that did not happen. "From the committee's perspective, it assessed the penalties related to the fact and circumstances of this case," he said. "The committee did not have a deliberation about [it being a] new day."