Facing a five-game suspension to open his senior season after selling personal memorabilia including a Big Ten championship ring following the 2008 season, Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor was asked what he had learned from the situation.
The answer likely was not music to the ears of quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano, who was standing to Pryor’s right throughout Saturday's press conference in New Orleans.
“To tell you the truth, I really didn’t learn much because I already knew what I shouldn’t have done about two years ago,” Pryor said. “I’m grown now and I wouldn’t make the same decisions, so I can’t tell you that I learned something because I already knew what I did wrong.”
Saturday marked the first time Pryor had been made available to reporters since the season-ending victory against Michigan on Nov. 27. During the 22-minute press conference, Pryor had just one question cut off by an OSU employee.
On Dec. 23, Smith and head coach Jim Tressel said that Pryor and four teammates sold personal memorabilia in part because they felt they had the right to. In addition, Smith said that the tough financial times in the country added to the situation.
Smith praised the work of OSU’s compliance office but said the university was not explicit enough when it came to this specific instance until more recently. Pryor said that periodic meetings with school officials throughout the two years between selling his items and being suspended were a reminder of what he had done.
“Whenever we have those meetings with compliance, any time they would say something I would think, ‘I did that,’ ” Pryor said. “It’s over with, man. We’re not really stressing about that anymore.”
The players were not going to be allowed to participate against Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl unless they pledged to return for their senior seasons, Tressel said. The coach added that he sought out the input of the rest of the team, particularly the seniors, as to whether or not the five should be allowed to participate in the bowl game.
Friday, senior defensive tackle Dexter Larimore said he felt the players were genuinely repentant.
“We had a meeting and they truly apologized,” he said. “Every single one of them truly apologized. For us, we saw their true sorrow and we saw that they didn’t mean what they did. They were younger. It was one of those situations where you’re immature, you do some wrong things, you’re sorry for it now.”
Since the suspensions were announced, Pryor said he has received a lot of negative feedback from OSU fans but said the positive messages have outweighed the unpleasant ones. Although he said he had not received any hate mail at home, Pryor said some of the other players had.
To add support, Pryor said he has about six family members who recently opted to make the trip to see the game.
Pryor backed up Tressel’s word that he plans to return for his senior season, but he added that the thought of leaving for the NFL was under consideration. It will mark the first time he has ever sat out a game, the quarterback said.
“Obviously when we had that first (word about the) five-game suspension, (the NFL) definitely crossed my mind because that’s five games,” Pryor said. “Then I look back at the Ohio State family and the things I want to do as a senior – I’ve still got a lot I can learn. I also want to go through the process of being a senior at this great university. That’s what I took in and thought about.”
Tressel had the players sign a document that, although not legally binding, declared their intent to return for next season. Had they not done so, the coach said, they would not be available to play in this contest.
Asked how important it was to keep his word, Pryor paused for nearly five seconds as he considered the question.
“It’s important to keep your word, but at the same time different guys have different situations,” he said. “I think some guys pledge and some guys, we were basically just saying sorry. The other guys are in different situations. I can’t think if they would choose to leave that they were breaking a pledge because I wouldn’t say it’s automatic.
“Some guys have different situations. Speaking for them, you can’t go off of that.”
As for himself, Pryor said, “Once you pledge to something I think you’ve got to keep your word to it. I’ll tell you that.”
For now, the quarterback said his thoughts are on Arkansas and finishing the season with his current teammates.
“That’s the best way that I get into my focused zone,” he said. “Even back in high school when I played basketball, when stuff would go wrong, I’d go to my sport. It’s all focus on that.
“As of right now we won’t be playing five games next year so this is basically my last game until the five are done and the suspension is over. We’re going to go in real focused, I can assure you. We’ll be ready to go. It’s going to be a different step into the game.”