For the first time since the beginning of last year, when the safety was injured, Ohio State will have to play Saturday without captain Kurt Coleman.
The Buckeye star and All-America candidate has been suspended for No. 9 OSU's game Saturday at Indiana for a late helmet-to-helmet hit on Illinois quarterback Eddie McGee.
As McGee was being brought down, Coleman dove headfirst into the pile. The contact of his helmet on McGee's sent the latter's head snapping back.
In response, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel and athletic director Gene Smith issued the following joint statement: “Obviously, we will abide by the one-game suspension from the Big Ten Conference, but we feel as if there was poor judgment throughout. We concur that Kurt’s hit was late and a result of poor judgment; he was thus penalized and removed from the game by his coaches. We do not agree that it was 'pre-meditated' or that he was 'targeting a defenseless' player. The decision to suspend points to the Conference office’s feeling as if there was poor judgment by the game officials for their decision not to eject at the time. In our estimation, the final 'poor judgment' is in levying a one-game suspension in this particular case. We will abide by the decision, learn from it, and move forward.”
Coleman is a third-year starter who is second on the team with 29 tackles in four games while adding an interception and three forced fumbles.
Senior Anderson Russell could move back into the lineup beside Jermale Hines, or a younger player like redshirt freshman Orhian Johnson, who is listed as Coleman's backup, could see more playing time. Another senior safety, Aaron Gant, has missed the first four games because of injury.
Tressel also will address the media Tuesday.
Tickets are still available for the game Saturday night in Bloomington through the Ohio State ticket office at www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
In other personnel news, starting linebacker Ross Homan, who left the Illinois game after suffering a knock on the head during a collision with Coleman, is listed as even on the depth chart with backup Andrew Sweat, who played in his stead against the Fighting Illini.
The Big Ten had previously suspended Michigan linebacker Jonas Mouton and Purdue offensive lineman Zach Reckman for unsportsmanlike behavior in games this year.
The full text of the Big Ten release is below.
Park Ridge, Ill. – The Big Ten Conference office announced today that Ohio State University football student-athlete Kurt Coleman has been suspended for one game as a result of initiating helmet-to-helmet contact and targeting a defenseless opponent in the fourth quarter of Ohio State’s game against Illinois on Sept. 26, 2009.
The NCAA instituted a new football playing rule for the 2009 season mandating a post-game video review by a conference following any flagrant personal fouls, specifically in regards to initiating helmet-to-helmet contact and targeting an opponent. In the 2009-10 NCAA Football Rules and Interpretations, Rule 9-6, Article 2, states “When there is a foul called for initiating contact/targeting an opponent (Rule 9-1-3) that does not result in a player disqualification, there shall automatically be a video review by the conference for possible additional sanctions before the next scheduled game.” Rule 9-1, Article 3.a., states in part that “No player shall initiate contact and target an opponent with the crown (top) of his helmet.” Rule 9-1, Article 3.b., states in part that “No player shall initiate contact and target a defenseless opponent above the shoulders.”
After consultation with NCAA National Coordinator of Officials Dave Parry and Secretary-Rules Editor Rogers Redding and a review of relevant video by Big Ten Coordinator of Officials Bill Carollo, the conference has determined that a one-game suspension is appropriate. The Big Ten Conference supports application of NCAA Rule 9-6 as a way of deterring the targeting of an opponent which poses a risk of injury to defenseless players.
The Big Ten Conference considers this matter concluded and will have no further comment.