COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Five Ohio State football players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, must sit out the first five games of the 2011 season for accepting improper benefits, the NCAA ruled Thursday.
A sixth football player must sit out the first game in 2011 for receiving discounted services in violation of NCAA rules.
All of the players be eligible for the Jan. 4 Allstate Sugar Bowl, however.
Five players were found to have sold awards, gifts and university apparel, plus receive improper benefits in 2009. In addition to missing five games next season, Pryor, Mike Adams, Daniel Herron, Devier Posey and Solomon Thomas must repay money and benefits ranging in value from $1,000 to $2,500. The repayments must be made to a charity.
Jordan Whiting must sit out the first game next year and pay $150 to a charity for the value of services that were discounted because of his status as a student-athlete.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said the school will appeal the suspensions.
"While we believe sanctions should be rendered, we do believe they are severe," he said Thursday at a news conference. "We do believe we can give mitigating circumstances for the NCAA to consider."
The NCAA announced the suspensions Thursday, shortly before Smith and coach Jim Tressel were to meet with reporters to discuss the university's investigation of players trading autographs for tattoos.
Pryor is the team's star, while Herron is the leading rusher and Posey is the second-leading receiver. Adams is a starter at left tackle and Thomas a top sub on the defensive line.
Pryor must repay $2,500 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring, a 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award and his 2008 Gold Pants, a gift from the university for players on a team that beats arch-rival Michigan.
Herron must repay $1,150 for selling his football jersey, pants and shoes for $1,000 and receiving discounted services worth $150.
Posey must repay $1,250 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,200 and receiving discounted services worth $50.
Adams must repay $1,000 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring.
Thomas must repay $1,505 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,000, his 2008 Gold Pants for $350 and receiving discounted services worth $155.
"These are significant penalties based on findings and information provided by the university," Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs, said in a statement.
The players are eligible for the bowl game because the NCAA determined they did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred, Lennon said. The NCAA also said that Ohio State did not receive a competitive advantage in the incident.
The NCAA said in its news release that its policy for players in bowl games or championship events "recognizes the unique opportunity these events provide at the end of a season, and they are evaluated differently from a withholding perspective." Lennon said the ruling in this case is consistent with that policy.
"We were not as explicit with our student-athlete education as we should have been in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 academic years regarding the sale of apparel, awards and gifts issued by the athletics department," Smith said in a statement. "We began to significantly improve our education in November of 2009 to address these issues. After going through this experience, we will further enhance our education for all our student-athletes as we move forward."
"We as coaches feel the buck stops here," Tressel said at the news conference. "We're the ones who need to make things even more crystal clear."
Ohio State's first five games next season are: Akron, Toledo, at Miami, Colorado, and Michigan State.
All of the players suspended for five games in 2011 are juniors, skilled enough to at least consider skipping their abbreviated senior seasons and trying to play professionally.
Tressel said at least one of the players had filed paperwork to have his NFL draft status assessed, but didn't not specify which.
Ohio State has been investigating allegations that several football players traded autographs for tattoos. Rumors first surfaced Saturday. Athletic department officials, including Smith and Ohio State's compliance director, had refrained from addressing the allegations.
On Twitter on Wednesday night, Pryor posted, "I paid for my tattoos. GoBucks"
Pryor's high school coach, Ray Reitz, told ESPN's Joe Schad that Pryor sold items because "he wanted to help his mother."
"It was about family," Reitz said. "Sometimes when you're young you don't realize the ramifications."
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.