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Suspended Buckeyes should cut ties with unfair system, turn pro

To the gentlemen starring in this week's episode of Columbus Ink:

Go pro. Do it immediately after the Sugar Bowl. Play the game, take a shower, and sign with the agent of your choice. Then go drink a Hand Grenade at Tropical Isle to celebrate.

Think about it, Terrelle Pryor, Boom Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas. You don't need this aggravation.

You can go to the NFL or the CFL or the UFL, where you'll be paid when someone profits from your name or likeness. You'll be fairly compensated for your contribution to your team's gross revenue. Should you benefit from your notoriety, you won't be punished.

Or you can stay at Ohio State, where the NCAA will force you to miss the first five games of next season for selling signed game-worn gear and memorabilia in exchange for cash and tattoos. (Terrelle, it probably wasn't very sportsmanlike to sell your Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award, but I'm not sure I'd want to keep a trophy memorializing my trip to a bowl that is under investigation by an Arizona grand jury.) You'll have to sit out while your teammates play against Miami, Colorado and Michigan State. Then you'll get to return just in time for a trip to Lincoln to play Nebraska. Certainly, those NFL scouts won't downgrade you if you get mangled trying to shake off the rust against one of college football's best teams. Will they?

And don't even bother asking why you're suspended for those games instead of the upcoming Sugar Bowl against Arkansas. That's an entirely different can of worms.

Your athletic director claims the department didn't educate you properly until midway through your careers, and that's why you sold your stuff. This may not be an actual lie, but it's pure semantics. The Big Ten needs you to play in the Sugar Bowl so the conference doesn't get embarrassed by another loss to an SEC school in a BCS game. You knew what you were doing was against NCAA rules. You aren't as stupid as your school is making you out to be.

Basically, you got suspended because the NCAA doesn't want you infringing upon your school's ability to make money on your backs. Click on the fan shop link on the official Ohio State football Web site. There, you'll find dozens of authentic, game-worn football jerseys for sale at $300 a pop. Shame on you for diluting the inventory and for providing such in-demand items as that sportsmanship award and Terrelle's "gold pants."

Of course, for the low, low price of $100, you can get the actual pants worn by your teammates when you paid tribute to the 1942 team with throwback uniforms for the win against Michigan last month. The folks at Ohio State are even kind enough to tell buyers which of your teammates wore the pants.

Terrelle, feel free to click on over to the page where they sell the replica jerseys. Why, 15 of those jerseys for sale -- ranging in price from $43.95 to $74.95 -- have a No. 2 on them. You wear No. 2, don't you? Certainly, that's just a coincidence. Of course, one of those No. 2 jerseys belongs to Cris Carter. How do we know that? Because it says "Carter" on the back. Of course, Carter gets paid every time someone buys one of those No. 2 jerseys. What do you get for the other 14 variations? The same scholarship as the setter on the volleyball team, and she isn't selling any jerseys.

Don't worry, DeVier, your No. 8 is available, too. So is your No. 1, Boom. Sorry, Mike and Solomon. They don't usually sell the jerseys of linemen -- unless they're trying to unload authentic gear for hundreds of dollars per item.

Each of you provides more value to your school than you receive from your scholarship. You all contributed to three Big Ten titles. You all contributed to three teams that made BCS bowls. In two of those years, your team was a BCS at-large selection, which brought in millions more for the Big Ten. Did you get a bonus in your scholarship check the next semester for your contributions to the financial health of your athletic department and to the athletic departments of 10 other Big Ten schools? Didn't think so.

So now you have a chance to make real money in exchange for your unique skill sets. Take it. Stop feeding a system designed to exploit you.

A lot of players in your situation might hesitate to turn pro this season because of the impending NFL labor strife. There may be a lockout. Training camp might get wiped out. A rookie wage scale may be set into place that severely reduces initial payouts to players drafted high. This might be the one year when staying in school could offer some benefit. Not in your cases. For the five of you, the NCAA has made your decision easy. If you come back five games into next season, you'll be rusty. Your draft stock probably will suffer. Why not shine in the Sugar Bowl and strike while the iron is hot? Besides, if there is going to be a rookie wage scale, the real money will be in your second NFL contract. Why not get one more year in your prime to get paid?

You might not all make it. You might wash out after a few years. That's why you should take some of the money you earn and finish your degree in the offseason. No matter how athletic you are -- and the five of you have varying degrees of pro potential -- NFL millions are never guaranteed. But leave and you'll get something. Come back to Ohio State after a five-game absence and wreck a knee, and you'll get nothing but a bunch of grief for destroying the Buckeyes' 2011 season.

Sure, a lot of naïve fans will get angry if you leave early. Not all of them, mind you. Just the ones who think you should take your scholarship and shut up. Those people fail to understand that you are asked to work a full-time job as a full-time student. The difference is the guy who works 40 hours a week as a waiter at Chili's can afford tuition, room and board and still take his girlfriend to a movie on the weekend. And he doesn't make millions for Chili's. You do make millions for the athletic department at The Ohio State University. Let those fans get mad. You don't need friends like them.

Did you screw up by selling all that stuff? Absolutely. You knew better -- in spite of what Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith says about the education program that just so happened to go into effect after your fire sale.

But was it wrong to sell something for which you bled? According to the NCAA, yes. According to common sense, absolutely not.

So turn pro now. You owe Ohio State nothing. If anything, Ohio State owes you.

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