More trouble for the Ohio State football program

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel claps after a play during their NCAA football game against Indiana in Columbus, Ohio, October 9, 2010. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Former Ohio State receiver Ray Small says that he sold rings for cash during his playing days as a Buckeye from 2006 to 2010 and also accepted car discounts during that time as well. Not only that, but Small also confirmed that other players accepted similar deals.

In an article on Friday, Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer discussed how Small’s admissions could be a big problem for Jim Tressel and the OSU football program.

Where Small’s words matter most is in the scope of the potential violations. When Ohio State announced the player violations and suspensions in December, OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith said: “We’re very fortunate we don’t have a systemic problem. It’s isolated to these young men in this particular instance.”

Bigger problems became known in March, when it was announced that Tressel had committed major NCAA violations by not revealing his previous knowledge about his players’ actions. The cases of the players have been closed, but more players selling merchandise than initially reported could create more serious violations for Ohio State and Tressel. Most troubling for Ohio State is Small’s claim that “everybody was doing it,” and those words in particular set off a firestorm of anger from former Buckeyes who resented and refuted any notion that accepting extra benefits was typical.

“What he said may have been true for him,” said former OSU cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, who played with Small, “but making it seem like it was a culture at Ohio State, that wasn’t the case. This wasn’t the norm.”

Brooks Melchior of has a very extensive look at how Small’s confession confirms that Gene Smith had lied to the media about Ohio State’s growing problem. You can read the piece here.

One of the many questions I have is what are Small’s motives for coming forth with this news? Does he want to help blow the lid off the story? Is he seeking attention? Is he sore at Tressel or Ohio State because of how his tenure played out as a Buckeye? Why come out unless you have a reason for doing so? And to the school paper no less.

Of course the bigger question is, and Doug Lesmerises touched on it in his article, is whether or not Ohio State has a major issue on its hands or if these are just several isolated incidents coming to surface. No matter how you slice it, none of this looks good on the program. But it’ll make a difference if the university can isolate the issue the best it can. If it can’t and the problem is widespread, then obviously OSU is in it deep.

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