The nation’s No. 1 team (per the College Football Playoff selection committee) will be without its No. 1 player (per NFL scouts) on Saturday, a self-inflicted wound to college football that could morph into something even bigger.
Chase Young, Ohio State’s dominant defensive end, is being held out of the Buckeyes’ game against Maryland as the school investigates a “possible NCAA issue from 2018.”
Young released a statement saying it was a “loan from a family friend I’ve known since the summer before my freshman year at Ohio State.” He said he repaid the loan last year.
The issue, sources told Yahoo Sports, involves an agent. Young was a five-star recruit, and thus a probable NFL prospect, coming out of high school.
Young is the possible No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL draft. He’s almost universally hailed by pro scouts as college football’s best player. Perhaps quarterback-desperate teams will take a signal-caller ahead of him, but that has nothing to do with how Young projects at the next level. He’s the complete package.
The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder from Maryland has 29 tackles, 13.5 sacks and five forced fumbles on the season, which is just eight games old. He’s so good, he’s become the rare defensive player to earn Heisman buzz.
If he never plays another game for Ohio State, his future is extremely bright. At this point, the game needs him more than he needs the game. He’s playing for his school, his team, his teammates and little else.
The future is far more uncertain for the Buckeyes specifically and college football in general, though. Chase Young in uniform is far better than Chase Young sitting out.
As sweeping changes seem imminent about the freedom with which players can profit off their athletic talent while under the NCAA umbrella, hopefully this is one of the last times the game loses a must-see star for something like this.
Ohio State has to hope that if Young or his family took any so-called “impermissible benefits” that they weren’t significant enough to merit a lengthy suspension that would effectively end his career.
The Buckeyes have been brilliant this year, so brilliant that they are a true national title contenders despite hailing from the North.
Ohio State’s 2014 team won the national title, but other than that, teams from the Midwest (Michigan State in 2015, Ohio State in 2016 and Notre Dame in 2018) have been wiped out by Southern competition (Alabama and Clemson) by a combined score of 99-3.
This team has the chance to change that. It looks legit.
The next two games don’t matter much for Ohio State. The Buckeyes should be able to dispatch hapless Big Ten expansion programs Maryland and Rutgers without Young (or even breaking a sweat).
Then comes a series of nationally relevant and exciting games in which the sport is built upon. Penn State in the Horseshoe. At Michigan. Perhaps the Big Ten championship game. Perhaps one or two playoff games.
A two-game suspension wouldn’t matter. Three or more would. A complete loss for the season would be terrible.
College football is better when the best players are in it, and the idea that such a tantalizing talent might have to sit because he or someone around him may have accepted something last year is crushing.
The details must still emerge, but at first glance the whole thing seems pointless. Young is worth millions, not just to the NFL but to college football. If something of value was accepted, it pales in comparison to Young’s open market value.
If the NCAA could cut him in on sales of his No. 2 jersey in the Ohio State bookstore, would a little extra cash matter? If he could star in a television commercial for a Columbus-area car dealer, would an agent seem so appealing? Would the world end if he made a few bucks?
It wouldn’t be worse than seeing a star have to sit due to some antiquated concept of amateurism.
That isn’t to excuse Young. The current rules are the current rules, so if he broke them then he broke them. Again, we’ll see.
At this point, the specifics are unknown. Ohio State is investigating. It has to. And it has to sit Young, because knowingly playing a potentially ineligible player could cause future forfeitures and blow up the entire season — the Buckeyes are still good without him.
Under NCAA rules, coaches can still coach during NCAA investigations. Players can’t. That’s just one additional inequity that needs to go.
College sports are changing. It won’t be smooth and it won’t be easy, but then again, the current structure seems infuriating.
The best player on the best team is out.
That doesn’t seem like a positive for anyone other than the poor guy who was going to have to block Chase Young.
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