Terrelle Pryor and four of his Ohio State teammates have been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 football season after an investigation that started with reports that players were trading autographs for tattoos. But all five players will be allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas on January 4.
That likely means Pryor, the Buckeyes' starting quarterback, will leave Ohio State and enter the 2011 NFL draft. It's highly unlikely that Pryor would return to school to play half a season, and so the Sugar Bowl will presumably be his final game with the Buckeyes.
The NCAA announced the suspensions on Thursday morning. In addition to Pryor, the suspended players are running back Dan Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey, offensive lineman Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas will all be suspended for the first five games of 2011. All will additionally have to make charitable donations in the same amount of the "improper benefits" they received, with amounts ranging from $1,000 to $2,500.
A sixth player, Jordan Whiting, has been suspended for the first game of next year and must pay $150 to a charity for the value of services that were discounted because he's an Ohio State football player.
"These are significant penalties based on findings and information provided by the university," said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs, in a statement released by Ohio State.
The NCAA indicated in its announcement that it did not suspend the players for the bowl game because it does not believe the players knew they were committing an infraction and because Ohio State did not gain a competitive advantage from the infractions. Although the investigation started with players receiving free tattoos, players were also found to have sold items including pants, jerseys and Big Ten championship rings.
Ohio State AD Gene Smith said the school is committed to following NCAA rules going forward.
"We were not as explicit with our student-athlete education as we should have been in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 academic years regarding the sale of apparel, awards and gifts issued by the athletics department," Smith said. "We began to significantly improve our education in November of 2009 to address these issues. After going through this experience, we will further enhance our education for all our student-athletes as we move forward."