The nation’s leading sacker is ineligible for Saturday’s game vs. the Terrapins “due to a possible NCAA issue from 2018 that the department of athletics is looking into,” the university said in a release Friday.
Young, a 6-foot-5, 265-pound graduate of powerful DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Md., added more information with a Twitter post later in the morning.
“Unfortunately, I won’t be playing this week because of an NCAA eligibility issue,” he wrote. “I made a mistake last year by accepting a loan from a family friend I’ve known since the summer before my freshman year at OSU.
“I repaid it in full last summer and I’m working with the university and NCAA to get back on the field as soon as possible. I want to thank my family, teammates, coaches and the whole Ohio State community for all the love and support. God bless and go Bucks!”
With a nation-leading 13.5 sacks this season, Young, a junior captain, has been garnering Heisman Trophy talk and is generally considered the No. 1 prospect for the 2020 draft if he chooses to forgo his final season of eligibility.
One sack shy of breaking Vernon Gholston’s single-season Ohio State sack record set in 2007, Young is fourth in the country in tackles for loss (15.5) and second in forced fumbles (five).
He has a sack in 10 consecutive games and is coming off a game in which he broke the school single-game record for tackles for loss (five) and tied the record with four sacks against No. 13 Wisconsin.
A five-star prospect coming out of high school, greatness has been expected from Young since he arrived on campus, and he spoke prior to the season about embracing the role of captain while growing into such a role.
“I never really visualized it like I did other things, but I feel like when I got more into the program, when I got the meaning of being a Buckeye was, I was like, ‘Man, I want to be a part of that group of people who can lead a team,’” he said in August. “The opportunity was there, and I’ve just taken it.”
Now along with being one of the game’s biggest stars on the field, he is likely to become another high-profile example of what many feel is the NCAA’s need to update its rules on what compensation athletes are able to receive during their playing careers.
Young’s suspension comes at the same time discussions about loosening restrictions on athletes’ ability to profit off their name, image and likeness have grown louder across the country.
While it is uncertain if the Young situation would fall into the above category, loans are on the list of items termed an “extra benefit” in the current NCAA Division I rules manual.
Currently a student-athlete is able to receive a loan as long as it is available to all students and “the student-athlete’s athletics reputation, skill or pay-back potential as a future professional athlete is not considered by the lending agency in its decision to provide the loan.”
Whether or not the person who issued the loan is considered an Ohio State booster could come into play as well, but that is unknown at this point.
Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith was on a working group that examined the issue from May through October before issuing a report to the NCAA Board of Governors that resulted in recommendation rules be updated “to permit students participating in athletics the opportunity to benefit from the use of their name, image and likeness in a manner consistent within the collegiate model.”
A press release from the NCAA included guideline for member schools to consider in future discussions, but no changes to the rules have been made yet.
In an interview with the Dayton Daily News on Thursday afternoon (unrelated to the Young news as it had not broken yet), Smith said he felt regulating athletes’ income opportunities while they are in school would not be difficult.
“Once they’re here, to me that’s easy,” Smith said. “It’s the recruiting part that I think that all of us need to really take our time and make sure we don’t create significant challenges in that space.”
While players such as Young get the most attention because they are the highest-profile and presumably have the highest earning potential, Smith noted all athletes must be kept in mind as old rules are changed and new ones are created.
“We’re all focused on the 1%, but there's a lot of other athletes who are not on full-ride scholarship so they leave in debt,” Smith said. “So how do we make sure we legislate them, and provide them opportunities as opposed to just focusing on the 1%? And so it is a complex issue. I'm glad that we're in it. I'm hopeful that we'll come out with some resolutions at the end that will be beneficial to our kids. And then we'll go through the process and see what lays out.”
While Young, his friends and family, Ohio State and fans of the Buckeyes will hope to see Young’s situation worked out in the short term, Smith said he did not anticipate changes to the current system being voted on until 2021.
"The Board of Governors approving the membership to have discussions on what could possibly be done in this space is a good thing,” he said. “I haven't had a chance to sit down with my colleagues in the Big Ten. I'm looking forward to that conversation to discuss those type of things but I'm very supportive of the effort to try and figure something out.”