Ohio State ends its season with a major non-playoff bowl against USC. Buckeyes cornerback Denzel Ward decided to skip the game.
“To my family, friends, and Buckeye nation, I will not be participating in the Cotton Bowl,” Ward said on social media. “This was a very difficult decision that I ultimately had to make. But at the end of the day I feel this is the best decision for my family and I. I had countless conversations with my coaches about this decision well before the game. Though I was deciding not to participate in the bowl game I did not want to leave my teammates and coaches to pursue my dream just yet. I wanted to continue to be a part of the team and support my team in any way possible.”
Two years ago in the Fiesta Bowl involving Ohio State and Notre Dame, Irish linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered a serious knee injury, along with nerve damage. It knocked him to round two and wiped out his rookie season.
While the decision ultimately belongs to the player, it’s smart for each player to make a conscientious business decision about whether to participate in a bowl game. For some, the risk will outweigh the reward. In those situations, no one should complain or call the player selfish. Everyone connected to college football gets paid except for the players, and if/when the players are on the brink of cashing in, they should have the right to choose to protect their health and marketability.
Ward is widely regarded as a first-round lock, and possibly a top-10 pick.