COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four Ohio State teammates suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season apologized on Tuesday for selling championship rings and memorabilia and taking discounts from a tattoo parlor.
The NCAA will permit all five to play in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas on Jan. 4.
“I didn’t mean to hurt nobody at all and I didn’t mean to bring anything down or embarrassment to our university because this is the greatest university in the nation,” Pryor said, addressing his comments to alumni, former Ohio State players, fans, teammates and the coaching staff.”
He added: “Hopefully I can someday get your forgiveness.”
Pryor, along with starting tailback Dan “Boom” Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey and offensive tackle Mike Adams, and backup defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, said they regretted their actions, which go back as far as two years.
The five juniors walked single file into a room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, sat at a table and then each spoke about a minute. Two spoke from written notes. Reporters were not allowed to ask questions.
The players used the phrase “Buckeye nation” nine times in referring to those to whom they were apologizing.
“It’s something that is life-changing,” Thomas said. “This has really made us all really look at things very differently. We’re very remorseful to everyone around us, everyone in this room. We realize we made a mistake.”
Ohio State spokesman Shelly Poe told The Associated Press she did not know if the apologies were part of players’ punishment or if they were compelled to apologize by the coaches or asked to speak publicly.
The Buckeyes practiced earlier in the day. They leave Wednesday for New Orleans, site of the Sugar Bowl.
Pryor must repay $2,500 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring, Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award and his 2008 gold pants, a tradition-rich charm given to players who are a part of a team that beats rival Michigan. Pryor called his actions “young, selfish mistakes.”
The five were suspended last week by the NCAA; Ohio State is appealing. Coach Jim Tressel and athletic director Gene Smith, along with the players, did not directly address the investigation or the players’ relationship with the tattoo parlor and its owner because of the appeal and a separate federal investigation.
“I’m very humble and thankful to be a Buckeye now and into the future,” Herron said. “My hope is there will be a day when I am forgiven.”
Since they are juniors, they could enter the NFL draft this spring and avoid NCAA punishment. Only Posey confirmed he was returning for his senior season.
Many have criticized the NCAA and Ohio State for allowing the players to play in the bowl game. The Big Ten and the university asked the NCAA for permission.
Critics also say the punishment was delayed until the 2011 regular season so the bowl — which provides about $17 million to the participating teams and their conferences— would not be diluted.
NCAA spokesman Kevin Lennon disputed that assessment.
“The notion that the NCAA is selective with its rules enforcement is a tired myth rooted in bias and personal perception,” he said in a statement.
“Money is not a motivator or factor as to why one school would get a particular decision versus another,” he added. “Any insinuation that revenue from bowl games in particular would influence NCAA decisions is laughable because schools and conferences receive that revenue, not the (NCAA).”
Each player also must repay to charity the value of what he gained.
Adams must repay $1,000 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring. Herron sold his football jersey, pants and shoes for $1,000 and received discount services worth $150. Posey sold his 2008 Big Ten ring for $1,200 and also received discount services.
A sixth player, freshman linebacker Jordan Whiting, must sit out the first game of the 2011 season and pay $150 to a charity.
“We just want to show everyone out there that, you know, we’re not bad people,” Thomas said.