Star defensive end could get four-game suspension for loan that soon will be legal with changing rules … Buckeyes look dominant on defense without him against Maryland … Ohio State, Fields sharpen passing game against inferior opponent.
COLUMBUS — I’ve seldom agreed with Jay Bilas, the ESPN college basketball analyst who has been a ferocious opponent of the NCAA over the years. I’ve never looked at scholarship athletes as an exploited group, as he does, and I’ve always felt the NCAA was run by well-meaning people doing their best to tamp down under-the-table shenanigans and maintain a level playing field for all.
The handling of Chase Young’s infraction in accepting a loan has caused me to lose faith in the governing body of college sports. If Kirk Herbstreit’s reporting is right, and Young actually is facing a four-game suspension — even if it’s negotiated down to three or even two games — this is a classic case of the NCAA going too far in wielding its muscle and throwing out all common sense.
The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Assuming there aren’t more facts we don’t know, Young needed a loan to get his family — or perhaps just his girlfriend — to the Rose Bowl last season. And he paid back the loan before this season. Let me repeat, HE PAID BACK THE LOAN BEFORE THIS SEASON!
We’re about two years away from college players being able to profit off their name, image and likeness, which could mean thousands per year for stars. So, we have a kid who is in a financial bind and goes to someone for help, and we’re going to drop the hammer on him when transactions like that will soon be legal?
Right. Got it.
Does the NCAA really want to hold on to their old model in this climate — where athletes are gaining more and more power and where national opinion has shifted to them being able to share in the profits they help generate? Really, this is the battle they want to take on?
Anyone looking at this objectively would say Young’s misstep is the equivalent of a parking ticket compared to what else is going on in college sports.
The FBI uncovered scandalous behavior by basketball coaches arranging payments to recruits in the tens of thousands. It was all caught on recorded phone conversations, and it was rampant at the highest level. And while a few assistants have paid the legal price, the NCAA, with two years to react, has handed out exactly zero penalties so far.
Coaches like Bill Self and Sean Miller, chief among those in the FBI crosshairs, are on the sidelines again this season as if nothing ever happened. What’s wrong with this picture?
Shouldn’t the NCAA be devoting resources to that and not to a college football star, who is putting together one of the best seasons a defensive player ever has, for something as innocuous as a loan so his loved ones could see him play in Pasadena?
Let’s be clear: it was Young who committed the infraction. He knew what he did was impermissible or it wouldn’t have been kept secret all this time. But where are the people in the NCAA offices who aren’t hellbent on just following the letter of the law? Where are the rational voices urging some restraint?
Forgive the frivolous analogy here, but I’m looking for wisdom you’d find on the Andy Griffith Show. You know how Barney would want to throw the book at people — or a tomato at Otis — and Andy would be the voice of reason while still figuring out a path to a just conclusion?
NCAA staffers are like Barney, always quick to yank out the citation pad, where they need to be like Andy and come up with thoughtful solutions that just feel right.
ABOUT THE GAME: The Chase Young news dwarfed everything at Ohio Stadium, but the Buckeyes still had a game to play — even if it was against Maryland.
If you had to pick out one weakness for the nation’s top-ranked team through the first eight games, it’d probably be pass protection. That’s why Justin Fields started out chucking the ball over the field in the 73-14 win.
The running game, which has been in A+ form all year, wasn’t abandoned entirely, but Ohio State (9-0) called 29 passes and 21 runs in the first half before resting the regulars. (The actual breakdown was 25 passes and 25 rushes, including one kneel-down before halftime, but Fields was credited with four runs when he was forced to scramble from the pocket.)
Though he missed a few throws, Fields went 16 of 25 for 200 yards and three touchdowns while running for another. At 11:25 of the second quarter, the Buckeyes had four TDs and a 28-0 lead while allowing just one first down.
The offensive line looked as flawless as you can in the messy game of football, never allowing a sack while powering the Buckeyes to six TDs in their six first-half possessions.
J.K. Dobbins was masterful again, rushing for 90 yards and two TDs on 12 carries. He seems quicker and stronger this year, making people miss and breaking arm tackles. And he’s running with the kind of vision that’s reminiscent of Maurice Clarett, who was a savant at finding holes.
The Buckeyes out-gained the Terps, 363-66, in total yards in the first half and 705-139 for the day. This was an opponent, you’ll recall, that took Ohio State to overtime last year in a 52-51 shootout.
The starting defense had five first-half sacks and seven overall, including two each by senior Davon Hamilton and budding sophomore star Tyreke Smith, who chased down the Maryland quarterback from behind for one of them. You know you’re in trouble when the opposing defensive line is faster than your QB.
Young will be missed if he has to sit out games against Penn State (yes, even after a loss at Minnesota) and Michigan. But Maryland (3-7) was no match, and we’ll go out on a limb and say Rutgers won’t put up much of a fight next week, either.
ONSIDE KICK: You’d think the Buckeyes would wait to cash in on the element of surprise at a more critical time, but leading, 14-0, in the first quarter, they executed a perfect onside kick.
Blake Haubeil chipped the ball toward the sideline, like a flop shot, and Chris Olave hauled it in for an extra possession.
It wasn’t needed against the woeful Terps, but it forces future foes to devote valuable practice time to it when they’d rather be working on something else.
HIDDEN YARDS: In case you hadn’t noticed, the Buckeyes have cut waaaaaay back on penalties this year — at least until a sloppy second half by the mop-up crew. They went into the game averaging 4.8 infractions (14th fewest in the country) for 45.9 yards (31st).
They had five for 45 yards in the first half, but two were false starts by receivers (highly unusual) and one was an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on Damon Arnette (avoidable).
Last year, they were flagged 8.3 times per game (124th nationally) for 75.4 yards (126th).
The makeover of the defense has been the biggest turnaround this season. But the Buckeyes wouldn’t be thoroughly impressing the playoff committee without such a drastic upgrade in team-wide discipline.