The NCAA today stunned Ohio State University’s football program by banning it from postseason play after the 2012 season, multiple sources told The Dispatch.
The penalty means Ohio State automatically is out of the running for any bowl, or a Big Ten or national championship next year, just as newly appointed head coach Urban Meyer is wooing recruits to the Buckeyes.
Athletic Director Gene Smith said previously that while Ohio State has been declared a repeat violator that failed to properly monitor its football program, a bowl ban would be out of line with penalties handed to universities with similar violations.
In its ruling to be made public this afternoon, the NCAA Committee of Infractions will levy the bowl ban and two other penalties on top of the ones the university already imposed on itself, the sources said. The NCAA will:
* Strip four more football scholarships over the next three years on top of Ohio State’s prior forfeiture of five scholarships over that span.
* Add an additional year of probation to OSU’s self-imposed two-year probation for the football program, meaning any violations through the 2013 season could draw harsher-than-normal penalties.
The NCAA also will hand a show-cause penalty to former head coach Jim Tressel for failing to report that some team members improperly sold memorabilia and for allowing ineligible players to compete throughout the 2010 season.
Coach Luke Fickell commented this afternoon on the possibility of a postseason ban.
“To me it’s just another thing, it’s just another hurdle,” Fickell said. “If it happens you have to get over it. What are you going to do, cry and whine about it? We can’t do that.
“We said that all year, in all the situations we’ve been put in. Our guys have been through it. They’ve been battle-tested. You’re not going to see us complain and whine about it, we’re going to continue to move forward. I think you do that from the top down, and I think when you do that from the top, everybody follows.”
The show-cause penalty against Tressel signifies he is a serious offender and means that any NCAA school that hires him could be subject to sanctions for appointing him as football coach absent a showing it should escape penalties.
Meyer took the job as Ohio State’s 24th head coach on Nov. 28, and did so, he said, with his eyes open about what could come from the NCAA, but feeling good about the prospects.
“I just did a lot of research” before he took the job, Meyer said on Monday. “I contacted people outside of Ohio State before I accepted the position, some trusted people I have within the NCAA and other people that dealt directly with the NCAA.”
He has been asked about possible penalties as he has recruited prospects and their families, Meyer said.
The coach said he has told them there were no promises about the NCAA case, “but that there has been extremely positive feedback, and that we’re going to find out soon,” Meyer said.
The NCAA levied its second-most-severe charge — failure to monitor — on Nov. 3, finding that Ohio State failed to keep an eye on a booster who gave players cash for a charity appearance and overpaid others for part-time work.
In hopes of appeasing the NCAA and warding off tougher sanctions, Ohio State offered up punishments that included the loss of five football scholarships over three years. The NCAA tacked on the loss of four more scholarships today.
The university could choose how many of those scholarships won’t be handed out in any of the three years.
The university also previously placed itself on probation for two years; vacated the 2010 season, including the Big Ten and Sugar Bowl titles; and forfeited its $338,811 share of Sugar Bowl proceeds.
The NCAA ruling follows a season in which Tressel was forced out, former quarterback Terrelle Pryor departed for the pros rather than face ongoing NCAA questions, and starters such as running back Daniel “Boom” Herron and receiver DeVier Posey missed chunks of the season to suspensions.
The scandals that led to Ohio State’s downfall on and off the field arose months apart, fueling a pending move to create a centralized compliance office in which athletic overseers no longer will report to athletic director Gene Smith.
In a series of emails beginning April 2, 2010, Tressel learned from Columbus lawyer Chris Cicero, a former walk-on player for the Buckeyes, that Pryor and other players had sold gear, memorabilia awards to a tattoo-parlor owner.
Rather than report the players’ receipt of improper benefits, Tressel vaguely warned his players to watch their conduct and kept his silence. He later said he did not come forward because he feared for his players’ safety and did not want to compromise an FBI investigation of drug dealing by the now-convicted Edward Rife.
On Dec. 7, 2010, the U.S. attorney’s office informed OSU that memorabilia from football players, including Big Ten championship rings, had been seized during its investigation of Rife. Tressel still did not reveal what he knew.
OSU suspended Pryor, Herron, Posey and two other players for the first five games of the 2011 season, but they were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl.
On Jan. 13, OSU officials uncovered Tressel’s email exchanges with Cicero, prompting the Ohio State and NCAA investigation of the memorabilia sales and Tressel’s history of untruthfulness.
On March 8, Ohio State announced that Tressel would be suspended for the first two games of the 2011 season and fined $250,000 for violating NCAA rules.
President E. Gordon Gee and Smith stood behind Tressel, saying neither they nor other OSU officials were aware of the player memorabilia sales, a stance with which the NCAA agreed.
At a news conference, Gee was asked if he had considered firing Tressel. “Are you kidding? I’m just hopeful the coach doesn’t dismiss me,” Gee quipped, a line for which he later apologized.
Tressel’s suspension was later extended to the first five games of the season to match that of his players.
On May 29, with Ohio State’s reputation taking a national beating, Smith met with Tressel and asked him to resign. Tressel did so the next day and Luke Fickell was named interim coach.
Ohio State had its hearing before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions on Aug. 12 in Indianapolis amid indications that more revelations could be forthcoming.
Just before the season opener against Akron, the NCAA suspended running back Jordan Hall and cornerbacks Travis Howard and Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown for accepting $200 in cash at a Cleveland-area charity event from OSU booster Bobby DiGeronimo.
Later, the NCAA extended the suspensions of Herron for one game and Posey for five games after it ruled they were among five players who were overpaid or paid for hours not worked while employed part-time by DiGeronimo’s company.
The players’ dealings with DiGeronimo prompted the failure-to-monitor charge from the NCAA and led Gee to admonish Smith for failing to keep tabs on DiGeronimo despite longtime concerns over his dealings with players. Gee, however, remains a firm supporter of Smith.
DiGeronimo accused Ohio State of attempting to deflect blame off the school and onto him, saying Smith and Tressel were lying about their dealings with him. DiGeronimo has been disassociated from OSU athletics.
The Buckeyes finished their season with a 6-6 record. Fickell will coach the team as it faces Florida, Meyers’ former team, in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., on Jan. 2.
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