Dr. Saturday - NCAAF

Wednesday's news that Ohio State players were under investigation for exchanging autographs for free tattoos was good for a laugh, and for Vegas to nix the gambling lines on the Buckeyes' upcoming Sugar Bowl date with Arkansas. But tattoos and point spreads are the least of OSU's concerns today.

Five players – four of them starters, including mega-hyped 2008 classmates Terrelle Pryor, Mike Adams and DeVier Posey – will miss the first five games of next season for selling jerseys, rings and other memorabilia, putting them on ice for almost half the schedule and potentially sinking another run at the BCS Championship Game. Per the official NCAA release:

INDIANAPOLIS -- Five football student-athletes from The Ohio State University must sit out the first five games of the 2011 season for selling awards, gifts and university apparel and receiving improper benefits in 2009, the NCAA has determined.

A sixth football student-athlete must sit out the first game in 2011 for receiving discounted services in violation of NCAA rules. The violations fall under the NCAA’s preferential treatment bylaws.

In addition to missing five games next season, student-athletes Mike Adams, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Terrelle Pryor and Solomon Thomas must repay money and benefits ranging in value from $1,000 to $2,500. The repayments must be made to a charity.

The specific infractions cited by the NCAA:

• Adams must repay $1,000 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring.
 • Herron must repay $1,150 for selling his football jersey, pants and shoes for $1,000 and receiving discounted services worth $150.
 • Posey must repay $1,250 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,200 and receiving discounted services worth $50.
 • Pryor must repay $2,500 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring, a 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award and his 2008 Gold Pants, a gift from the university.
 • Solomon must repay $1,505 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,000, his 2008 Gold Pants for $350 and receiving discounted services worth $155.
 • Jordan Whiting must sit out the first game next year and pay $150 to a charity for the value of services that were discounted because of his status as a student-athlete.

[Related: NFL star suspsended for substance abuse]

Yes, Terrelle Pryor sold the miniature gold pants the university has handed out since 1934 for victories over Michigan, inducting recipients into the "Pants Club." Beating the Wolverines in Pryor's tenure may not be quite the accomplishment it used to be, but seriously, man, that may be the iciest move a Buckeye can make. For $2,500?

Note that the sextet will not miss the Sugar Bowl, because "the student-athletes did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred" – even though the NCAA decided to dock a fifth game on top of the standard four-game suspension because the players "did not immediately disclose the violations when presented with the appropriate rules education." (There's a defense only George Costanza could love.)

The five games they'll be forced to miss next fall: Home dates with Akron and Toledo, followed by a trip to Miami and visits from Colorado and Michigan State to Columbus. They'll be back just in time to make the trip to Lincoln, Neb., for OSU's first clash with the Cornhuskers as a Big Ten rival.

[Rewind: Star college QB's career comes to end with suspension]

That is, if they're back at all. Pryor has repeatedly insisted that he's coming back for his senior season, but he, Adams, Herron and Posey would all be taken at some point in April's NFL draft if they decided to enter. That's a considerably more attractive option with almost half of your senior season revoked than it would be otherwise.

If they do leave, their tenure will go down among the more disappointing 32-6, multi-championship runs in Big Ten history. Pryor and Co. arrived as one of the most-hyped crops of incoming freshmen in recent memory, and were perfectly positioned this year to make a run at the BCS championship as upperclassmen, coming off an impressive Rose Bowl win as sophomores. They came close, if not for a midseason meltdown at Wisconsin. Their senior season, 2011, is their last chance to fulfill that potential and overcome the "underachiever" label they inherited from the 2006-07 teams. What a waste it would be if they literally sold that opportunity away for a few bucks.

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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