The NCAA says former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel engaged in unethical… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
A yearlong investigation into Ohio State's football program ended Tuesday when the NCAA's Committee on Infractions handed down sanctions that include a one-year bowl ban and the loss of nine scholarships over the next three years.
Ohio State was cited for failure to monitor, which is not as serious as lack of institutional control, the finding that doomed USC in 2010 after a five-year investigation centered on former tailback Reggie Bush and former basketball player O.J. Mayo.
The penalties against Ohio State came after a controversial 12 months. The NCAA allowed quarterback Terrelle Pryor and other players to participate in the Buckeyes' 2011 Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas after initial allegations surfaced about their receiving improper benefits. Pryor ultimately left Ohio State and was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the NFL's supplemental draft, but he was forced to serve a suspension related to his time with the Buckeyes.
Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith had been publicly confident that the Buckeyes would not be hit with a bowl ban. The school had proposed a reduction of five scholarships.
"We are surprised and disappointed with the NCAA's decision," Smith said Tuesday in a statement. "However, we have decided not to appeal the decision because we need to move forward as an institution."
Among the violations, the NCAA found that eight players received more than $14,000 in cash payments or preferential treatment from the owner of a Columbus, Ohio, tattoo parlor. In addition to free or discounted tattoos and cash for memorabilia, one player also received a loan and a discount on a car, the committee said.
The NCAA also found that former coach Jim Tressel engaged in unethical conduct by concealing the violations when he was notified of the situation. Tressel, now a game-day consultant for the Indianapolis Colts after resigning under pressure at Ohio State last May, was issued a five-year "show-cause" order. If Tressel were to be hired by an NCAA-member institution during that period, a school would have to demonstrate why it needed to employ him. The school also would risk penalties if Tressel committed infractions.
Urban Meyer, who won two national titles at Florida, is the new coach at Ohio State, replacing interim coach Luke Fickell.
The NCAA's decision came 18 months after USC was hammered with a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 30 scholarships over three years, largely for the actions of Bush.
USC appealed the sanctions but the penalties were upheld by the NCAA.
Pac-12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott has said that he would closely monitor NCAA rulings in the aftermath of USC's punishment.
On Tuesday, he said in a statement that it would "not be appropriate" to comment directly on the Ohio State ruling.
"I will say that I remain concerned that a consistent standard be adhered to when applying sanctions in these cases," Scott said. "I have always stated the importance of transparency in this process and in this regard, I am encouraged that the NCAA is reviewing its enforcement and penalty process as part of Mark Emmert's presidential reform effort."
USC Athletic Director Pat Haden, who succeeded Mike Garrett shortly after USC's sanctions came down, declined to address the NCAA's decision regarding Ohio State.
"My job is to worry about USC," he said. "We had two hearings with the NCAA, we put our best foot forward and we lost both our rounds.
"We're living with the penalties, we're moving forward and celebrating a 10-2 season."
However, USC players who were denied the opportunity to play in bowl games the last two seasons were not as diplomatic.
"Congratulations to them — they escaped," former receiver Brandon Carswell said. "That is crazy. I wouldn't expect anything to be on the level we had because everybody seems to be going after USC.
"With all that happened [at Ohio State], given the evidence they had, I'm not really too shocked. They weren't going to punish them as hard as us."
Former tailback Marc Tyler concurred.
"It's lenient treatment," he said. "They should have got as bad as we got."