DESTIN, Fla. – Ohio State 31, Arkansas 26.
Not many individuals outside of Arkansas and Ohio remember the score from last season’s Sugar Bowl, but nearly everyone remembers that six Buckeyes were allowed to play in the contest after the NCAA determined they received improper benefits. The NCAA permitted them to play and delayed the player’s suspensions until this fall.
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino was asked at Tuesday's SEC spring meetings about the Ohio State game and “should you have been playing a different team or have you let it go?”
“We wanted to play their best players,” Petrino said. “When you have a year like we had … and get to a BCS bowl game, you want to play their best players. That’s what you want to do.
“There’s no question that I don’t understand how they were eligible to play in the game. I just don’t and I never will.”
SEC commissioner Mike Slive, when told about Petrino’s comments, responded: “I can understand his position.”
Slive also was asked if he had ever seen a situation before where ineligible players were allowed to play and their suspensions delayed.
"I don't remember one," Slive said.
Petrino related a situation when he coaching Louisville. He said two of his players were suspended after spending more than their allotted per diem on food because they were stranded in Newport, R.I., following the Big East’s media days. The punishment for the Louisville players was immediate, while, obviously, the OSU players had theirs suspensions postponed allowing them to play in the Sugar Bowl.
“I think they [the NCAA] kind of changed the rules for that bowl game,” Petrino said.
Petrino said he wasn’t surprised by the resignation of Ohio State coach Jim Tressel.
“I can’t say I was surprised but I feel for him,” Petrino said. “When something like that happens you never like to see it. I feel for him, his family. It affects a lot of other people in the state and the university, so you feel for all those people.
“There are lessons to be learned from that, no question. One of the talks I have with my players is football is a game of courage. One of the lessons we always talk about is take the arrow in the forehead – which means tell the truth.
“Don’t be trying to blame things on your teammate next you. You have to be able to tell the truth with all your relationships with your professors, your girlfriend. … when it came out [Tressel] was dishonest with the NCAA you kind of knew it was going to spin a lot more.”