Nitt Picks Worries that Injustice Anywhere is a Threat To Justice Everywhere

News came out yesterday that the "Columbus Five" -- quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, left tackle Mike Adams and defensive linemen Solomon Thomas -- that have been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season (pending an Ohio State appeal) are all returning to play for the Buckeyes in 2011.

Even though all of the players publicly pledged to return to Ohio State in the run-up to the Sugar Bowl, there was plenty of speculation that 4 of the 5 players would just enter the NFL draft this spring rather than sit out for nearly half of next year.  Without question, this news means that Ohio State stays among the favorites to win the Big Ten next season. The Buckeyes should even be back in the national championship discussion, because i) the suspension will probably be shortened and ii) even if it isn't, Ohio State's first five games next year are:

            v. Akron

            v. Toledo

            at Miami (Fla)

            v. Colorado

            v. Michigan State

They're all winnable. All the games are at home except for the trip to South Beach against a Miami team under their new coach, some guy who's never beat a MAC team with a winning record. Michigan State should be weaker next year, even though Kirk Cousins returns. My first reaction: Penn State's schedule gets tougher.

My second reaction: I can't believe these guys are coming back. I'm firmly in the camp that thinks that big-time college athletes who play major roles for huge revenue-generating teams get screwed by the current rules. Yes, these guys broke the rules and as such they deserve to be punished, but the rules stink and their infractions were relatively minor.

The December 2009 Forbes piece that calculated and ranked the most valuable college football programs placed Ohio State's value at $85 million, making them 8th in the country (PSU ranked 3rd and was valued at $99 million). Forbes estimated the Buckeye's football program annual "profit" is $36 million. The highest profile player on that team sells some stuff he owes for $2500 (less than 1/10,000 of the team's annual profit) and some tatts and the NCAA dings him so hard he has to miss most of the first half of his senior season?

Say what you will about TP -- he threw one arm punt in the Sugar Bowl that was so ridiculous I laughed out loud and replayed it for Mrs. Spakajewia -- he doubtless works more than 40 hours a week at football and he risks his athletic future (i.e. injury) for his university. Just like everyone that laces up the black shoes for the Nittany Lions twelve Saturdays every fall, Messrs. Pryor, Herron, Posey, Thomas, and Adams give a lot to their university. The university gets a lot from them: according to Forbes, roughly $36 million every year. Sure, Ohio State gives those gentlemen an education (if you want to call it that) for free and a living stipend. It's the same deal that most members of the Ohio State men's volleyball or women's cross-country team get. And the same deal that some number of academically-gifted undergrads receives at every major university regardless of need. But the difference between the kid with a 1600 SAT and Terrelle Pryor? TP has to remain an amateur, while everyone around him makes money off him. The kid with the 1600 SAT could sell a screenplay that he wrote in his creative writing class for $25 million, and no one would take anything from him.

In my view, the rules stink for the best players on the teams that make millions of dollars. The "Columbus Five" brought that injustice into stark relief, just as Georgia wide-receiver A.J. Green  did, when he had to sit 3 games at the beginning of this season for selling his jersey, the same one UGA sells-for a profit-in its bookstore.  As much as I dislike Ohio State and Terrelle Pryor, I hate the injustice of the NCAA more. It's time to change the rules and provide avenues for college athletes to legitimately make some money for what they do for their universities. Sure, it gets difficult once you look at the specifics, but that doesn't mean it's not worth doing.

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In other news, Michigan somehow hired Baltimore Ravens Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison to be their defensive coordinator next year. In a certain sense, as Fugi explained recently, this can be taken as good news in the short-term because Penn State doesn't play Michigan for the next two years at least, and a winning Michigan program could catapult Penn State to the conference championship. In the sense of "I enjoy it when Michigan fails," this is bad news. The Ravens had the third best scoring defense in the NFL last year; Michigan's was 108th in the NCAA.

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Finally, the Penn State Wrestling squad, RANKED SECOND IN THE NATION, takes on 22nd ranked Pitt Friday night at Rec Hall. If you're not able to go, you can check it out on the BTN at 6:00. And if you're going to the sold-out grappling match against Iowa on Sunday, January 30, remember to wear white, as the PSU faithful are trying to White Out Rec Hall.

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