In trying to explain why Ohio State didn't self-impose a bowl ban for this season, athletic director Gene Smith told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, "I know that Buckeye Nation is all about next year."
Smith is right. But Ohio State's outlook for next year isn't quite as bright as it was a few hours ago.
The NCAA's infractions committee on Tuesday handed down a 1-year postseason ban for Ohio State that goes into effect for the 2012 season. It means the Buckeyes won't play in the postseason for the first time since 1999. It also means the Buckeyes won't play in the 2012 Big Ten championship game, even if they have the best team in the Leaders division.
I saw Ohio State as the Leaders division favorite heading into 2012. Wisconsin now becomes the clear-cut frontrunner to repeat as division champ.
The ban is a tough blow, at least in the short term, for Ohio State and new coach Urban Meyer who, like many in Columbus, didn't see it coming. Meyer had been telling recruits that he didn't expect a bowl ban or much more severe penalties than the ones Ohio State had self-imposed. Ohio State also will lose three scholarships in each of the next three years -- four more than what the team had self-imposed.
It doesn't appear that the bowl ban will severely hurt Ohio State's recruiting, which has surged since the school named Meyer its coach late last month. The father of Meyer's biggest recruiting prize, ESPNU 150 defensive lineman Noah Spence, told colleague Jared Shanker that his son remains firmly committed to the Buckeyes.
"Noah's still committed and coach Urban Meyer is like family to us," said Greg Spence, Noah's father. "Noah told me he's not committed to Ohio State for four years but committed to them for life. He feels great about his decision. I don't think anyone thought a bowl game would be taken away but always knew it was a possibility. It could have been worse. At this point I spoke with my son and he stands by his commitment."
Another recruit, tight end Luke Roberts, told Shanker that while he's "disappointed" by the NCAA's ruling, he still plans to enroll early at Ohio State.
Though Ohio State is clearly disappointed with the bowl ban, it is only one year and won’t hold its recruiting efforts back much. Meyer's first full class will be next year's 2013 class, and by then, the Buckeyes will have already served their bowl ban. Meyer will able to recruit freely without recruits asking questions about penalties.
The biggest blow to Ohio State's recruiting efforts is the loss of nine scholarships over Meyer's first three full recruiting classes. The Buckeyes will have to sit at 82 scholarships instead of 85, and those are tough losses as Meyer attempts to bring in players who fit his offensive and defensive philosophies and schemes. And with the Big Ten's strict rules on oversigning, there is little wiggle room to work around those reductions.
Meyer and his staff will have to be prudent with their scholarship offers. But Meyer's star power on the recruiting trail coupled with the fact that the ban is only one year shouldn't dissuade too many recruits. A two-year ban would have been much more damaging.
The ban could impact whether some players return for their final seasons at Ohio State. But other than defensive lineman John Simon and perhaps tight end Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State lacks many juniors who will consider making the jump to the NFL. Both Simon and Stoneburner love Ohio State, but you couldn't blame them for leaving.
Bottom line: The ban shouldn't impact the roster much more than a normal coaching change does.
Ohio State certainly could have benefited from bowl practices next winter, especially since many view 2013 as a potential breakout season for the Buckeyes under Meyer. The ban also will test Ohio State players if the team struggles early, although there's always the incentive to beat archrival Michigan in late November.
It will be interesting to see if the situation impacts other members of the athletic department, including Smith. President E. Gordon Gee has publicly supported Smith, but the AD has been criticized for his handling of the case.
In the short-term, the ban stings a bit, but the long-term effects appear minimal.
The penalties could have been worse, and Ohio State still has some momentum with the Meyer hire.