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Pryor's departure could help save Ohio State from sins of Tressel era

Don't be like Dustin, whose Twitter bio proclaims that he's "Buckeye born and bred, a Buckeye 'til I'm dead." At 8:34 p.m. Tuesday, Dustin lobbed this grenade at now-former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor's Twitter account.

Real men dont quit on there team @TPeezy2 #quitter

Don't be like Dina, whose Twitter bio identifies her as an Ohio State student. At 8:17 p.m. Tuesday, Dina tweeted this:

@TPeezy2 why didn't you leave before you ****** over your team, coach, and school? Because of you tressel is gone. We all hate you. Peace.

By all means, please don't be as fake as Richard, whose Twitter bio describes him as a "regular, down to earth guy" who loves "God, My Country and Sports!" Twenty-five minutes after he sent Ohio State freshman quarterback Braxton Miller a tweet of encouragement, Richard sent this to Pryor:

@TPeezy2 you should have raised your standards with your decision making! #FakeBuckeye

The smarter Buckeyes are saying only the nicest -- or at least the most neutral -- things about Pryor, who announced through his attorney Tuesday that he wouldn't play his senior season at Ohio State. Like coach Jim Tressel eight days earlier, Pryor took a bullet for the program. The 6-foot-6 uber-athlete from Jeanette, Pa., will forever be remembered by people in scarlet and gray as the player who brought down Tressel, when in fact he might be the player who saves Ohio State from most of the sins of the Tressel era. Since he doesn't plan to play another college game, Pryor can give NCAA investigators a one-fingered salute if they knock on his door. He doesn't have to say a word to them. Without Pryor's attempts to explain how so much Buckeyes equipment wound up on the market with his signature affixed or how he wound up with a fresh ride every few months during his time at Ohio State, the investigators might hit dead ends as they try to determine whether Ohio State lacked control of its football program.

Of course, if he wanted to, Pryor could burn Ohio State's football program to the ground. That's why the Buckeyes had better be nice.

Pryor could explain how that gear got out of Ohio State's locker room. He could explain how he wound up taking a two-day, out-of-state test drive. He could explain why he drove cars with dealer plates. No matter what he said, it wouldn't be good for Ohio State.

If Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith is smart and clings to any shred of hope for his continued employment in Columbus, he has quietly convinced boosters to buy Pryor's silence. That's perfectly legal now, and if we learned anything from Reggie Bush, it's that the cheapskate could have kept USC off the NCAA chopping block had he paid a measly $300,000 to a couple of wannabe agents to keep their mouths shut. Pryor doesn't have to play by the NCAA's rules anymore. Ohio State officials should do everything within their power to keep him happy. They should be good at that; it sounds as if that's how they got in this mess in the first place.

Is Pryor a bad person because he broke NCAA rules that said he didn't actually own his awards or his signature? Is he evil because he benefitted financially from being the star quarterback at a major college powerhouse? I don't know. I've interviewed the guy face-to-face three times, and certainly never for long enough to make any value judgments. It seems Pryor didn't take into account how his actions would affect his teammates. It seems he got some cash and some sweet tattoos, and all it cost was his reputation. But that's easy for me to say. I didn't have to walk past my jersey for sale in the mall and at the university bookstore.

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Pryor took full advantage of the college football experience. With apologies to Jay-Z, Pryor wasn't a businessman. He was a business, man. He understood his market value. That may be against NCAA rules, but the jury remains out on whether it's wrong.

Payment by scholarship is a great deal for about 98 percent of the athletes at the Division I level. It's a terrible deal for the other two percent, and Pryor belonged to that group. Consider this: During Pryor's sophomore year, Ohio State reported $63.8 million in football revenue. How much of that $63.8 million did Ohio State earn because of Pryor? That's tough to say. Certainly, Tressel deserved a huge share. That's probably why he was paid $3.5 million, which may still have been a bargain. Let's conservatively estimate that a star quarterback is responsible for one-fiftieth of his program's revenue. That's quite conservative, especially considering Ohio State hawked more than a dozen variations on Pryor's No. 2 jersey on its Web site. Assuming that share, Pryor made $1.3 million for the school. According to Ohio State's Web site, a second-year student spending all four quarters on campus should expect to pay $67,784 in tuition, room, board and books. This is an actual cost of attendance figure, and we know the NCAA scholarship formula does not cover actual cost of attendance at most schools, so Pryor's deal probably paid less. Even if he made $40,000 signing his name, as ESPN reported late Tuesday, he was a bargain.

As an added bonus, to enter a system that would pay him a fraction of what he would earn in an open market, Pryor had to sign away the rights to his likeness to Ohio State and the NCAA. The NCAA believes it actually owns these rights in perpetuity, but former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon and his fellow plaintiffs are about to rectify that little injustice.

Fans of college football, most of whom seem to prefer capitalism in their own economic lives, tend to turn into raving Marxists whenever someone such as Pryor does something that shines a light on the thriving black market created by the NCAA's insistence on an artificial price ceiling on the bulk of its labor force. A scholarship should be good enough for him, they say. It's good enough for everyone else, they say. Yet if their company suddenly announced that everyone would earn an identical salary, they would quit in a minute if it meant they would be paid less than market value.

Pryor thumbed his nose at that system. He could have been patient and enjoyed his payday in the pros, but he was making money for Ohio State now. Why not share in the largesse? That might make him an NCAA outlaw. That might make him a bad teammate. But it makes him a good capitalist.

So now Pryor will head off to play football for an over-the-table salary. He might play in Canada. He might enter the NFL's supplemental draft, if there is one. He may never make it in the NFL as a quarterback, but the league usually can find a place for 6-6, 235-pounders who can run circles around a defense. The smarter Ohio State fans will understand the value of Pryor's departure and its timing. The dumber ones will curse his name for decades. Just don't curse it too loud, because ticking him off might tempt him to dial a number in the 317 area code.


Operator: You've reached NCAA headquarters. How may I direct your call?

Pryor: Julie Roe Lach in enforcement, please.

Lach: This is Julie.

Pryor: What do you want to know?

It's funny. For the low, low price of a scholarship, so many people thought they owned a piece of Terrelle Pryor. Now he owns them.