Sanctions should not slow Ohio State

The sanctions handed down by the NCAA to Ohio State on Tuesday aren’t that harsh, which makes the statement from OSU athletic director Gene Smith a head-shaker.

“We are surprised and disappointed with the NCAA’s decision,” Smith said in his statement. “However, we have decided not to appeal the decision because we need to move forward as an institution.”

Urban Meyer won't coach in a bowl next year, but losing a few scholarships won't hurt the Buckeyes much.
(US Presswire)

Maybe Smith – whose job should be in jeopardy – is disappointed; after all, the NCAA doled out harsher penalties than the school self-imposed. But given the goings-on at Ohio State, a case can be made that the school didn’t get spanked that severely.

Remember that former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel lied in his dealings with the NCAA, and even after the governing body began its investigation, more wrongdoing was uncovered over the summer in regard to five players’ dealings with a booster. Tressel was hit with a five-year “show-cause” order, which means any university wanting to hire Tressel within the next five years basically will have to get the OK from the NCAA.

While that hurts Tressel, it doesn’t hurt Ohio State.

Ohio State will lose nine scholarships over a three-year period (2012-14); it also will serve a postseason ban in 2012, and that should be the toughest pill for the Buckeyes to swallow.

[Related: Y! Sports investigation: Ohio State violations]

SEC associate commissioner Greg Sankey, an infractions committee member, was asked during an afternoon teleconference if this was a signal that there would be tougher penalties for future violations. “I would not suggest this is necessarily a new day, but these penalties are significant,” he said.

Ohio State had offered to give up five scholarships over three years, but the NCAA added four more. To a coach such as the newly hired Urban Meyer, who recruits so well, any type of scholarship cut hurts. Every player he signs is going to be a top-level recruit, and losing out on three of those guys a year will be bothersome.

At the same time, precisely because Meyer recruits so well, the damage is going to be relatively minimal. Losing three scholarships a year for three years will hurt depth, but it’s certainly not going to keep the Buckeyes from winning the Big Ten title or playing in a BCS bowl.

Coaches always complain about being under the NCAA-mandated maximum of 85 scholarships. But that’s just it: Most schools are under the limit every season and it doesn’t have a big impact. Consider that a three-deep depth chart consists of 66 players; how often does a team rely on its seventh cornerback or a fourth-string tailback, guys who wouldn’t be among the first 66? The scholarship limitations aren’t going to curtail Ohio State’s success.

[Yahoo! Sports Radio: BuckeyeGrove.com’s Kevin Noon]

The 2012 bowl ban should create some angst, mainly because the school considered self-imposing a ban this season but decided against it. Ohio State is 6-6 and going to the Gator Bowl. Miami, which currently is under NCAA investigation, also finished 6-6 this season but decided in mid-November it would not accept a bowl bid.

When USC was sanctioned by the NCAA in 2010 in the Reggie Bush “case,” the Trojans lost 30 scholarships and were given a two-year postseason ban. The Trojans went 10-2 and won the Pac-12 South this season, but they weren’t allowed to play in the league’s championship game or go to a bowl because of the ban. This was the second season of USC’s ban.

Before the sanctions were announced, Ohio State senior center Mike Brewster brought up USC when asked by The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch about a potential postseason ban. “They handled it well and had a great season this year,” he said.

There’s no reason to think Ohio State will be any different.

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Mike Huguenin is a Yahoo! Sports college sports editor. Send Mike a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Dec 20, 2011