Big Ten commissioner changes his view on Ohio State case

Big Ten Conference Commissioner Jim Delany might have acted differently toward five Ohio State football players who were allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl despite NCAA violations had he known the information that has since been uncovered.

The players were permitted to wait until this fall to begin serving five-game suspensions for accepting money and tattoos from the owner of a Columbus tattoo parlor. It was not until more than a week after the Buckeyes' 31-26 victory over Arkansas that school officials realized Coach Jim Tressel had known about the violations for more than nine months.

"Based on what we knew, we just spoke on behalf of the kids and the NCAA made the decision it made," Delany said Thursday at the annual Bowl Championship Series meetings in New Orleans. "But I don't think anybody had the knowledge that we have now."

The NCAA is investigating Tressel for knowing about potential major rules violations but not telling Ohio State officials about it. The ruling body of college athletics sent a 13-page "notice of allegations" to Ohio State last Friday that said Tressel "failed to deport himself … [with] honesty and integrity," and accused him of lying when he filled out a compliance form in September that said he had no knowledge of NCAA violations by any of his players.

Tressel and Ohio State are scheduled to go before the NCAA's infractions committee Aug. 12.

"I'm concerned about it. I think it's a serious situation," Delany said. "The facts are fairly well known and I think the institution will get in front of the infractions committee and then they'll render their opinion in a timely way."

Ohio State believes the case is closed on the five players — starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, offensive lineman Mike Adams, tailback Dan Herron and wide receiver DeVier Posey, along with backup defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

Also Thursday, Ohio State released a letter from a U.S. attorney dated Dec. 7, 2010, in which the school was notified of numerous football jerseys, cleats and other memorabilia discovered during a raid on the home of Edward Rife, the subject of a federal drug-trafficking investigation. It was the letter that eventually led to the players' suspensions.

The letter stated Ohio State players had received between $12,000 and $15,000 in cash, free tattoos and reduced-price tattoos for providing the merchandise, some of which was signed.

The letter revealed that there was far more memorabilia found in the raid than previously reported and that it was worth thousands more than originally thought.

College basketball players will have less time to decide whether to stay in the NBA draft and college football players will be spending more time in the classroom.

The NCAA's Board of Directors adopted changes that will take effect next season and could have a significant impact on those in the two highest-profile sports.

Football players could be suspended for up to four games, starting in 2012, if they fail to earn at least nine credit hours in the fall semester — or eight on a quarterly system.

Basketball players must decide before the first day of the spring signing period, typically mid-April, to pull out of the draft and retain their college eligibility. This year, players have until May 8 to withdraw from the draft.

Coaches wanted the earlier date so they could find replacements for those players making an early jump to the NBA.

The NCAA will force football players to take more classes in the fall session. It wants to limit the practice of football players taking fewer hours during the season, then loading up on extra classes in the spring and summer to retain their eligibility.

Players who fail to meet the minimum requirements can reduce the suspension to two games if they earn 27 hours in a school year on a semester system or 40 on a quarterly system. But players will only be able to get the reduction once during their college career.



GOLF



Jones, Watson tied for lead

Matt Jones holed out from 60 feet on his final hole for a six-under-par 66 and a share of the first-round lead with Bubba Watson in the PGA Tour's Zurich Classic at Avondale, La.

Watson, the winner at Torrey Pines in late January, eagled the par-five 11th and had six birdies and two bogeys at TPC Louisiana. Jones had eight birdies and two bogeys.

Joe Durant, Tommy Gainey, Carl Pettersson, John Rollins, Nick O'Hern and David Duval opened with 67s.

Grace Park and Song-Hee Kim shot five-under 67s and shared the first-round lead in the Avnet LPGA Classic at Mobile, Ala., the tour's only event in a six-week stretch. Park eagled the par-five 13th and had had five birdies and two bogeys on the Crossings course. Stacey Lewis and Karen Stupples were a stroke back.

Top-ranked Lee Westwood finished the first round of the Ballantine's Championship with a double bogey, falling six shots behind leader Damien McGrane at Seoul, South Korea.



ETC.



Zbikowski's suspension lifted

The Choctaw Nation Gaming Commission in Oklahoma lifted the suspension of boxer Tommy Zbikowski, the Baltimore Ravens safety whose next scheduled fight is June 4 at Staples Center.

Zbikowski's manager, Mike Joyce, informed the fighter's promoter, Top Rank, that he had received a certified letter from the Oklahoma commission informing Zbikowski that his clean follow-up test taken this week in Chicago had effectively addressed concerns raised by a test Saturday in Oklahoma that was positive for marijuana.

Four other boxers on the card tested positive for the marijuana ingredient THC, and Zbikowski promoter Bob Arum speculated the fighters got a "contact high" from marijuana usage by someone else at the hotel where the bouts were fought.

— Lance Pugmire

Jessica Hardy's long legal battle ended when it was determined that she will be eligible to complete for the Olympics next year in London. The Long Beach swimmer, who tested positive for a banned substance before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was informed by the International Olympic Committee that she would not be subject to Rule 45, also known as the six-month rule.

Hardy received a one-year suspension, and that IOC rule could have kept her out of the London Games. The edict, put in place before the 2008 Olympic, prevents any athlete from competing in the next Olympics if the length of the suspension is more than six months.

"I am ecstatic that the IOC has recognized my unique situation, and that the rule does not apply to me," Hardy said in a statement.

— Lisa Dillman

The Minnesota Supreme Court cleared the way for the NFL to suspend Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Pat Williams, perhaps the final chapter in the closely watched antidoping case.

In a one-page order without comment, the court declined to consider Williams' appeal of a decision that had gone against both Williams and teammate Kevin Williams, who are not related. The order was signed Wednesday by Chief Justice Lorie Gildea and made public Thursday.

Justice Alan Page, a former Viking, did not take part in the decision.

The Williamses were initially suspended in 2008 for taking the weight-loss supplement StarCaps, which contained a banned diuretic called bumetanide that can mask the presence of steroids. They waged a long fight against the suspensions through federal and state courts, and the league allowed them to play pending a resolution of the case. Kevin Williams gave up the fight last month because his attorney said he was tired of the litigation.

Canada's Patrick Chan won his first world figure skating title, and Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany finished first in the pairs competition in the world championships at Moscow.

Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne has been hospitalized for symptoms that could be related to an insect bite. Roush Fenway Racing officials said Bayne will not race this weekend at Richmond International Raceway.

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