Friday, December 31, 2010

Tressel's big gamble

Let's see if I've got this straight. The NCAA suspends five Ohio State football players, including four high-profile starters, for doing something against NCAA rules and suspends them for the first five games next season. But it rules all of them can play against Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl game next week.

Raises the antennae of suspicion more than just a little bit. But OK, the NCAA is the NCAA and no one can quite figure out how and why the so-called august ruling body of collegiate athletics makes some of its bizarre decisions. Just another head-scratching verdict by the NCAA.

Then came a report that the executive director of the Sugar Bowl, after discovering such OSU stars as Terrelle Pryor, Devier Posey, Dan Herron and Mike Adams were among the guilty parties, lobbied long and hard (i.e. begged) the NCAA (presumably) to wait until next season to begin the suspensions. Without Pryor, Posey and Herron, the OSU offense is, well, exceedingly mediocre. And that's being kind.

OK, said the NCAA. We understand the OSU-Arkansas game won't be nearly as competitive without those players. So why not. Suspensions start next season. Case closed.

And now, Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel reveals he extracted a promise from the guilty parties to return to school next season in exchange for playing in the Sugar Bowl game. If you choose not to return and play next season, you won't suit up against Arkansas. Make your choice. The players took the coach up on his deal and will go against the Razorbacks.

It seems Tressel, normally a straight shooter, has developed a weak spot, all in the name of winning. Of course he wants Pryor at quarterback, Herron running the ball and Posey catching it. Why wouldn't he? They are his three best players on offense. The Buckeyes wouldn't stand much of a chance against Arkansas without them. So he decided to deal.

I might be way off here, but that little arrangement he struck with his star players smacks of either coercion, bribery or extortion. Perhaps all three or a combination thereof. It also smacks of desperation.

So now, Tressel enters the Sugar Bowl game with a full complement of artillery on offense. And he very well might win the game as a result. But what if those players who took the deal decide to renege? What if they see stars and dollar signs circling around them come April when the National Football League college draft takes place?

That's a scenario Tressel is gambling won't eventuate. If it does, however, and Pryor, Posey and Herron (and maybe Adams) bolt for the riches of professional football, the OSU coach will have learned a valuable lesson.

Never trust your players as much as they trust you.

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