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Brandy Burgans is a tattoo artist at Standard Ink Tattoo Co. on Frazier Ave. A proud alum of the Girls Preparatory School and a former art student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, she commands a $400 minimum for portraits, $100 an hour for any other tattoo.

On more than one occasion she has tattooed UTC athletes, though she insists she has never bartered her work for a Mocs jersey, game ticket or autograph.

"They always pay cash," she said by phone on Sunday evening. "And they've never asked to trade anything for a tattoo. That's not how we do business. It's cash/credit only."

That's apparently not the way football players at The Ohio State University do business, however. Last week the NCAA suspended Buckeyes star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four of his teammates for the first five games of the 2011 season for trading autographs, jerseys and such for tattoos.

The five also sold championship rings, jerseys and awards for cash, supposedly to help their families.

So why didn't their suspensions include this Saturday's Sugar Bowl date with Arkansas?

Presumably because NCAA policy allows players to participate in a championship or bowl game if "[They] were not aware they were committing violations."

At least that's what an NCAA spokesman told The Associated Press last week. Then again, if that's true, why was Memphis forced to vacate its 2008 Final Four appearance, since there's never been any proof that Derrick Rose knew he violated NCAA rules regarding his standardized test score?

If player knowledge of violations prior to those violations taking place is the new gold standard for NCAA probation, are we not about to see the inmates run the prison? Why take the Fifth when you can just say "I didn't know" and fly away as free as a bird?

And before you bring up those five games the ink-stained Buckeyes will miss, know that those games are, in order -- Akron, Toledo, Miami, Colorado and Michigan State.

Only MSU would appear to be a probable loss among that group if Pryor can't play, but with Ohio State certain to appeal, it's doubtful the original penalty will remain unchanged.

Yet even if it does, at least four of the five are believed to be talented enough to make the jump to the NFL if they decide they don't want to serve the suspensions.

The current league labor dispute could certainly change that, but let's say they jump. What good did any of this do if that happens? The school will serve no additional penalty and the players might have turned pro anyway. At least if they'd been suspended for the bowl, some small degree of justice would have been served.

But whatever ultimately happens with Ohio State, this case should dramatically change NCAA enforcement practices. The old investigative mantra, "follow the money," could soon be replaced by "follow the ink."

Why? Burgans says her employer charges, "between $100 and $200 per tattoo [on average] with a $50 minimum."

Told of Pryor's "sleeve" of tattoos down his right arm, she estimated the cost of those alone at between $1,800 and $2,000. "And it could be much more than that," she added.

In fact, given the tattoos Burgans has seen on many professional athletes, she estimates the total cost per player at somewhere between "$8,000 and $10,000."

Clearly, not all athletes at either the college or professional level fall into that category. A rare few have none at all. Many have but a couple. On the other hand, former Tennessee basketball player Tyler Smith said he believed he had 43 early last season before he was dismissed from the team in January of 2010.

At Burgans' average of $150 per tattoo, that would place the value of Smith's body art at close to $7,000. Given the amount college kids spend on food, clothes, gasoline and such, where does a guy who also had a small child to help support find a spare $7,000 for 43 tattoos?

Not that Burgans' business relies on athletes, military personnel and bikers alone for her livelihood these days.

"You'd be amazed at the number of soccer moms we see," she said. "And we're seeing more and more people in their 40s or 50s. They get one and then come back to get another after they realize it doesn't hurt as much as they thought it would."

(Note to self: If soccer moms are now getting tattoos, will Sarah Palin ink up before the 2012 elections to attract voters? Moreover, will Palin tattoos begin springing up on the ankles, shoulders and lower backs of soccer moms throughout the country over the next 24 months?)

Either way, Burgans says the tattoo trade continues to grow. If the Ohio State incident teaches us anything, it's that the NCAA's interest in the financing of body art should grow along with it.

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