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Ohio State vacates the premises: Players can keep the rings, but 2010 trophies must go

It's a simple concept, in theory. But as Ohio State fans are beginning to learn, in practice, the business of "vacating" wins and championships is a thorny one.

On the one hand, it's fairly easy to sprinkle a few asterisks in the media guide and declare that a handful of games witnessed by tens of thousands of people and beamed to millions more across the country never happened, as OSU did Friday when it pledged to retroactively strike all 12 victories from last year's Sugar Bowl-winning, Big Ten championship campaign from the books in atonement for knowingly fielding multiple ineligible players throughout the season. But what about, you know, the logistics? With big wins, bowl games and championships comes a small warehouse of hardware, jewelry and keepsakes — exactly the kind of things that got the Buckeyes in trouble in the first place. And what about statistics? Individual records by players who were eligible? How do they handle all that?

Ohio State vacates the premises: Players can keep the rings, but 2010 trophies must goFortunately, the local Columbus Dispatch is here today with a few firm answers, including the big one: Do players get to keep their conference championship rings? In this case, the answer is yes:

The process of vacating can be murky. People still remember the games, even though Ohio State won't count them. Individual and team statistics from 2010 will still be counted, but wins, losses and championships won't.

Even though the record book won't show Browning's Big Ten title, his ring will. The Buckeyes already have received their Big Ten championship rings, and athletic director Gene Smith said they won't be recalled.

"They'll keep those," Smith said. "We didn't feel we needed to take those back."

[Bryant] Browning, a senior lineman, said he appreciated the gesture.

"I guess it does show they care about our senior class, that we did earn those rings," he said.

The rings, yes. The trophies, no: The Big Ten championship and Sugar Bowl trophies will both be taken off display in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, and possibly returned to senders in Chicago and New Orleans, respectively. (Their ultimate destination remains unclear, but it will not be among OSU's other championships.) Ditto the latest batch of "gold pants," the traditional token commemorating wins over Michigan since 1934, which had already been put on hold with an eye toward the day when last November's 37-7 rout over the Wolverines is no longer on the books. It's still possible but highly unlikely the 2010 batch will ever see the light of day. Don't expect any midfield reunions for the champs in ten or 25 years, either.

After the smoke clears, the only game that is still on the books is the only defeat, a 31-18 loss at Wisconsin in October, dropping the official record from 12-1 to 0-1. With that, the Buckeyes' cumulative record over Jim Tressel's decade-long tenure as head coach falls from 106-22, the best winning percentage of any Division I-A/FBS program in that span except Boise State, to 94-22, which ranks a mere fourth. (In the bigger picture, the sudden absence of a dozen wins also drops OSU from third to fifth in all-time winning percentage, to the benefit of Texas and Oklahoma.) Tressel falls from the ranks of the exclusive 200-win club among D-I head coaches, too, including his days at Youngstown State.

All of which — on top of two years' probation, the forced resignation of a wildly successful head coach, the premature departure of a star quarterback and five-game suspensions this fall for the offending players who remain on the roster — Ohio State is presenting to the NCAA as evidence that it acknowledges its sins and has ensured adequate suffering without the postseason ban and heavy scholarship losses the NCAA dropped on USC last year. But even if Big Brother can still make things more difficult for the Buckeyes going forward, it can never touch the keepsakes.

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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