How should Ohio State react when Terrelle Pryor is allowed to return in 2016?

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We recently saw Michigan's official disassociation with Chris Webber come to an end. In three years, Terrelle Pryor will be permitted to associate with Ohio State again. How should Ohio State handle his return?

Chris Webber's back in the news for things other than appearing at Michigan's championship game loss against Louisville. Dave Brandon, representing the athletic department, has extended an invitation to Webber and the other members of the team embroiled in the scandal to call him and discuss a return to Michigan. Yahoo! Sports's Dan Wetzel has argued that Michigan should apologize to Webber, while others believe Webber will choose not to return due to perceived injustices resulting after the Ed Martin scandal.

In 2016, Terrelle Pryor's banishment from Ohio State will end. Although Pryor's exile was self-imposed by Ohio State, it's completely possible something similar or worse would have been handed down by the NCAA if Gene Smith had chosen not to distance the school from the quarterback. While Webber meant more to Michigan from a "most valuable player"-perspective, Pryor was still the star quarterback of two BCS-bowl winning teams. He also benefitted the football program through multiplier effects that exceeded merely those on the gridiron. In this 2011 article, Andy Staples estimates that Pryor made as much as 1.3 million dollars for Ohio State in football-related revenue (jerseys, ticket sales, etc.) This may even be a conservative estimate, as jersey sales dropped 47% when Pryor left.

But as those have debated about Webber, was the way Ohio State and the NCAA treated Pryor justified? Did the punishment fit the mistakes that were committed by Pryor? And why is Pryor viewed as the lone villain when others (Boom Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, et al) were suspended for the same or similar offenses but were not cut off altogether from the university? Pryor seems to have been painted with a similar brush as Webber in this situation because he was both the brightest star of the group but also for not exactly endearing himself with the rest of Buckeye Nation prior to the scandal. While Pryor defended himself (including going so far as to claiming the truth would come out in a future tell all book) when the solid waste hit the rotary blades, he never fully succeeded in alleviating the denunciations he'd faced since he infamously first mispronounced Ohio State's name when committing to the school out of high school that were only magnified when he and teammates were caught in compromising positions.

Of course almost no one is in the right in this situation. Pryor was wrong for taking the money for selling his gear – as trivial as that particular NCAA violation is, whether that should or should not be an NCAA violation in the first place is a debate for another time. Ohio State and the NCAA found that Jim Tressel knew about the situation and skirted multiple opportunities to admit what he knew and when. Gene Smith and the athletic department could've better read the tea leaves and at least tried to self impose a bowl ban. As Smith and co. have since stated, it is fully possible that the NCAA would've tacked on a second such ban. But even with hindsight being 20/20, it seems far less likely the sport's governing body would've piled on had the school relied less on precedent and instead better attempted to circumnavigate the worst case scenario.

While Ohio State fans have been quick to welcome back Jim Tressel (or more appropriately, celebrate his 2002 accomplishments than give him a free pass for the mistakes that marred his tenure), Pryor will likely never be fully welcome to some Buckeyes. But as mentioned, Pryor's on the field leadership did help guide the team to three BCS bowls, two wins, as well as help put an end to the school's long running postseason suffering against the SEC. Additional contrition on TP's part would still go a long way towards easing the steps towards a more formal reconciliation (in spite of the disassociation from the athletic department, Pryor is eligible even now to continue making progress towards his degree), but regardless of what happens between now and then, if Michigan is able to let bygones be bygones, there's no reason OSU can't do the same.

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