Ohio State defensive end Chase Young will not play in the Buckeyes’ football game against Maryland on Saturday after taking a possibly improper loan believed to have been used to pay for his family to attend last season’s Rose Bowl game.
The university confirmed the suspension in a brief statement Friday morning, citing a “possible NCAA issue.” The school did not provide any insight regarding the length of his suspension.
Young later tweeted his own statement in which he said that he “made a mistake last year by accepting a loan from a family friend,” the source of the issue. He noted that he had known the person before enrolling at Ohio State in 2017 and that the loan was repaid.
“I’m working with the University and NCAA to get back on the field as soon as possible,” he wrote. “I want to thank my family, teammates, coaches and the whole Ohio State community for all the love and support.”
A source told The Dispatch that the loan is believed to have been used to pay for airfare for Young’s family to attend the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. If Ohio State had been in the College Football Playoff, such expenses would have been covered by a special fund to defray costs for players’ families. Because the Rose Bowl wasn’t a playoff game, families of players received a smaller reimbursement.
Tim Nevius, a New York-based attorney who previously worked as an NCAA investigator, wrote in a tweet that he was working with Young to restore his eligibility.
Accepting a loan does not prohibit a player from returning to the field.
In one recent case, Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix sat out two games in 2013 for taking a loan of less than $500 from one of the Crimson Tide’s assistant strength and conditioning coaches, it was reported at the time by The Tuscaloosa News. The NCAA later reinstated Clinton-Dix.
The size of the loan could influence the length of Young’s suspension. Nevius only referred to the loan as a “small loan” used to “cover basic life expenses” in his tweet. Messages left with Nevius were not returned.
According to the source, Ohio State was tipped off about the loan the day after the Wisconsin game on Oct. 26. When OSU notified Young, he was fully cooperative and provided documentation regarding the loan and that it had been repaid, according to the source.
The timing is significant. If true, Ohio State did not knowingly play a player suspected of committing an NCAA violation. That’s likely to eliminate the possibility that the program would face penalties from playing Young until now.
The source also said Young intends to rejoin the team for its stretch run and not leave to begin training for the NFL draft.
A number of factors will be weighed to determine how many games Young will miss. One is the amount of the loan, which the NCAA deems an improper benefit.
Based on NCAA Bylaw 16 guidelines for violations that occurred in 2018, an improper benefit of $200-$400 would result in a suspension of 10 percent of the team’s season. That would be a one-game suspension. If the loan was between $401 and $700, the suspension would be 20 percent, and Young would have to sit out two games. Anything greater would be 30 percent, which would be a four-game suspension based on the number being rounded up from 3.6. That would keep him out of the Penn State and Michigan games.
But those are mere guidelines.
“There are too many variables” to predict an outcome, said Florida attorney Michael Buckner, who has handled NCAA-related cases since 1999. “I need to know the dollar amount. I need to know what the loan was used for. I need to know the source of funds he used in order to repay the loan, and the identity of the actual person who provided the loans.”
The relationship of the loaner to Young is a major factor in determining the suspension’s duration. Young said in his Twitter statement that it was a family friend whom he has known since the summer before he entered college.
In the NCAA’s eyes, that’s unlikely to be enough of a long-term relationship to mitigate a penalty.
“If that had been a pre-existing, long-term family-type relationship with someone that he's known since he was a child, then this would be a non-issue,” said Alabama attorney Don Jackson, who has represented clients in cases involving the NCAA for almost three decades.
“The enforcement staff is highly suspicious of people involved in sports or professional sports. They are highly suspicious of financial planners. They’re suspicious of agents. They’re suspicious of people that may be considered runners of either. So the identity and background of the source of the income may impact where this case goes.”
Buckner questioned why Young didn’t seek money from OSU’s student-assistance fund, which is designed for such situations.
“Ohio State has a great compliance program,” he said. “They go over that at the beginning of every year — the do’s and don’ts — and they go over the student-athlete assistance fund. All that is communicated to the student-athletes.
“If the issues were so dire that you need to take out a loan, why didn’t you go to the institution? For a star player, you know Ohio State would have used every single legal way to help him out.”
Young, a junior from Hyattsville, Maryland, is considered one of the top players in college football and the possible No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft next year should he file for early entry and skip his final season of eligibility.
When the unbeaten Buckeyes (8-0) were announced as the No. 1 ranked team in the first College Football Playoff ratings this week, Rob Mullens, the chair of the selection committee, singled out Young as bolstering their case for the top spot, referring to him “as probably the best defensive player in the country.”
Young’s production — he leads Football Bowl Subdivision with 13½ sacks — has been stellar enough to fuel speculation that he could become the first pure defensive player to capture the Heisman Trophy. Traditionally, college football’s most prestigious award has been given to quarterbacks and running backs.
Through the first eight games, Young is on pace to break school and Big Ten single-season records for sacks. His next sack would surpass Vernon Gholston, whose 14 sacks in 2007 set the Buckeyes’ single-season mark.
While the length of Young’s suspension is yet to be determined, it comes amid a softer spot of Ohio State’s schedule.
After facing Maryland, which has lost six of its past seven games, on Saturday, the Buckeyes visit downtrodden Rutgers on Nov. 16. The Scarlet Knights have not won a Big Ten game this season, losing six conference games by an average of more than five touchdowns per game.
But a matchup with Penn State, which debuted at No. 4 in the playoff rankings, looms large. The Nittany Lions visit Columbus in the Buckeyes’ final home game on Nov. 23, a matchup that will likely determine the Big Ten East race and carry major playoff implications.
Without Young available against Maryland, either freshman Zach Harrison or Javontae Jean-Baptiste, a redshirt freshman, will start, according to the team’s weekly depth chart.
The Buckeyes also will be playing without Jonathon Cooper, the starting defensive end opposite Young, who suffered a high ankle sprain in September and was sidelined against Wisconsin. Either Tyreke Smith or Tyler Friday, sophomores, will start for Cooper.
The possible starting defensive ends for Saturday have a combined five sacks this season, less than half of Young’s total for this season. Also, Cooper and Young are among the team’s seven captains.
The presence of Young had bolstered an improved defense for the Buckeyes this season. After they allowed a program-worst 25.5 points in 2018, they have allowed just 7.9 points per game this fall, the fewest in the nation, and also 224 yards per game to rank second in total defense.
“Having a player like Chase play the way he has clearly changes the game and makes everybody on that defense better because you have to account for him on every play,” OSU coach Ryan Day said last week.
Young’s suspension marked the second straight season that Ohio State will be forced to play without their top pass rusher for at least some length of time.
Last season, a core muscle injury sidelined Nick Bosa after he had appeared in the first three games. Bosa later left for the NFL, and was the No. 2 overall draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers.