Former Michigan star Desmond Howard came to the defense of his alma mater’s archrival, Ohio State, saying he does not see why selling memorabilia should be an NCAA violation, the Omaha World-Herald reported Tuesday.
"Do I think any other student-athlete has sold something for money? Yeah. Is that a big crime? Not at all. It’s not even relevant," said the 1991 Heisman Trophy winner.
"It’s only (important) because some guys sat in a room one day and decided, ‘OK, this is going to be illegal.’ Other than that, everybody else on campus can sell whatever they own. But because they’re players, they can’t sell anything they own. It’s almost like they say, ‘OK, you own that merchandise, but in essence we own you, so you can’t do it.’ "
Ohio State is facing possible NCAA sanctions after former quarterback Terrelle Pryor and several other players were found to have sold Ohio State memorabilia for cash and tattoos at a Columbus, Ohio, tattoo shop.
The scandal led to the resignation of coach Jim Tressel after he admitted he was tipped off last spring about the memorabilia sales but did not report it.
Howard, who works for ESPN as a college football analyst, said even though Ohio State and Michigan are bitter rivals, he is not happy to see the Buckeye program going through such turmoil.
"They just assume I’m happy about what’s happened in Columbus. To be honest, as a competitor, you want somebody’s best shot," Howard said.
"I’m not excited about [Michigan coach] Brady Hoke coaching against an interim coach. You want to go against Jim Tressel. But I’m always happy, like anyone should be, to see anybody who cheats the system get caught and get out of the game."
Tressel’s teams defeated Michigan in the annual rivalry game in nine of his 10 seasons in Columbus, including the past seven.
Howard said the scandal at Ohio State has damaged the Big Ten’s image as a conference that traditionally has not run afoul of NCAA rules.
"Good, clean, wholesome, hard-nosed football, not cutting corners, no NCAA violations. That’s what the image of the Big Ten was. They kind of frowned on other universities in other conferences because of the trouble that they got in consistently. But now, with what happened at Ohio State, that whole image has been tarnished."
Ohio State officials will go before the NCAA Aug. 12 for a hearing on the alleged violations.