College Football: Reaction to Tressel, Ohio State Scandal


I’ve had a couple of days to digest this whole OSU/Jim Tressel scandal. I think we all know that it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets any better, with pending NCAA penalties. If you’ve read any of my past posts, you know that I’m an optimist who doesn’t overact to anything. When OSU loses, I don’t freak out. But this is different.

A personal note on Tressel
Tressel’s first year as head coach was my freshman year of college at Ohio State, so I have especially fond memories of his tenure. I’m not looking at the world through scarlet and gray glasses when I say he is a good person who has done a great deal for the Columbus (and Ohio) community. One bad instance WILL NOT erase all of the things he’s done for my alma matter, or the immense support that he’s given to non-profit organizations throughout the state. I also won’t forget how well he treated me when I was a student reporter at BuckeyeTV. Perhaps it’s all of those things that make this whole situation so much more disappointing.

The situation, as I see it
* Five players sold memorabilia, breaking NCAA Rules.

* Coach Tressel found out about this before the 2010 season, but didn’t report it. During the investigation, he omitted or lied about this knowledge.

* Coach Tressel and OSU allowed these five players to take the entire fall for an issue that could have been stopped months earlier. He even spoke from a moral high ground during their punishment, talking about their need to “learn from this” and “do the right thing” in the future.

* Coach Tressel and Athletic Director Gene Smith presented a bogus timeline of events, making it seem as if they were taking the proper steps to “do the right thing.”

* Once caught, Coach Tressel held a press conference where several questionable excuses were made. These included “not knowing who to talk to” regarding the violations, and a nonexistent confidentiality agreement in a federal investigation. Maybe these are true, but it’s hard not to look at this with a cynical eye.

I’m embarrassed
As an OSU alumnus, I’m embarrassed. I used to shake my head at programs like Florida State and Miami. I thought of guys like Nick Saban and Butch Davis as unethical, do-anything-to-win coaches. Now, we’re in that conversation too. OSU is getting hammered by the national media, and we deserve it. We lied, we cheated, and we got caught. Tressel’s image, and the image of Ohio State football, will never be the same.

And for what? I’ve always supported Terrelle Pryor as a football player, but as a person his motives are often questionable. We protected him and four others, likely with the hopes of a 2010 national title run. Was it worth it? If this was reported early on, the worst-case scenario is that Pryor and company sit out the 2010-2011 season. OSU likely would have had a three or four loss season, still beaten Michigan, and looked like a morally-upstanding program.

Instead, we’re looking at a heavy-handed punishment. Last year’s wins will likely be vacated (so forget about that bowl win over an SEC team), and we’ll probably get a two-year bowl suspension. I also expect OSU to lose some scholarships. USC had an issue with an assistant coach, the NCAA didn’t have any hard evidence of involvement, and they still received a two-year bowl ban and loss of scholarships. This is our head coach being dishonest with the NCAA, and openly admitting that he did so. It’s going to get bad.

Is Tressel the fall guy?
Much like the players took the initial fall, is Jim Tressel the fall guy for the university? Twice during his press conference, Tressel was asked if he forwarded this “whistle-blowing” email to anybody. Gene Smith interrupted Tressel, without letting him answer the question. This makes me wonder if there’s a larger issue here. If that’s the case, and it’s proven that there was institutional involvement, the program is in serious jeopardy.

One disagreement with the national media
With this recent problem, people are saying, “Every major player under Tressel has been in some sort of trouble.” They cite Maurice Clarett, Troy Smith, and Terrelle Pryor. FALSE. Show me the problems with high draft picks such as A.J. Hawk, Tedd Ginn Jr., Nick Mangold, Chris Wells, James Laurinaitis, Anthony Gonzalez, Malcolm Jenikins, Will Smith, Chris Gamble, Donte Whitner…the list goes on and on. Not every guy gets into trouble, it’s a few bad apples. To claim Coach Tressel as a dirty coach based on this is flat out incorrect. But he’ll deal with that label as a coach, and we’ll deal with it as a university, as long as he’s at the helm.

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