The NCAA has reinstated three Ohio State players who were suspended for accepting $200 in cash for attending a charity event earlier this year.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith confirmed the reinstatement to The Associated Press.
Tailback Jordan Hall and cornerback Travis Howard, tabbed as starters for the Buckeyes in the preseason. along with backup safety Corey ”Pittsburgh” Brown, had been suspended two games for violating NCAA rules by taking the improper benefits at an event in suburban Cleveland in February.
The 17th-ranked Buckeyes play at Miami on Saturday.
The three were suspended just two days before the opener against Akron. Last week, interim coach Luke Fickell said they would be permitted to play in Ohio State’s second game against Toledo, but the NCAA on Friday afternoon said it still was looking into the case.
The NCAA confirmed on Monday that it sent questions to Ohio State concerning the three players.
Earlier on Tuesday, Fickell said his team was in limbo when it came to the status of the three players.
”Right now we’re just … waiting. We’re not going to make any jumps to conclusions,” Fickell said. ”We’ll wait and see and hopefully we’ll hear something soon.”
The reinstatement of the three players adds much-needed depth to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is already down three 2010 starters and a backup, alll suspended for the first five games of the season for accepting cash and improper benefits from a local tattoo-parlor owner. That scandal led to Jim Tressel being forced out as head coach on May 30, and to three-year starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor giving up his senior season to jump to the NFL.
Ohio State went before the NCAA’s committee on infractions on Aug. 12 in that case.
On top of the suspensions,several other key Ohio State players are hurting. Wide receiver Corey ”Philly” Brown hurt a leg and was on crutches in the second half of the Toledo game. Defensive end Nathan Williams missed the Toledo game due to knee pain. And Braxton Miller, who is listed as the co-starting quarterback with Joe Bauserman, was ”dinged up” according to Fickell last week and did not practice every day.
That may have been one of the reasons why Miller, who split time in the opening-game rout of Akron, never got on the field against the Rockets.
Bauserman had played very well against Akron but the offense wasn’t nearly as sharp last week. He completed just 16 of 30 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown. But he once again did not have a turnover, a fact that might be enough to keep him in the job for a while.
Some fans at Ohio Stadium booed when he threw a pass or two away to avoid a sack. His teammates look at that as a smart move.
”I think he’s been doing great. He hasn’t thrown any interceptions in two games,” center Mike Brewster said of Bauserman. ”When you can do that in your first two starts, that’s impressive. He’s not trying to force anything, throwing it away when he doesn’t have anything.”
Ohio State’s coaches did not find out Hall, Howard and Brown were originally suspended until 48 hours before the opener. Then they thought they would be able to play them all last week before finding out late on Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours before the Toledo game.
Fickell said the injuries, the suspensions and all the distractions all make it difficult to prepare for Miami (0-1).
”I guess it’s a part of the game,” Fickell said. ”I can’t let that affect us, and we just have to continue to move on and deal with it however it comes. But hopefully we’ll hear something soon and just so that we can most importantly prepare ourselves mentally.”
Smith told the AP on Saturday that he didn’t think the suspension of the three players would affect sanctions pending against Ohio State from the tattoo case.
”The (three) athletes shared that they were educated and that’s part of the rationale that the NCAA used to (levy) additional sanctions,” Smith said.
Smith said he does not believe Ohio State’s bigger case, involving the tattoo benefits, merits more severe sanctions than those proposed by Ohio State. The university has vacated its 12-1 season in 2010, will return bowl monies it received for that season and would go on two years of NCAA probation.
It offered as mitigating circumstances that Tressel was forced out and that Pryor, who was the center of NCAA investigations of improper benefits and loaner cars, has left the program.
”I don’t think a postseason ban is warranted,” Smith said. ”I’ve always said, that’s the one thing we would appeal. Anything else, we can accept. But I can’t speculate what (the NCAA is) going to do.”