In my Clark Kent/day job career (Recruiting and HR), I've often been the guy that gets called when somebody gets in trouble with the rules. While we may have exhaustively tried to spell out procedures and bylaws for how to deal with specific infractions, in reality, how certain individuals are punished depends a lot on the person, their job, and how replaceable they are.
Obviously, there are some infractions that are so serious that dismissal is really the only possible recourse. It doesn't matter if you're a mail room plebeian or a high level software developer, if you're say, looking at porn at work, or show up to the office carrying 2 pounds of meth, we have to fire you.
Other infractions lead into a more gray area. If personal internet usage is against company policy, and both the intern and a VP are habitual violators, who is easier to replace? In theory, you'd want to enforce a consistent program to help boost organizational morale, but in the real world, firms often look at who is easier to replace. There are thousands of liberal-arts majors who would be happy to step into the intern role should we elect to can the guy who is consistently browsing the internet (UNLESS, of course, he's browsing Land Grant Holy Land, in which case, he's obviously very intelligent, handsome, and should be promoted) , so letting the intern go wouldn't be a major organizational hassle. A VP is probably a major contributor to the company though, and would be much harder to replace, so completely firing the guy over a relatively minor infraction is probably harder to stomach. A more velvet glove approach is probably going to be employed. It might not be right, but it's often the way things go.
Okay okay, cool story bro and all, but this is a college football blog, not Forbes. What does that have to do with Ohio State? Well, potentially a lot.
Thanks to lingering effects from sanctions, the Buckeyes are rapidly running out of room for available scholarships for this recruiting class. It's hard to say exactly how many spots are left, but assuming typical roster churn, Ohio State only has between 1-6 spots open for additional recruits in the 2014 class, and that's probably generous. There are, however, more than 1-6 highly talented recruits who would love to come to Ohio State, AND that the Buckeyes would want to sign. In a perfect world, the Buckeyes would love additional depth along the lines, playmaker speed, and perhaps another player for the defensive backfield.
Now, other, perhaps less-scrupulous teams, might lean on players very hard to to encourage players to transfer or otherwise leave the program, to help the math balance out for a little oversigning. There isn't evidence that Meyer would inappropriately do that, but if you were a scholarship football player for Ohio State that's a little buried in the depth chart, now would be a great time to not give Meyer any ideas.
One of the dominant storylines around Meyer this offseason was that his teams were somewhat of a mix cross between Slytherin and Guantanamo Bay, renegades and criminals that Meyer has invariably LOST CONTROL of. That's obviously bothered Meyer, who would love to shed that label, or at least, get back to talking about football. What better way to do that than by coming down especially hard on a wayward freshman or backbencher? He can work towards silencing the professional national media trolls, and help free up a scholarship.
It's never a good time to get in trouble if you're a college football player, but if you aren't a major contributor, now would be an especially bad time to lose academic eligibility, get a DUI, start a bar fight, or otherwise cause trouble. Non-key contributors are lacking in leverage right now that they might have at a lesser school that isn't under the recruiting gun as much as the Buckeyes. If you mess up, there is probably a 4 or 5 star kid who plays your position who would happily take your place. A starter is probably substantially less likely to get booted from the program, but suspensions will still be dolled out, not to mention enough sprints to kill your typical freshman biology major.
Is that totally fair? Feel free to debate it in the comments. Like the entry level employee though, some underclassmen or reserves don't have the leverage they might have had before when it comes to discipline. Don't give the Urbz a reason to send you packing towards the MAC, or one of the Miscreant Buckeyes D3 destinations. Go to class. Stay out of trouble. Don't do drugs.
Trust me on this. Don't let HR get involved. It's seldom a good thing. And if you're a Tressel-era lineman signee or underachieving skill position player, you might want to buy an XBOX or something.