After being forced to wait weeks in order to find out whether or not he would be able to participate in the NFL supplemental draft, Terrelle Pryor was informed that he would indeed be eligible for the draft, but would not be eligible to practice or play for the first five weeks of the NFL season. There is still confusion as to whether or not Pryor will appeal the suspension levied by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, but in the meantime, news broke over the weekend that former Ohio State coach, Jim Tressel will not join the Colts in his new role as a replay consultant until week seven of the NFL season.
At first glance, this would seem to be a bad sign for Pryor's chances of succeeding should he pursue an appeal. However, there is more to the story than meets the eye.
While it is true that Tressel will miss one more game than Pryor will, the way in which the suspensions were levied does not take away questions about the fairness of Pryor's suspension.
When news first came out that Pryor would be suspended for actions taken while he was still at Ohio State, many were surprised and angered by the Commissioner's attempt to enforce NCAA rules in the NFL. Goodell has made many a controversial decisions when it comes to the topic of player punishments, but none as questionable as the suspension of Pryor. The fact of the matter is that the NFL is littered with players and even a coach (Pete Carroll) who have either been implicated or out right proven to have broken NCAA rules before entering the NFL, none of them, however, have ever been punished by the NFL for their previous transgressions.
The only real discernable difference between Pryor and the others who have been implicated in breaking NCAA rules is that news of Pryor's transgressions broke while he was still in college, and as such, he faced penalties from the NCAA at the time he decided to forgo his senior season and enter the supplemental draft. Whether that distinction is sufficient to justify Goodell's suspension is up for debate.
However, what should not be up for debate is whether or not Goodell was correct in treating Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor so drastically different in assessing their penalties.
On the one hand, Pryor was told that he would not be able to play or practice for the first five games of the season. This was an official NFL suspension that would require an official appeal in order to be changed. On the other hand, Tressel and the Colts were given the opportunity to choose their own punishment for Tressel.
True, Tressel wound up with a suspension that was one game longer than Pryors, but that due more to the Colts wanting to avoid a scandal that took attention away from football than it was the NFL saying that Tressel's transgression was worse than Pryors.
The thing of it is, Tressel's transgression WAS worse than Pryor's.
Pryor was a college student when he broke the NCAA rules. Often, with the importance that is placed on college football, it is easy to forget that the athletes playing college ball are still kids. Who can honestly say that they did not do a single thing wrong while they were in college? For most, it is the first time living away from home and making most of your own decisions. Do people make bad decisions while in college? Sure. Does being in college excuse them from their misdeeds? No. But, there tends to be more understanding for the transgressions of a youth who is still learning about the world, than for an experienced adult like Jim Tressel.
Pryor was a kid who broke the rules. Tressel was an adult who helped him cover up for having broken the rules. Does it really make any sense that Tressel gets to choose his punishment while Pryor has his forced upon him?