The pending suspensions of five Ohio State players for selling some of their memorabilia (including Big Ten championship rings and their Gold Pants for beating Michigan) are upsetting to many of the Buckeye faithful, myself included. I’m conflicted about the suspensions, so let’s start with the part of this that gets me angry with Ohio State and its players.
Buckeyes: DON’T SELL YOUR MEMORABILIA. Really, you need extra money that badly? What does it help you to buy those Armani sunglasses or that huge watch? You’re already treated like gods around campus, even if you’re the third-string long-snapper. That Terrelle Pryor and Devier Posey would feel the need to attain MORE social status around campus is just borderline stupid. Furthermore, I don’t care if you sell your Big Ten championship rings or your bowl game MVP awards (PRYOR), but selling the Gold Pants?! Is nothing sacred? Big Ten titles come and go, but beating Michigan is forever.
But I’m honestly more upset with the NCAA for making it illegal for these athletes to sell their own things. In the case of AJ Green at Georgia, I could kind of understand the NCAA’s position: the jersey belonged to the university, and so was not Green’s to profit from. Fine. But in the case of the items given for championships, these Buckeyes owned the merchandise outright. It was theirs! I get that the fact that it was theirs inflates the price and confers a different benefit from that which a normal student might have. But that’s the real world, and that’s a fary cry from the NCAA (and its member schools) being able to profit from the prowess of these athletes while giving them pennies on the dollar.
As with the Tom Izzo suspension (well-analyzed by Jay Bilas of ESPN), the NCAA has laid down a black-and-white rules interpretation in a case that is anything but. The players sold their own possessions. The fact that this is a violation under NCAA rules is regrettable. The reality is, though, that it’s another opportunity for the NCAA to flex its muscles and remind players (and schools) who really wields the power in the whole arrangement. The NCAA has little (if any) incentive to actually take the time to consider any case on its merits; rather, it’s cheaper, more efficient and just easier to rubber-stamp the whole mess.
This is to say nothing of the tattoo case surrounding Ohio State, which probably IS a clear-cut violation of NCAA improper benefits rules. For those players: you’re stupid for knowingly breaking a rule. That’s just dumb and selfish.
A final note: this probably comes across as being homer-ish. Not so. While it does upset me that Buckeyes are involved, the NCAA’s amateurism rules are more of a concern for me, and their punishments in the Green and Izzo cases (as well as the Jeremy Bloom affair a few years back) struck me as similarly peculiar.