Ohio State players adapting to self-imposed sanctions
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State’s players say they are resigned to make the best of the school’s self-imposed penalties, no matter how hurt or angry some may feel.
“There’s nothing we can really do about that,’’ offensive lineman J.B. Shugarts said after a conditioning workout this week. “The university decided to make that call. We’ve got to accept it.’’
Athletic director Gene Smith announced Friday that the university would vacate the 2010 season, including the Sugar Bowl victory. It also self-imposed a two-year NCAA probation, in addition to suspending six players for the first five games and accepting the resignation of coach Jim Tressel. All the sanctions resulted from a cash-for-memorabilia scandal that has rocked the program for the past eight months.
The next big date is Aug. 12, when Ohio State meets with the NCAA’s committee on infractions. That committee could accept the penalties Ohio State placed on itself or could pile on recruiting restrictions, bowl bans, return of bowl money and other stiffer sanctions.
Left in the wake of the uncertainty are the players who didn’t do anything wrong but who are left to make the best of the situation.
Tight end Jake Stoneburner has come to terms with the fact that, officially at least, the 12-1 season a year ago never happened in the eyes of the NCAA or Ohio State’s record book.
“It hurts a little bit because I was a part of that. I was out there sweating, bleeding and trying to get those wins,’’ he said. “If that’s what they’ve got to do, we have to move on and try to repeat them [wins] this season. The films are there and everyone saw what happened. Everyone knows what happened in the 2010 season.’’
Among the games erased from the books is Ohio State’s seventh straight win over archrival Michigan.
Vacating that game is asking a lot, said senior linebacker Tony Jackson.
“If you say of the Michigan game, ‘You didn’t win’ - you and I can look eye-to-eye and know what happened that day,’’ he said of the 37-7 victory.
It’s the uncertainty of possible additional penalties that makes it even harder to focus on the fast-approaching season.
“As long as we know what we have to deal with right now until the NCAA [decision] comes, that gives us a little bit of relief,’’ Stoneburner said.
Defensive back Tyler Moeller has missed most of the past two seasons. He suffered a severe brain injury when he was assaulted at a Florida bar while on vacation with his family. That cost him all of the 2009 season.
A year ago, he stunned many of his doctors when he recovered enough - he’d been told he would never play again - to return to the Buckeyes. But just a few games into the season he tore a chest muscle, which again put a premature end to his senior season. Now he’s been granted a sixth season of eligibility. He hopes to be one of the elder statesmen on the team, showing the way to brighter days.
He said that, just as in years past, the Buckeyes are still setting their sights on national and Big Ten championships.
“What people forget is we’re Ohio State. We all came here to win,’’ he said. “One person or one coach doesn’t define our team. We’re still talking about the same things but maybe with a little more intensity about it.’’
Shugarts said the almost daily controversies surrounding the program have brought the players closer.
If the NCAA comes down even harder on the Buckeyes, that unity will help them cope.
“Whatever happens, happens,’’ he said. “We just have to be strong as a team.’’