The question as to whether the five Ohio State juniors suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season will play Jan. 4 in the Sugar Bowl was answered Thursday morning when Jim Tressel met with the media for the first time since touching down in New Orleans.
The five juniors – quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, left tackle Mike Adams, wide receiver DeVier Posey and backup defensive lineman Solomon Thomas – will be permitted to play against Arkansas.
“They’re in the family. They are on the trip. They want to be Buckeyes in 2011,” Tressel said. “They’re obviously very remorseful for misjudgments made. They’re anxious to have a great experience at the Sugar Bowl.”
The fact that Pryor and company want to be Buckeyes in 2011 is the reason why they will suit up against the Razorbacks. Tressel said the players had to commit to returning to Ohio State next season and not leave early for the NFL in order to make sure the offending players would not avoid suffering any punishment whatsoever.
If they wanted to play, they had to pledge to return.
“If indeed they wanted they wanted to stay a part of the family and be on the bowl trip … they would have to make any decisions based upon their future in the NFL prior to us leaving to go to the bowl game,” Tressel said. “Because we didn’t feel it would be fair to the NCAA or fair to the other people involved in the process if someone were able to participate and then have no consequences down the road. So those decisions were made by our young people and I’m excited to say all of the guys that were involved (will return in 2011).”
Tressel said after the NCAA punishment was handed out shortly before Christmas, he discussed the issue with the university, his fellow coaches and the Buckeyes’ 24 seniors.
“Our seniors were very, very involved in the decision-making,” Tressel said. “As I went to every group, it was fairly unanimous that what was most important to all of those groups was that the family stay intact and there not be a situation where someone is cast out and separated from (the team).”
As for the suggestion that the players could miss part of the Sugar Bowl as an additional punishment, Tressel debunked that.
“The guys will play as to whether they deserve to play from a football standpoint,” he said.
Tressel also said the Buckeyes visited two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin at home after the controversy arose after some players wanted to find a way to show former Buckeyes they were sorry for the incident.
“He said the kids might get a different perspective when they look at my basement and see how important some of those things are to me,” Tressel said.
Tressel’s comments could be the only ones on the suspensions when the Buckeyes are in the Crescent City. He said his players have been instructed not to talk about subject while the penalties are being appealed.
“It’s not inbounds at all for them to talk about that situation,” Tressel said.
Among the other subject Tressel touched on during his 30-minute press conference was the brief firestorm created on Christmas when a Chicago-area blogger wrote that Tressel would resign, a rumor that was quickly squashed and was again debunked by Tressel.
“My phone started blowing up Christmas night while I was having dinner,” he said. “Apparently it was someone on a website using their freedom of speech. God bless America, I guess. … It’s not true at all.”
There was even some Arkansas talk. Tressel called the Razorbacks the quickest team the Buckeyes have faced since Ohio State battled Oregon in the Rose Bowl at the end of the 2010 season.
“These guys are quick,” Tressel. They’re not X and O-wise similar (to Oregon) at all, but they’re quick.”
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