Buckeyes deserve to lose latest gamble

Ohio State had better truly hope its gambling pays off for once.

Because when university president Gordon Gee and athletic director Gene Smith appeared Friday for a hearing before the NCAA’s committee on infractions in Indianapolis, they made their biggest bet yet for the Buckeyes.

This time, Gee and Smith are all in. They’re gambling the infractions committee accepts Ohio State’s laughable self-imposed sanctions for players accepting improper benefits from a Columbus tattoo-parlor owner and former coach Jim Tressel’s lying about his knowledge of the situation, which he had been aware of for months.

They think the Buckeyes have already punished themselves enough by actions like the acceptance of Tressel’s forced resignation, imposing their own two-year NCAA probation and vacating 12 wins from last season, including their Sugar Bowl victory against Arkansas.

They also think it’s enough the NCAA issued five-game suspensions this season for five players, one of which was former starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who has since turned professional, and suspended another for a game this season for their involvement in the scandal.

After Friday’s hearing with the infractions committee, Smith announced the university is also returning the $338,811 it received from the Big Ten’s Sugar Bowl payout.

But if I was a member of the NCAA infractions committee at Friday’s hearing, I would have asked the first question by holding up a copy of Ohio State’s self-imposed sanctions and asking Gee and Smith, "Really? Is this all you could come up with?"

If any other program had committed the NCAA violations Ohio State did, the mouthy Gee would have probably mocked the Buckeyes’ self-imposed sanctions publicly; and Smith, a former infractions committee member, would have undoubtedly questioned them himself.

It’s not just that players sold and traded sports memorabilia for cash and tattoos, or that Tressel lied to try and cover it up, but it occurred at a program that had previous violations in basketball and football in recent years. That’s repeat-violator territory that especially gets the NCAA’s attention in an era of cheaters gone wild.

Yet here we are, though, with Gee and Smith gambling they can pull a fast one on the infractions committee with their self-imposed sanctions and defense that Tressel, who also attended Friday’s hearing, simply went rogue without university officials knowing it. Not that this is the first time the dunce duo of Gee and Smith has gambled with Ohio State’s future.

They boldly did in December to protect both the university’s and the Sugar Bowl’s financial interests by allowing Pryor and company to play in the game, despite the NCAA suspending them for games this season.

They did by supporting Tressel after he admitted lying in March before finally forcing him out more than two months later. They did by not dismissing Pryor, who finally left on his own in early June after allegations surfaced that he was paid thousands of dollars to autograph sports memorabilia.

Just imagine if Gee and Smith hadn’t gambled so much. Or what if Ohio State had at the least added a very reasonable one-year bowl ban and the loss of three scholarships for each year of its probation to its self-imposed penalties?

The Buckeyes wouldn’t have faced nearly as much uncertainty about the punishment they will receive from the infractions committee in eight to 12 weeks. Stronger penalties would have made it clear they were truly sorry and had taken responsibility for their actions.

Instead, Ohio State’s self-imposed penalties make this clear: it will not endanger its future (i.e. money) for its sins of the past.

That explains why Smith has been so defiant that the Buckeyes self-imposed penalties are enough. He’s even been intimating about the possibility of the infractions committee adding to the penalties.

"I’ll be shocked and disappointed and on the offensive," Smith told The Associated Press recently. "It’ll be behavior you haven’t witnessed."

That’s tough talk all right, and I’m sure the infractions committee members are terrified by the prospect of Smith again embarrassing himself like he has throughout this debacle.

Let’s just hope the committee members show no mercy for Ohio State’s arrogance and tack on harsher penalties.

After all, this is a gamble Gee and Smith deserve to lose.