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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Adam Rittenberg of Buckeyes' return a testament to Tressel

Thought this would be enjoyed by readers of the blog. I highlighted and italicized certain areas I deemed relevant…

The official list of underclassmen entering the 2011 NFL draft will be released at some point today, but no Ohio State players will appear on it.

Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel confirmed to The Columbus Dispatch on Tuesday that all of the team's underclassmen will be back in 2011. The group includes five players -- quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, left tackle Mike Adams and defensive linemen Solomon Thomas -- who are suspended for the first five games this coming season, pending appeal.

"Our kids want to finish their degree and their commitment at Ohio State," Tressel told The Dispatch. "That is very important to each and every one of them, and to our staff and entire athletics family."

There are times when those of us in the media need to admit we're wrong, and this is one of those times. After the suspension bombshell last month, I had a hard time believing the players would return simply because of a verbal or written promise to Tressel. There are no binding agreements in cases like these. Players can ultimately do what they want.

There was a lot of justified criticism about the players being allowed -- by both the NCAA and Ohio State -- to participate in the Sugar Bowl, and the agreements between the players and Tressel sparked a good deal of skepticism.

Here's what I wrote last month:

Four of the five players receiving the stiffest penalties -- Pryor, Herron, Posey and Adams -- are candidates to go pro after the bowl game. I had heard Herron was the likeliest to do so, but he'll probably have some company. I just can't see all of these players coming back to miss what likely will be at least one third of their senior seasons.

And before the bowl game:

As for the players, I don't buy the statement that all will be back in 2011. Things change after bowl games and after NFL draft evaluations come in. While I see where Tressel is going with his decision, I don't think you can base it on what the players are saying now.

Turns out, Ohio State won the Sugar Bowl and all five players kept their word. Buckeyes fans flooding my inbox are demanding that national media members apologize and praise the suspended players for their display of integrity.

I can't control what my media colleagues do, but I'll fully admit I underestimated Tressel and his influence on his players. If these guys didn't care about disappointing their coach, at least one if not more would be entering the draft. Pryor and the others didn't want to let down The Vest, and that's very significant.

I don't know how many other coaches could do what Tressel did in this situation, especially when some of the players have opportunities to get paid at the next level.

I'll hold off on labeling these players as pillars of integrity, but their decision to keep their word is another step in the right direction. They can apologize to Buckeyes fans and vow to make things right, but we all know actions speak louder.

It remains to be seen how Ohio State fans will view the legacies of the five suspended players, especially Pryor, in 10 or 20 years.

But Tressel's legacy in Columbus is clear and continues to grow.

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