What price victory?
In January of 2003 the undefeated number two ranked Ohio State Buckeyes faced the undefeated number one ranked University of Miami Hurricanes in the Fiesta Bowl to decide college football’s national championship. In an epic game which went two overtimes Ohio State won 31-24.
Eight years later the Buckeyes and Hurricanes are linked again not because they are the two best teams in college football, but because they are two of the latest to be touched by scandal.
In December of 2010 it was learned that members of the Ohio St. football team were guilty of accepting illegal gifts from a booster. It was also learned that players had exchanged gifts that they had received for playing in return for services they could not pay for. Some players had also sold gifts and memorabilia received from winning Big Ten championships and bowl games.
Ohio St.was scheduled to play Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl when the allegations first surfaced. The National Collegiate Athletic Association came down with a ruling that since Ohio St. had cooperated with authorities the players who broke rules would be allowed to play in the bowl game, but suspended for the first four games of the 2011 season if they had any eligibility left.
Buckeye head coach Jim Tressel fearing that he may lose those players who were eligible for the National Football League draft, including his quarterback Terell Pryor, made those who were guilty sign an agreement that they would return for the 2011 season. If they did not then they would not be allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl. Ohio St. played Arkansasat full strength and won 31-26 and the only thing left was for the NCAA to rule on the school’s punishment.
Then it was revealed that Tressel, who said he did not know anything until after the 2010 season, knew before the season started what his players had done. He did not report it to the NCAA. Since the truth was that the players who had broken NCAA rules did it before the season started all of them were no longer amateurs and should have been ruled ineligible. They were not and Tressel played them the entire year. Ohio St.went 11-1 and won the Big Ten title.
Once it was learned that Tressel knew what was going on the situation changed. Now, not only were the players in trouble for breaking NCAA rules, but Tressel for not reporting them. With rumors and allegations swirling Tressel was suspended for the first two games of the 2011 season. He decided to give himself a self-imposed suspension of five games. After a Sports Illustrated article came out in June which accused Ohio St. of other transgressions Tressel resigned. Pryor decided that since Tressel was no longer the coach he would leave school and apply for the supplemental NFL draft.
The Buckeyes were forced to forfeit the entire 2010 season, the Big Ten title and their Sugar Bowl victory.
Just as they had tried to do in 2003, Miami went after topping Ohio St.and this time may have succeeded. This week a Hurricane booster named Nevin Shapiro told Yahoo! Sports that he provided impermissible gifts to players. Shapiro, a convicted felon, says that he provided benefits to 72 football and basketball players from 2002 to 2010. Some of the names mentioned were football players Jonathan Vilma, Willis McGahee, Sean Taylor, Devin Hester and Antrelle Rolle.
In over 100 hours of interviews Shapiro says that he gave the players money, gifts, lodging, jewelry and paid for prostitutes. Some of the money was given out as part of bounties for on field play. These are just a few of the things Shapiro says he provided players.
Shapiro said that seven coaches knew what was going on including head basketball coach Mike Haith. Eight former Miami players and recruits have admitted to receiving benefits from Shapiro. Former Hurricanes wide receiver Tyrone Moss who was recruited to play for the team in 2003 says that he was offered gifts and so were several members of his recruiting class.
The NCAA has been looking into these allegations for the past five months. So far no penalties have been handed down and all players who are on the current team are deemed eligible. Head football coach Al Golden says that as long as no one has been implicated everyone will remain on the team.
Miami served three years probation for breaking NCAA rules from 1996 to 1998. If the current allegations prove to be true the school’s football program may receive the death penalty in which the entire program is shut down for a period of time. If they do it could be the end of Miamifootball. The only college football program to be given the death penalty is Southern Methodist University in 1987. Football was banned for one year at the school and returned in 1989. The penalty impacts the Mustangs program to this day. It has been considered so harsh that the NCAA has not given another member school’s football program the death penalty since.
This is the state of the Ohio St.and Miami programs eight years after that epic championship game.
Both are paying the price for transgressions which may have gotten them to where they were that night.
What price victory indeed.