Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, perhaps the most viable defensive candidate for the Heisman Trophy in decades, will not play for the Buckeyes Saturday against Maryland as the athletic department looks into “a possible NCAA issue from 2018,” according to a school release.
The inquiry is open-ended and the potential violation is unidentified. Ohio State has merely declared that Young is not available this week, with no specific timetable for when his status will be clarified.
On Friday, Young tweeted that he "made a mistake last year by accepting a loan from a family friend I've known since the summer before my freshman year at OSU. I repaid it in full last summer and I'm working with the university and NCAA to get back on the field as soon as possible."
The Buckeyes were just voted No. 1 in the first College Football Playoff rankings this week.
In standard NCAA eligibility cases, the school will request reinstatement for an athlete when its inquiry is concluded. It then would be up to the NCAA to grant reinstatement—either immediately or after missing additional competition. If the issue is an amateurism violation—stemming from accepting impermissible benefits—the athlete likely would have to repay the monetary value of benefits accrued.
A distinction should be made: the fact that Young's eligibility is under investigation does not correlate to an NCAA investigation of Ohio State football.
If a violation occurred in 2018, Young could theoretically have competed while ineligible this entire season. If that's the case, and it was ruled that Ohio State should have been aware of the violation or did not do everything it could have done to be aware, the Buckeyes could end up forfeiting the eight games it has won to this point.
However, any such ruling declaring vacated wins would have to come as the result of an NCAA infractions process, which takes several months. Unless Ohio State unilaterally and immediately vacates wins—which would seem highly unlikely—the football team's eligibility and viability for the playoff would not seem to be in jeopardy at present.
Missing a game against Maryland this week and possibly Rutgers next week is one thing—Ohio State should be able to handle those overmatched opponents without Young. But the final two games of the regular season are against undefeated Penn State Nov. 23 and arch-rival Michigan Nov. 30.
The more immediate damage may be to Young’s Heisman hopes. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound junior, who leads the nation in sacks and is fourth in tackles for loss, could see his candidacy undone by missed games and the possible taint of scandal.
Five years ago, Georgia running back Todd Gurley looked like a leading Heisman candidate before serving a four-game suspension for impermissible benefits. That effectively torpedoed his chance to win the top individual award in college football.
Managing the Young suspension also will be the first major test for first-year head coach Ryan Day. It has been smooth sailing for Day thus far, winning every game by at least 24 points and leading the nation in margin of victory.
Ohio State will be without both its starting defensive ends against the Terrapins. Jonathon Cooper also is out and has played just four games this season.