What to expect next in Ohio State saga

Ohio State is now facing punishment for “potential major violations” as the fallout of football coach Jim Tressel lying to the NCAA continues.

As first reported Monday by The Columbus Dispatch and later confirmed by Ohio State, the NCAA sent the school a “notice of allegations” that charges Tressel “falsely attested” he reported everything he knew about NCAA violations by several of his players to university officials and is guilty of “ethical misconduct.”

Tressel, Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee and athletic director Gene Smith will meet with the NCAA infractions committee Aug. 12 in Indianapolis to discuss the allegations. Though Ohio State was not cited for “failure to monitor” or “failure of institutional control” violations, which would likely lead to the harshest of penalties, the university is a repeat offender based on past instances with former men’s basketball coach Jim O’Brien and former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Troy Smith.

Translation: Tressel is in trouble.

It now seems highly unlikely that Tressel’s current penalty, a university-imposed five-game suspension and $250,000 fine, will be the limit. The NCAA likely won’t rule until well after that Aug. 12 meeting, but the waiting won’t be easy for anyone involved.

Below are some of the NCAA punishment possibilities:

NO BOWLS/TITLE GAMES: “Major violations” means major consequences. Like what happened at the University of Southern California last year, Ohio State could be looking at loss of scholarships and loss of postseason eligibility. That’s not just a bowl game in Ohio State’s case, but also potentially losing the right to play in the new Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis the first weekend of December.

TAKE YOUR TIME: With a ruling not expected until around the time Tressel and the players are set to return from their suspensions in October, such long-term sanctions could be pushed back until the 2012 season. But the distraction would continue, and having such issues looming isn’t healthy for the program in either the short or long term. As far as precedent, USC lost 10 scholarships a year for a three-year span amongst other forfeitures and being placed on probation. Alabama received similar penalties in 2002 when it got five years’ probation, a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 21 total scholarships over three seasons.

TRESSEL GONE?: Tressel’s job could be in jeopardy. It’s much easier to say that than it would be for Ohio State to fire a coach who has pushed the program back into the ranks of the elite, dominated the Midwest recruiting scene and hasn’t been in a lick of trouble before, but there’s no doubt the university’s reputation has taken a hit and that terms like “ethical misconduct” and “major violations” sound major alarms in the minds of administrators and university decision makers. The NCAA doesn’t have to term it “failure to monitor” for people at Ohio State to think of it as such.

VACATE 2010 SEASON, BUT NOT SUGAR BOWL WIN: The 2010 regular season could be wiped out, meaning the Buckeyes would forfeit their victories and their share of the Big Ten title for knowingly using ineligible players. In a bit of irony that borders on idiocy, the Sugar Bowl victory would stand because the NCAA declared the players eligible for that game in announcing their suspensions for this upcoming season.

CHANGE THE BANNERS: The forfeiture of games that have already been played means some editing of history books and banners, but it doesn’t mean much else. The NCAA has often preferred this method in dealing with past offenders. Is there a precedent for dealing with a case of a coach lying to the NCAA, and would the suspension be extended — either in 2011 or in 2012 — if Ohio State sticks with Tressel? We’ll see.

TAKE A HIT IN RECRUITING: Losing the right to play in postseason games affects future recruiting and the ability to profit from such games. Though we’re months away from any verdict being handed down and any guessing done now is pure speculation, coaches who often recruit against Ohio State are certainly going to use this situation and the uncertainty around it to their advantage. And hitting one of the nation’s most profitable programs in the wallet would certainly be a blow as well.

UPPERCLASSMEN BOLTING?: When USC got hit with a two-year postseason ban, its junior and senior football players were given the opportunity to leave the program and transfer without sitting out a season. Several players took advantage of the situation and did leave. Again, it’s too early to know if Ohio State will be hit with similar penalties, but such a scenario could deal a severe blow to the program.