CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Feigned ignorance equals bliss, full bowl roster for Ohio State

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The stereotype of the big, dumb jock is not dead. The NCAA is telling us this loudly and boldly.

From the organization that gave us Cam Didn't Know comes Five Football Student-Athletes From Ohio State Who Didn't Know.

Terrelle Pryor and his partners in crime could take off for the NFL after playing in the Sugar Bowl. (Getty Images)  
Terrelle Pryor and his partners in crime could take off for the NFL after playing in the Sugar Bowl. (Getty Images)  
Incredibly, that was the NCAA's explanation for not suspending for the Sugar Bowl five Buckeyes who sold their souls -- or came darn close. They didn't know it was wrong to sell their jerseys, trophies and keepsakes. As it stands, the five players will miss the first five games of the 2011 season for selling awards, gifts and uniform gear and getting various extra benefits. A sixth must sit out the first game of 2011 for lesser violations.

The question is why the five are allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl. All of them are juniors who could conceivably declare for the draft after the Jan. 4 game.

Then what exact punishment would the Buckeye Five be getting?

Exactly.

Part of the reason the players are allowed to participate in the bowl game is that the NCAA said they "did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred." Really? Isn't that why you penalize Ohio State to the fullest extent of the law? The school has one of the largest compliance departments in the country -- seven people. For good reason. This is a school that reported 375 violations to the NCAA from 2000-2009, the most in the country according to the 69 schools that responded to the a request by the Columbus Dispatch for such information. This is the school that went through the Maurice Clarett debacle, which almost brought the football program to its knees.

Six years ago, quarterback Troy Smith was suspended for two games (including a bowl game) for accepting $500 from a booster. This is the school whose faculty apparently sent a note to then-president William Kirwin protesting former linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer's questionable academic profile.

"The academic record of the University has become a joke," according to correspondence obtained by Sports Illustrated in 1999.

So no, lax rules education or lack of rules knowledge is not -- cannot be -- an excuse. Not at Ohio State. These players were hardcore pawn stars. It is a load of crap that players didn't know selling jerseys and championship rings was against NCAA law. I don't believe it. You shouldn't either. Somewhere Cam Newton is smiling. No, laughing his ass off. It's the NCAA's play-dumb defense that has legions of critics furious that something didn't happen in the Cecil Newton case.

The default setting now on two of the highest-profile cases of the past decade -- all within the past two months -- is, The kid(s) didn't know.

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Thursday's developments weren't just about accepting discounted tattoos. This was selling some of the most revered hardware in the Big Ten. Buckeyes Mike Adams, Dan Herron, Devier Posey, Terrelle Pryor and Solomon Thomas sold, in some combination, Big Ten championship rings, a Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award, a football jersey and the crown jewel of Ohio State football -- their Gold Pants.

Asked after the Iowa win in November whether it was more important to beat Michigan the next week or win the Big Ten, tight end Jake Stoneburner said, "Getting the Gold Pants for sure."

Every Ohio State player and coach who beats Michigan gets a miniature charm of gold pants inscribed with his initials and the score. The tradition is considered so sacred at Ohio State that center Mike Brewster didn't even think of giving his latest version of the Gold Pants to a girlfriend. Instead, the junior gave his to his mother.

"I can't explain the feeling, getting those pants," Brewster told me after the Iowa game. "Today doesn't matter anymore."

In other words, the Buckeye Five were A.J. Green times, well, five.

How do you not know that selling your jersey, pants and shoes ($1,000, Herron) is a violation? What dumb pills did Pryor take when he sold his Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award, Big Ten title ring and his Gold Pants ($2,500)? Pryor's "legacy", whatever it was or is, is now permanently tarnished by selling the charm that thousands of Ohio high schoolers would give their left arm to possess.

Didn't know? Didn't have proper rules education? Merry Christmas, Ohio State. You had the biggest Santa in the biz in your corner. Of course, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany got involved, supposedly working the NCAA. Ohio State's BCS bowl wasn't going to be taken away but the embarrassment factor is high as it is. The Buckeyes are 0-9 against the SEC in bowls.

AD Gene Smith tried to explain that these are "very tough times" and the players were only trying to help their families. If a tanking economy is a mitigating factor in NCAA penalties, SMU never should have gotten the death penalty. The country was just coming out of a recession in the early 1980s when the NCAA first started tracking those illicit payments. Also, Cecil Newton just found an excuse. A plunging Dow makes selling a jersey and a six-figure solicitation OK.

This is selling your bling for cash, plain and simple, more than a combined $10,000 worth. I don't know about you but, like a lot college students, I went through a lot of financial hardships while in school. I would have to be shriveled up in a ball on the sidewalk before selling my conference championship ring or trophies. Guess winning six Big Ten titles in a row gets old, so old that even the commemorative jewelry becomes a revenue stream.

Wonder what Florida State is thinking? Three years ago, approximately 20 players were suspended for the Music City Bowl in the midst of a cheating scandal that cost Bobby Bowden some of his dignity, a bunch of wins and ultimately his job. How was FSU's rules education back then? Hell, how was the economy? Did those players not know academic fraud was wrong?

Best to plead ignorance these days. Ask Cam. Ask the NCAA. It worked for Ohio State, the jewel of the Leaders Division.

Yeah, that sounds ridiculous, too.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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