In the days since a quintet of Ohio State Buckeyes were suspended for the first five games of 2011 but not this year’s bowl game, the widely-held belief was that forces greater than the NCAA led to this head-scratching decision.
It’s been assumed Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany was one of those forces. Now, it’s been confirmed the bowl itself flexed its considerable muscle to ensure Terrelle Pryor & Company were available for the date with Arkansas.
And, perhaps most amazingly — or disgustingly, depending on your perspective — they’re damn proud of what they’ve accomplished and not ashamed to woof about it publicly.
Speaking to Ken Gordon of the Columbus Dispatch, Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan showed no shame in stating that it was made perfectly clear to the powers that be that it was imperative the Ohio State-Arkansas game go off with both teams at full strength.
“I made the point that anything that could be done to preserve the integrity of this year’s game, we would greatly appreciate it,” Hoolahan said. “That appeal did not fall on deaf ears, and I’m extremely excited about it, that the Buckeyes are coming in at full strength and with no dilution.”
Hoolahan also addressed those who felt the five should’ve started their suspensions immediately, and came out with the understatement of the year.
“I appreciate and fully understand the Midwestern values and ethics behind that. But I’m probably thinking of this from a selfish perspective.”
Forget how you feel about whether the players should’ve been suspended for selling something that was technically there’s to begin with; this situation, with a bowl leaning on the NCAA and impacting the eligibility of student-athletes, reeks something awful. And it’s most certainly not the players who need to offer up apologies for the smell.
One of the major arguments Delany, the bowls and their ilk make against a playoff is that it puts the sport on a slippery slope toward professionalism. Yeah, this current Cosa Nostra style of governance is much, much more in line with the ideals of institutions of higher learning.
With each passing day, a little piece of the NCAA’s manhood is chipped away and placed squarely into the fists of the Delanys and Slives of the college football world. And, more so than ever, it’s pointing toward Div. 1-A football — at least the BcS big boys — eventually making a break from the NCAA. Or the NCAA kicking the sport at that level to the curb.