OSU AD won't play 'what-if' game

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A year later, with an undefeated team that might have been in position for a shot at a national championship, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith isn't going to deal with hypotheticals or hindsight to question a decision made in the middle of an NCAA investigation.

Whether or not a self-imposed bowl ban might have allowed the Buckeyes to escape additional sanctions and be eligible to compete for conference and national titles in 2012 has become a much more pressing argument with each passing win under new coach Urban Meyer. But Smith isn't going to be part of that discussion or do any second-guessing about the choices that were made in the fallout of the tattoo scandal that produced the penalties that will leave the Buckeyes with nothing else to play for after Saturday's season-ending showdown with rival Michigan.

"The decisions that we made relative to our NCAA case we made to the best of our abilities with the information in front of us," Smith said during a news conference Monday. "I am not into speculative positioning in life, I'm just not one of those guys relative to those kind of what-if scenarios.

"I could sit here and give you a million other what-ifs had we taken that (self-imposed bowl ban). I'm not going there."

The Buckeyes won't be going anywhere in the postseason either, despite an impressive 11-game winning streak to start Meyer's tenure that has sparked a Heisman Trophy campaign for quarterback Braxton Miller, clinched a division title that will be recognized by the Big Ten and produced a No. 4 ranking in The Associated Press poll.

Picking up some additional AP votes in hopes of a split national title will be all that's on the line Saturday, aside from the always important bragging rights against the Wolverines. For the handful of seniors that met with the media ahead of their last game in the program, that seemed to be good enough for them. But they also acknowledged the surprise and disappointment that came from the ruling the NCAA handed down last December that barred them from the postseason, particularly because they apparently didn't see it coming.

"When we heard, it was just kind of like shock," linebacker Zach Boren said. "We didn't know what to expect, and we were kind of told that we weren't going to get a bowl ban. We were kind of told that everything was going to be all right and we had heard from people who had done the investigation and stuff that we were going to be all right and what we already imposed was going to be more than enough.

"It was just kind of a shocking type thing."

There's no certainty the Buckeyes could have avoided that jar to their systems by foregoing a postseason appearance that ultimately wound up being a trip to the Gator Bowl, a game they would drop to Florida to cap a rare losing season.

The NCAA still could have imposed an additional one-year ban on top of a self-imposed sanction, and with no real way to know the outcome, Smith isn't wasting much time worrying about what might have been.

"I'll let you take that speculation," Smith said. "You guys go run with it; have fun.

"I'm worried about making sure we position our football staff, our student-athletes, everything we can to have the opportunity to beat That Team Up North (Michigan), that's my mission right now. I apologize if that sounds insensitive, but that's the reality of what we have to do today -- what's in front of us, not what's behind us."

Smith also touched on the expansion seen in the Big Ten on Monday, welcoming Maryland to the conference.

"I think you can't skirt the fact that financially it assists us as we move forward toward our television agreement that expires in 2017," he said. "There's no doubt about that. Secondly, we pick up the East Coast ... so there is some opportunity there that we need to explore, and we shouldn't skirt the fact that some of it is financial. We're certainly, I think, going to gain in some form or fashion."