The overwhelming opinion about this whole situation is that the starting quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes made a huge mistake in judgment, and should be lucky he didn't hurt himself, a teammate, or any one else in the process (and probably not in that order). That goes without saying.
"If I was on his offensive line, I'd take him out back and beat the snot out of him," a Buckeye fan remarked to me after the incident on Saturday night. "He needs to know better and he needs the remember that he's not just screwing himself over, but he's screwing over the whole team." This is the kind of semi-over-the-top fan vitriol that usually spews out following incidents like Barrett's. The same things were probably uttered by Oklahoma State fans when Jajuan Seales got a DUI on Oct. 19. Or when C.J. O'Grady of Arkansas got popped for DWI in August. Or when Pitt's Tyler Boyd got picked up for several under-the-influence-related crimes this summer.
Barrett has had his name in print for many great things during his short career at Ohio State, but I'm sure he never wanted anything like the press he's getting now. Once the reporting of the incident concluded, then came the punishment phase. Barrett will sit against Minnesota on Saturday night, though he won't miss Illinois the week after because he only faces misdemeanor charges (Ohio State's Athletic Handbook spells this out ... kind of). Barrett will also lose his school-sponsored academic funding, though he has a chance to "earn it back".
As the starting quarterback for the No. 1 team in the country, there's always going to be a spotlight on you, and that is what makes this situation a bit more difficult to analyze. Here are three opinions to consider between now and the next time we see Barrett on the field.
Opinion 1: Barrett's punishment is too light
This is the argument you might hear from a lot of people who don't like Ohio State, despise Urban Meyer, or have had an historical association with OVI/DUI/DWI cases (notably, their lives have been affected by a drunk driver in some way, shape or form). These people aren't necessarily wrong, either. Barrett did something dumb, could have hurt himself, and really could have hurt someone else. One game suspension for a pivotal player on a great football team who got himself arrested? "Looks like Urban is up to his old tricks," said horribly unbiased reporters out of Florida.
This is all fair, and if you think about Barrett's case like this, more power to you. Ohio State football players are BMOCs when they go down High Street, and when they do something utterly dumb, they should be taken down more than a few pegs. For Barrett to only miss one game is indicative of how little accountability we put on people nowadays. And so what if he loses his summer scholarship? That's a small price to pay for idiocy.
Opinion 2: Barrett's punishment seems about right
In the past, Ohio State has decided punishment on a case-by-base basis, and Barrett's situation has been no different so far. There are a few examples from recent Buckeye history that backs that up:
- 2008: Doug Worthington (DUI, partial game suspension)
- 2007: Antonio Henton (Solicitation [and one of the dumber busts in recent memory], seven-game suspension)
- 2006: Alex Boone (DUI, no suspension)
- 2002: Brandon Joe and Redgie Arden (DUI, one-game suspension); Quinn Pitcock and Fred Pagac (Alcohol-related offense, suspension)
- 2001: Steve Bellisari (DUI, suspension)
Jim Tressel was a lot of things, and he was certainly an innovator in how (and who) to punish. In all of the above cases, however, Tressel took into account the player's contributions and history before assigning punishment, fair or otherwise. Meyer is simply taking a page out The Winner's Manual in punishing Barrett. A one-game suspension is basically precedent, and is how the athletic handbook says punishment should be handed out in these situations. Plus, Barrett loses his summer scholarship, and that's the price he has to pay for stupidity and, once again, there's precedent for similar punishment, this time under Meyer.
Taking all of that into account, the punishment fits the crime, fits precedent, and should be a deterrent for Barrett and others not just ordering an Uber in the future.
Opinion 3: J.T. Barrett is getting a raw deal
You won't hear this from a lot of people, but weigh everything out and there's a reasonable argument that someone could make here, most of it is financial. According to a few sources (linked in the table), here's a possible financial situation for Barrett:
These are rough estimates, but are probably pretty close to what Barrett will likely pay, assuming he only takes 5 credit hours, and he doesn't get the legal work taken care of pro bono (local attorneys: make sure you know if and how to offer that kind of service, or else the university could be even more screwed).
Is this fair to Barrett? The fine, costs and counsel are fairly standard fees for this kind of thing, and what you or I could be asked to pay were we the offenders. Where it really hurts Barrett is for his summer classes. The above figure is based on a 5.0 credit hour summer, so it could be a much more expensive penalty. And, let's remember, there's no real way that Barrett can just go out and sling calzones for a summer to try and cover his expenses, because he's a student athlete. Not to mention the fact that Barrett won't be driving anywhere any time soon, and will have skyrocketing insurance rates as a result.
* * *
Remember, it doesn't matter what camp you fall into, of the three above scenarios. You may be right; you may also be wrong. The punishment phase here is full opinions worth debating. Regardless, the only thing to agree with is that hopefully Barrett's decisions and actions are thought of the next time any athlete (or anyone else, really) decides not to request an Uber instead of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.