NEW ORLEANS - On Thursday morning Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel had a few moments to talk about the Buckeyes' upcoming game with Arkansas. But the vast majority of his time during the daily press conference revolved around the suspended six players for the Buckeyes and what lies in the short and long term future for these players.
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Nearly a week ago it was announced that Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas would all be suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season while Jordan Whiting would miss this season opener. It struck most as odd, however, that the suspensions would not take effect until after the Sugar Bowl and that has been a hot topic across the nation and will continue to be so well after the Buckeyes and Razorbacks leave the Crescent City.
Tressel used his time at the podium to go a little deeper into what led up to the decisions and how we got from them until now.
"Most fortunately we weren't dealing with a criminal or a legal or an agent or a substance issue," Tressel said. "But we were certainly dealing with an NCAA issue and our guys were great in their forthrightness. On the 23rd of December we were given those options and had a chance then to go to work and make decisions based upon our options."
And the options allowed for the Buckeyes to dole out the punishment in the 2011 season and continue as a unit to try and close out the 2010 season with the team intact. Of course that has created concerns nationwide about what happens if the draft eligible players looked to jump ship and try and escape any sort of punishment outside of the financial obligation of paying back ill-gotten money to charity.
"The first decision that any of our young people needed to make, if indeed they wanted to stay part of the family and be on our bowl trip and have a chance to participate in one of the great games of all time in the Sugar Bowl, would be that they would have to make any decisions based upon their future in the NFL prior to us leaving to go to the bowl game," Tressel said. "We just didn't feel that it would be fair to the NCAA or fair to the other people involved in the process if someone were able to participate and then have no consequences down the road."
All six players are present and accounted for in New Orleans so it appears that the decision was made unanimously by all involved.
"They wouldn't be here if that wasn't the case," Tressel added.
Ohio State has received some harsh words from pundits who believe that the punishment is not being handled correctly and the players have no right to be play in the game on January 4th. Even fans around the Ohio State program have been quick to offer up their opinions as well to the Ohio State head coach.
"I have gotten lots of help from a communications standpoint with emails and opinions and so forth and it has been an interesting lesson for me, so many of the opinions seem to revolve around what we would look like as opposed to maybe a lesser number that came in terms of what would be the best thing for the student athletes involved," Tressel said.
There is still a chance that the aforementioned players could see lessened playing time in the bowl game but it does not appear that the likelihood of a diminished role is very high.
"The guys will play as to what they deserve to play from a football standpoint," Tressel said. "They will be evaluated football related."
Less than a week ago the players had a chance while still back in Columbus (Ohio) to address the media with short statements conveying their feelings and embarrassment about the situation. The players also looked to reach out to the former Ohio State player fraternity as well with the outpouring of disappointment bubbling from selling team awards and coveted gold pants.
"We called (Archie Griffin) and he wasn't in the office that day but he said to come out to his house," Tressel said. "He said the kids might get a different perspective then they look at his basement and they see how important some of those things are to him."
This situation has come up as a major distraction for people talking about the game and very little has been said during the last week about the actual game itself. Tressel is hopeful that it will not leak over into the game and create a distraction there.
"I hope (this situation has) none," Tressel said. "I think the thing that will have the impact on how we play in the Sugar Bowl is how we play. Will we take care of the ball, will we not get loose, will we cover our lanes on the kickoff coverage? Will those things have an effect? I sure would like to think that they wouldn't."