Columbus, Ohio — Welcome to Tattoo U.
What started out as a trip to a Columbus tattoo parlor by a couple of football players has created all sorts of mayhem for star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and Ohio State.
Pryor and four teammates were suspended Thursday by the NCAA for the first five games of next season for selling championship rings, jerseys and awards. They also received improper benefits — from up to two years ago — from the tattoo parlor and its owner.
“I learned more about tattoos than I ever really want to possibly know,” athletic director Gene Smith said. “As a student-athlete, you’re not allowed to use your persona to get discounted services.”
The NCAA said all can still play in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas on Jan. 4. Ohio State’s first five games next season are against Akron, Toledo, Miami, Colorado and Michigan State. Ohio State plans to appeal, hoping the number of games might be reduced.
Tattoos can run anywhere from $50 to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Many college athletes have more than one. Pryor certainly does. One arm alone is covered from his biceps to his wrist.
“I paid for my tattoos. Go Bucks,” Pryor posted on his Twitter account Wednesday night.
He even sold a sportsmanship award from the 2008 Fiesta Bowl along with his 2008 Big Ten championship ring. More egregious to Ohio State fans, he sold a “gold pants” trinket — an iconic charm given to players who are a part of a victory over archrival Michigan. He may not be easily forgiven by Buckeye fans who revere such traditions.
His teammates also sold Big Ten championship rings — the Buckeyes have won the last six conference titles — plus football jerseys, pants and shoes.
Along with Pryor, leading rusher Daniel “Boom” Herron, No. 2 wide receiver DeVier Posey, All-Big Ten offensive tackle Mike Adams and backup defensive end Solomon Thomas must sit out the five games and donate $1,000 to $2,500 — the value of the things they sold or the discounts they received — to charity.
A sixth player, freshman linebacker Jordan Whiting, must sit out the first game of the 2011 season and pay $150 to a charity.