Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Ohio State football team honored by NCAA. (The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
COLUMBUS — Ohio State received another notice Tuesday from the NCAA about its football team, and believe it or not, the news was to the delight of the university this time around.

The Buckeyes football team — along with baseball, men's gymnastics, men's tennis and women's tennis — have been honored with public recognition awards by the NCAA for scoring in the Top 10 percent in each sport, based on their most recent multi-year Academic Progress Rates (APR).

Ohio State is one of only two Big Ten football teams (Northwestern) honored by the NCAA. Only 14 BCS schools were recognized in all.

"While we are proud of the commitment of all of our student-athletes toward their success in the classroom, today we celebrate the NCAA's public recognition of five of our teams as high achievers, with APR scores in the Top 10 percent of their sport nationally," Dr. John P. Bruno, OSU professor of psychology and faculty athletics representative, said. " This level of excellence reflects the strong academic values of these student-athletes, their coaches and our academic support staff."

The APR provides a real-time look at a team's academic success each semester by tracking the academic progress of each student-athlete on scholarship. The APR accounts for eligibility, retention and graduation and provides a measure of each team's academic performance.

The most recent APR scores are multi-year rates based on the scores from the 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years.

The Ohio State football team has been under the gun in recent months for violating NCAA rules. Five players — Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas — will be suspended for the first five games of the 2011 regular season for receiving improper benefits, while head coach Jim Tressel will miss at least that many games, and perhaps more, after the NCAA accused the Buckeyes mentor of lying and withholding information about the violations last year.

The positive news Tuesday has to be a breath of fresh air for the Buckeyes and their coach, who will be hoping the NCAA takes the recognition into account when they decide to lay down punishment on the program and Tressel in the coming months.

I, for one, have defended Tressel for months from the national media, who have been essentially calling for the coach's head. To be honest, I'm betting the notice from the NCAA Tuesday probably won't find itself on ESPN or any other national media outlets.

But the fact remains, Tressel, nor the players, broke any laws — only those of the NCAA. And I don't look at what Tressel did as a cover-up, as much as a man protecting his young players who made mistakes ... by NCAA standards.

Should he and the team be punished by the NCAA for the violations? Certainly. Should Tressel be fired or banned for an entire season? Certainly not.

And Tuesday's news should be factored into the NCAA's decision.

I'll take the liberty to remind the NCAA — and other national talking heads (ESPN) — that academics is just as big a part of collegiate athletics as the sports themselves.

Hence why "student" has top billing in the word "student-athlete."