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‘Individual failures’ continue to mount at Ohio State, but somehow they never add up

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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As expected, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith went before the press this afternoon to announce further suspensions for three Buckeye players — tailback Daniel Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey and running back Marcus Hall — who will miss Saturday's trip to Nebraska for allegedly accepting several hundred dollars' worth of "excessive compensation" from a booster who hired them at a car wash and a recycling center. Posey and Herron (right) had already missed the Buckeyes' first five games as part of their previous suspension for swapping memorabilia for cash, tattoos and other perks. The booster has been formally disassociated from the program.

As it relates to the Buckeyes' other, more serious NCAA issues, Smith seems to remain convinced that it doesn't. From his statement:

"We're fortunate and optimistic that as we move forward with our broader case that there's no additional allegations to share, and optimistic that failure to monitor and lack of institutional control is not an allegation that will emerge.
[…]
"These failures are individual failures. Failures of individual athletes [and] as you know, unfortunately, an individual coach, and a booster. So it's not a systemic failure of compliance. … These were individual decisions by individual people. Were there lessons learned for us? No question. ... But at the end of the day, individual decisions were made to go off the reservation."

Blame them, not us. That's been the Buckeyes' rallying cry since they decided to fire head coach Jim Tressel in May, and there's considerable evidence that it may actually work when the NCAA gets around to mulling penalties that go beyond the purely symbolic. Ohio State hasn't failed; individuals have failed.

As of today, that list of wayward individuals includes:{YSP:MORE}

• A former head coach who admitted to (and was formally charged with) covering up major NCAA violations by multiple high-profile players for nearly nine months, including the entire 2010 regular season and the 2011 Sugar Bowl, even after said violations became public.

• A starting quarterback who was initially suspended for accepting more than $1,000 in improper benefits, and later forced to leave the team amid reports that he a) Accepted tens of thousands of dollars more in exchange for autographing memorabilia, and b) Had been regularly accepting money from a businessman in his hometown, with whom the head coach kept in frequent contact, for more than two years after they had been specifically warned to cut all financial ties.

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• Four other veteran players suspended along with the quarterback for accepting thousands of dollars in improper benefits.

• Two of those same four players suspended further for accepting more improper benefits after having already been suspended for accepting improper benefits.

• Three other players suspended for accepting small cash payments from a booster, apparently via a teammate who had already been suspended for improper benefits.

• A booster formally disassociated from the program for providing said payments.

That's what Ohio State has more or less owned up to, not including the discounted cars and other assorted freebies that have failed to progress beyond the "rumor/allegation" phase. That's what we can realistically say we know.

Say what you will about the blatant hypocrisy of "amateurism" and the raw deals forced on major college athletes and the skeletons still waiting to be found in other schools' closets, and you'd be right on every count. But you're still left with eleven individuals associated with the institution in various capacities — nine players, the head coach and an active booster — implicated in multiple, repeated NCAA violations that, for now, are still supposed to be enforced. Just how many "individuals decisions to go off the reservation" do there have to be before the institution is expected to exert control?

USC is patiently awaiting the NCAA's answer.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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