Sunday, June 05, 2011
My Sunday Feeling
As most of these things go, it started small. Before 2-a-days started last season, Tressel got an e-mail from a booster who also happened to be an attorney that had gotten wind of the fact that the FBI was investigating a Columbus tattoo parlor where players liked to hang out. The investigation also revealed that some, if not most, of these guys had been selling sports memorabilia such as game worn equipment and autographed programs and the like for money or in exchange for getting ink. Now this was a clear violation of the extra benefit rule, which would conceivably render the players ineligible for the upcoming season. But this is nickle and dime stuff which likely would have resulted in some lesser penalty if Tressel had acted on this information or told his Athletic Director about it.
Tressel did neither. But what he did do is he executed the NCAA compliance letter and certified that he knew of no NCAA violations and that his players were eligible to participate in the upcoming season. Which was, of course, a flat out lie. And lying to the NCAA is THE cardinal sin in the coaching business.
Flash forward to December. The Buckeyes are headed to the Sugar Bowl where they are scheduled to play-guess who?-the Arkansas Razorbacks. About that time the Department of Justice passes info along to The Ohio State University about a raid it conducted on the tattoo joint in question which confirmed that 6 players had been selling or trading memorabilia. Tressel, and his supporters, including the President of the school, state that he knew nothing of any of this. Which was Tressel's second whopper. Or third since he obviously lied about it to his AD and his President.
The NCAA declares the players involved, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor to be have violated the extra benefit rule. But it didn't rule them ineligible for the Sugar Bowl. Rather, they were ruled ineligible for the first 5 games of the NEXT season in the first ruling of its kind in the history of the NCAA. Armed with the full compliment of players, Ohio States defeats the usually sure handed Razorbacks who evidently caught a fatal case of the butterfingers the day of the game.
In March of this year Tressel 'fesses up. In what was both an obvious sop to the NCAA and a bid to keep his job, Tressel offers to join the players in the suspension. By this time Sports Illustrated and local media are sniffing around. Turns out that this kind of thing had been going on on a widespread basis since 2002. Suuuure Tressel didn't know. And so he was histoire by Memorial Day. Which was about when the local media revealed that about 50 current and former Buckeyes received sweetheart deals on vehicles from local car dealers.
Now this situation stinks to high heaven for any of a number of reasons. An athletic scholarship is a hell of a deal. Free room and board and tuition. But since the NCAA won't let the student-athlete work at a job-with some exceptions- during the school year what's a poor kid gonna use for gas money? Or to take a girlfriend to the movies? Hell, Rick Majerus got a reprimand from the NCAA when Utah self-reported that he had taken a player out to get a pizza. This was despite the fact that the kid had just found out that his father had died. As one of the players interviewed for the SI story said, "Technically we knew if was wrong, but a lot of those guys are from the inner city and we didn't have much, and we had to go on the best we could. I couldn't call home to ask my mom to help me out."
Schools like Ohio State and Arkansas, and the coaches they employ, make millions off these kids. And eventually Division I sports is going to have to figure out a way to provide some kind of financial assistance for the kids in the revenue producing sports. Whether they can figure out a formula that is fair and equitable is not known. A lot of D-I schools are barely scraping by in trying to support their football programs. Tulane certainly couldn't afford to provide as lucrative a stipend to the men who wear the Olive and Blue as could LSU. And could they do it at all without violating Title Nine which mandates equal athletic opportunities for women? Who knows?
And lest the NCAA get too high on its horse, remember that it allowed clearly ineligible players to participate in the Sugar Bowl game. Why? They won't admit it but a Sugar Bowl without Terrelle Pryor would have hurt ratings. Its all about the money.
And here's another wrinkle. The NCAA just laid the wood to Southern Cal, primarily over the Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo episodes. You can bet that the Trojans-and the PAC 12 (or 27 or whatever it is now)- will give the NCAA unshirted hell if they don't lower the boom on the Buckeyes at least to the extent that they themselves got tossed in the hoosegow. These are indeed happy days up the road in Ann Arbor.
All we know now is that Jim Tressel will be raking the leaves this fall instead of roaming the sidelines in his trademark tie and vest. The situation at The Ohio State University will get far worse before it gets better. And it all started over Jim Tressel covering up for poor kids selling otherwise worthless crap that has value only for the sports obsessed booster types that feed the beast that is Buckeye football.
Read the article on the jump. Make up your own mind: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/magazine/05/30/jim.tressel/index.html?sct=cf_t11_a2#&sct=cf_t2_a3
Oh. The "pious fraud" remark with which I led off this post? There is an incident in the story that put my Hypocrite Meter into the red zone that is usually reserved for politicians and televangelists. Let me know if you find it and if you concur.