It isn't the NFL's job to clean up the NCAA's vast problems in college football. And the NFL isn't a safe house for people who want to hide from those troubles. If you understand that, you understand how important it is for the NFL to turn down Terrelle Pryor's bid to be part of the league's supplemental draft.
Pryor is an outcast who Ohio State wants to keep as far away as possible from the NCAA. What's the solution? Send him to the NFL.
Let's make this clear as I express an opinion that clashes with esteemed colleague Dan Wetzel: It's not going to bother me a whole lot if Pryor plays in the NFL this year. This is not a morality issue as far as this kid goes. What he did was hardly criminal, and the NFL has plenty of other guys who have done worse. The real point here is that Pryor's story is a tower of lies laid out by one handler after another in order to make it all good. In the process, no one has ever had to take responsibility for anything, least of all Ohio State or the NCAA. Instead of those two institutions doing something to actually fix the problem, they get to hope that Pryor escapes to the NFL and that they never have to deal with him again.
Ignorance is bliss for collegiate programs and if the NFL takes Pryor right now, the league is telling every big-time prospect that it's cool to break rules as long as you play enough for us to scout you.
A rundown of what happened over the past eight months with Pryor and Ohio State: In December, Pryor admitted to his participation in the tattoo scandal and received a five-game suspension for the 2011 season from Ohio State for his wrongdoing. He failed to tell the whole truth, which became obvious when he refused to cooperate with the NCAA in May when more allegations came out. At the time, Ohio State made it clear that it thoroughly investigated the problem and punished not only Pryor and other players, but also coach Jim Tressel. Then, as the story got worse following the reporting of Wetzel and Yahoo! investigative reporter Charles Robinson, it became apparent that Pryor had to go. In May, Tressel resigned after Pryor refused to cooperate with NCAA investigators earlier that month. In June, Pryor applied for the supplemental draft, contending that he was not going to be eligible, even though he had yet to be ruled ineligible.
In July, two important things happened. First, the NFL said it wasn't sure if Pryor qualified for the supplemental draft under its rules. Second, the NCAA announced it would have no further penalties against Ohio State, mostly because Pryor was no longer cooperating.
But then, shockingly, Ohio State did Pryor a huge solid on July 26 by stating publicly that Pryor was to "disassociate" from the program for five years. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith wrote a letter to Pryor explaining the situation and pointing out to the public that Pryor would have been ineligible to play and, by extension, eligible for the NFL supplemental draft.
In fact, Larry James, Pryor's lawyer in Columbus, Ohio, said he sought the letter from Smith to make it clear that Pryor had no chance to play college football again. In short, Smith was more than happy to help Pryor escape talking to the NCAA.
"When you don't cooperate [with the NCAA] it's the death knell," James said in July. "Once you sign with an agent, once you fail to work with the NCAA, you're ineligible."
Pryor was ineligible because he was willing to hide the truth, not because he was willing to tell the truth. His ineligibility is a shell game that has been done to protect Ohio State.
None of this is the NFL's concern. It's not here to teach right from wrong. It's an entertainment company. That said, colleges are supposed to teach right from wrong, and the NFL has an important relationship (both economically and philosophically) with the colleges.
By giving Pryor a chance to enter the draft now, the NFL is rewarding a guy (and a college) for avoiding the truth. Instead of Ohio State having to face the music and the NCAA having to deal with reality, the cycle continues. Instead of college athletic directors and presidents simply wiping their brow in relief when another player escapes to the NFL without causing harm, those same people could start talking about real ways that players could get access to money, legitimate ways that allow players like Pryor and Reggie Bush(notes) to take advantage of their value.
It appears colleges are happy to wash their hands of the problems and use the NFL as a towel.
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- Terrelle Pryor