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‘I didn’t know’ can’t be a defensive stance

December 27, 2010

It is really obvious the NCAA knows how to make a dollar.

Millions of them, actually.

But, once again, the NCAA makes no sense.

"I didn't know" worked for Cam Newton, but not USC.

Selling a jersey got Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green suspended for four games this season, but got five Ohio State players suspended five games for next season.


Forever ago I saw Steve Martin in concert.

He told the audience to remember two words when you got in trouble - "I forgot."

"Mr. Officer, I forgot speeding was against the law."

"But, sir, I forgot that cheating was against school policy."

That phrase has turned into "I didn't know" this month.

Since Newton didn't know his father was selling his talents to the highest bidder, or to Mississippi State for $180,000, Newton was allowed to stay on the field, win the Heisman Trophy and compete for a national championship in two weeks.

But, that wasn't good enough for USC.

The USC administration told the NCAA they didn't know about all of the transactions that happened with Reggie Bush and his parents.

But, that didn't matter and the Trojans were slapped with a three-year probation penalty.

We learned last week that five Buckeyes - quarterback Terrelle Pryor, offensive tackle Mike Adams, wide receiver DeVier Posey, running back Daniel Herron and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas - were suspended for the first five games next year for what they did last year.

The five allegedly didn't know that it was improper to sell championship rings, game gear and personal awards for cash. They were also found to have received discounted services from a Columbus tattoo parlor

According to the NCAA, the five players didn't know because they "did not receive adequate rules education" from Ohio State.

So, because they "didn't know" the five will be allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4.

Wow, I had no clue that "I didn't know" was a reasonable excuse.

All this does is allow future college athletes to say "I didn't know."

They can all blame their transgressions on their mothers or fathers or sisters or brothers or aunts or uncles or grandmas or grandpa or guardians.

I guess there is no such thing as accountability anymore.

The NCAA is saying that a Jim Tressel-coached team did not properly inform these students about the rules.


Mr. Detail didn't teach those five players about what was right or wrong?


More than 100 other Ohio State players did not sell these things.

Why not?

Look, folks, I also do not want to hear your argument that these kids should be paid.

I don't want to hear that these football players need spending money.

I would say about 98 percent of all college students need spending money.

Most college students are broke.

And, most college students are not getting a college education worth more than $100,000 getting paid for them.

These football players, I would hazard a guess, do not leave school in debt.

They will not exit Ohio State University with a $50,000 debt, or some other large amount like most college students, regardless of the institution.

But, with the five-game penalty to begin next season, I say now that at least four of the guys will not serve any suspension because they will turn pro at the end of the season.

That means, unless Tressel sits them down for the Sugar Bowl, they will have gotten away with breaking the rules and using "I didn't know" as an excuse.

Dear gentlemen, here is how you know if your transgressions of selling something which diehard Buckeyes would never sell - ask the coach.

"Coach Tressel, would it be OK if I sold these things on the street corner. I need some cash?"

That took, what, five seconds to ask.

Wow, I need to take a break. That question took a lot out of me.

This is an "athletes-doing-something-stupid-thing."

I get that some of these players may have come from tough family situations. I also understand these guys may have no appreciation to what the rings and gold pants mean to the Buckeye Nation.

But, that is just an excuse to do something that was not right.

Those guys, being on full scholarship at Ohio State, have far more advantages than most young men and women on that campus and they chose to flush those advantages.

They firmly slapped Ohio State tradition in the kisser and I would venture a guess that most Buckeye fans who bleed scarlet and gray never want to see them in uniform again.

They showed their selfishness.

They showed they didn't care about their teammates.

They showed they should have been suspended but the NCAA didn't have the guts to do so.

Now, it's up to Tressel.

It's time for the coach with standards to not only sit these five players, but to not even allow them to travel.

Send a message.

A loud one.

This tells you all you need to know about these players, especially Pryor.

I have never been a Pryor fan and I am sure that Rich Rodriguez is happy Pryor is not in maize-and-blue.

Pryor may be a good football player, but he is a mediocre quarterback and a terrible leader.

He is an average version of Kordell Stewart.

Since he is involved in this, why would you want him as your quarterback?

Why would you want him leading your team?

Why would you want him as your front man?

Why would you want him representing your school?

Cameron Heyward, Brandon Saine, Dane Sanzenbacher, Justin Boren, Devon Torrence or Jermale Hines, just to name a few, did not do this and they get to play on Jan. 4.

Pryor must repay $2,500 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring, a 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award and his 2008 Gold Pants, a gift from the university for beating Michigan.

Sportsmanship ring.


The bottom line in all of this is that the Buckeyes will have a new look in 2011 and that's not a bad thing.

But, they should also have a new look for the Sugar Bowl.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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