Ohio State players facing five-game suspensions next season would not have traveled with the team to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans if they had not pledged to return in 2011, head coach Jim Tressel said yesterday.
The five players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, have been punished by the NCAA for selling championship rings and memorabilia and taking discounts from a tattoo parlor.
Tressel said he wanted to make sure that the players wouldn’t “skirt the consequences’’ by playing in the Sugar Bowl, then declaring for the NFL draft and avoiding any punishment.
“We told them they would have to make the decision on the NFL prior to leaving for the bowl game,’’ Tressel said at his first Sugar Bowl news conference. “It wouldn’t be fair to not face the consequences down the road.’’
Tressel said their playing time against the Razorbacks will hinge only on how they practice and fit into the game plan.
The other players are tailback Dan Herron, offensive tackle Mike Adams, receiver DeVier Posey, and defensive end Solomon Thomas.
Tressel said he had instructed the players not to speak about the NCAA “issue’’ during Sugar Bowl week because of their pending appeal of the sanctions.
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said he was pleased that the NCAA and Ohio State found a way to allow the players in question to compete in the Sugar Bowl.
“We want them to be eligible for the game,’’ Petrino said. “We get to a bowl game of this magnitude, you want to play against their best players. I think we’re fortunate they’re eligible to play.’’
The players all sold items to or traded autographs for tattoos with the owner of a Columbus tattoo parlor.
The NCAA does not permit players to use their status as college athletes to get deals or freebies. Four sold their 2008 Big Ten championship rings for $1,000 to $1,200 apiece, Herron sold his football jersey, pants and shoes for $1,000, Solomon and Pryor each sold their “gold pants’’ trinket — given to Buckeyes players if they beat Michigan — for several hundred dollars. Pryor also sold a 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award.
Tressel said he was disappointed not only because his players broke the rules, but also because they sold what he thought of as important keepsakes from their football careers.
James will return to Oregon Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James is coming back to Oregon next season. James, a sophomore running back and the nation’s leading rusher, had repeatedly suggested he would forgo an early entry to the NFL draft. His announcement made it official.
“I came to the University of Oregon to get a quality education as well as to play football, and feel I have yet to complete that goal,’’ he said in a statement.
James has thrived in Oregon’s speedy spread-option offense. He has run for 1,682 yards this season, averaging 153 a game. He’s also averaging a national-best 12 points a game. His 22 touchdowns (21 rushing, one receiving) are a school record.
His play has helped carry the No. 2 Ducks to the national championship game, where they will play No. 1 Auburn in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 10.
Compared at times to former Heisman winner and NFL great Barry Sanders, James ranks second at Oregon with 3,228 career rushing yards and 36 touchdowns.
Mullen gets an extension Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen agreed to a new contract that will pay him an average of $2.65 million over the next four years. The $10.6 million deal has a $1.4 million buyout. . . . Southern Mississippi junior receiver DeAndre Brown informed coach Larry Fedora that he plans to declare for the NFL draft . . . Brent Pease, wide receivers coach at Boise State the past five seasons, was named offensive coordinator at Indiana . . . Jacory Harris will be Miami’s starting quarterback in today’s Sun Bowl against Notre Dame, getting the nod while Stephen Morris nurses an ankle sprain. Morris, who was hurt in Tuesday’s practice, will be available if needed . . . Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne said he sees nothing inappropriate about a licensing agreement the university has with the father of starting quarterback Taylor Martinez. Casey Martinez of Corona, Calif., owns an apparel company known as Corn Fed. The Los Angeles Times reported this week he signed a contract with Nebraska in June 2007 that entitles Nebraska to a 10 percent royalty on Corn Fed products bearing the Cornhuskers’ logo. Nebraska offered Taylor Martinez a football scholarship in July 2008. An NCAA spokesman told the Times that the deal is not against the rules.