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In the end, Ohio State comes out OK
For players breaking rules and having its coach conceal those infractions, Ohio State ended up with a one-year bowl ban, the loss of nine scholarships over three years and a new coach with two national championship rings.
"I feel closure, yes," Ohio State President Gordon Gee said Tuesday night, hours after the NCAA announced it sanctions against Ohio State. "I feel very much closure. I'm disappointed on the one hand but on the other hand I'm very relieved because I feel closure. I think we can now move forward."
All things considered, it seems the Buckeyes made out OK.
Whether or not the NCAA's sanctions against Ohio State were fair is all about perspective.
Many Buckeyes fans, still basking in the hiring earlier this month of Urban Meyer, are feeling persecuted. Plenty of other college football fans believe Ohio State got off easy. Southern California fans are downright enraged _ yet again _ by seeing another program they believe committed worse crimes than the Trojans receive lesser penalties.
USC Athletic Director Pat Haden, for one, is ready to stop talking about the past.
"My job is to move on," he told the AP in a brief phone interview. "I'm not going to compare it."
Other would like to, so here goes.
Last year, USC received a two-year postseason ban and the loss of 30 scholarships over three years by the NCAA for violations mostly committed by Reggie Bush and his family. The NCAA said the former Trojans star received thousands of dollars in impermissible benefits from a fledging marketing agent. The NCAA also said a former USC assistant, Todd McNair, knew about the violations and did not report them.
USC's men's basketball program also got into trouble with the NCAA, and the school was charged with lack of institutional control.
"That is one of the heaviest findings that can be levied against an institution," said Greg Sankey, associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference and a member of the committee on infractions.
Ohio State's troubles started with players trading memorabilia _ such as championship rings and jerseys _ for tattoos and cash. It got worse when it was discovered that former coach Jim Tressel knew about the violations and never told anyone.
And just when it seemed that was the end of it, Ohio State found more players had taken cash from a booster when they attended a charity event.
The most severe charge against Ohio State was failure to monitor, which isn't quite as serious as lack of institutional control.
The NCAA hit Tressel, who was pushed out at Ohio State in May, with an unethical conduct charge _ as it did McNair _ and slapped the national championship-winning coach with a five-year show cause order that will make it virtually impossible for him to get another college job during that time.
Sankey, much like Haden, was not about to compare USC and Ohio State.
"From the committee's perspective it, assessed the penalties related to the facts and circumstances of this case," he said.
The fact is, if Ohio State received anything less than the USC treatment it was going to be viewed by many as a slap on the wrist.
Ohio State fans can argue that no matter how many misguided public comments were made by athletic director Gene Smith and Gee, the only person at the school who stood in the way of the investigation was Tressel. And Ohio State got rid of him.
"I think we stumbled out of the gate," Gee said Tuesday night. "We gathered and put together a good approach and from that point on I think that we've done very well.
Ohio State uncovered the violations by Tressel and involving the booster, and self-imposed penalties.
USC, it can be argued, was not as forthcoming or proactive. And in the NCAA's book, there is no more egregious sin.
So while coach Lane Kiffin and USC, which has already served its postseason ban, head toward a murky future because of scholarship reductions that won't really kick in for several years, Ohio State faces a far less daunting hurdle.
It will no doubt sting next year when Meyer's first team can't compete for a Big Ten title. Those bowl practices will be missed, too, as he builds toward Year 2.
The loss of nine scholarships over a three period will be a nuisance, but it won't bring down the Buckeyes.
"The NCAA penalties will serve as a reminder that the college experience does not include the behavior that led to these penalties," Meyer said in a statement. "I expect all of us to work hard to teach and develop young student-athletes to grow responsibly and to become productive citizens in their communities upon graduation."
A case can also be made that as successful as Tressel was, Meyer is an upgrade.
At the end of this sordid affair, the damage done to Ohio State is mostly superficial. Its reputation has been tarnished, its leaders embarrassed.
But it's not like that will keep Meyer from adding to the trophy case at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
AP Sports Writer Rusty Miller in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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