Posts tagged ‘National Collegiate Athletic Association’

March 9, 2011

Ohio State Crumbling Under Pressure of Own Obsession

by npiller88

Never sell that red sweater, Jim

Ohio State football has a booster problem.

It also has legal problems. And honesty problems. And NCAA infraction problems.

We already knew that prominent Buckeye players sold memorabilia, which is against NCAA rules, obviously.

But what’s the real problem? Simply, the priorities of the community. No individual could have made this more clear than Ohio State University President Gordon Gee, who commented in response to today’s revelation that Head Coach Jim Tressel knew about violations that had transpired, and kept quiet. When asked whether Coach Tressel’s job was in danger, Gee had this to say:

No, are you kidding? Let me be very clear. I’m just hoping the coach doesn’t dismiss me.

Come on Columbus. This isn’t Texas high school football. It may be that Ohio State football is the most important source of revenue for the university. But wow. What a thing to say. Tressel, who is being fined a quarter million dollars for not revealing information implicating several of his star players in an illegal sale of memorabilia to a shady tattoo parlor owner, probably could have bent over in front of Gee and said: “kiss it,” without being concerned for his job. Still don’t believe me? Let’s not forget, Tressel has been rewarded handsomely for his success at Ohio State (a 106-22 record in ten years), to the tune of nearly 4 million dollars per year. A quarter mil is a lot, but is it really that much when the biggest impact the fine has is that you will have a couple less fireplaces to stuff excess cash into?

I’m hesitant to slam Tressel, because he really seems like a nice guy. In contrast to the screaming drill sargeant archetype of college football coaches, he is relatively soft-spoken and respectful. He seems to channel his devout Christian beliefs positively rather than in a sanctimonious, abrasive fashion (which is often the norm). We saw this when he agreed to be interviewed by Columbus’ local LGBT magazine (an advocacy publication), and even stated that “whatever a young man feels called to express, I hope we will help him do it in a supportive environment,” when asked if an openly gay football player would be accepted by the players in the locker room.

But glancing at the numbers gives me pause. Since 2000, Ohio State has reported over 375 rules violations (albeit most of them fairly minor). That’s the most of any school that provided records for a Columbus Dispatch Freedom of Information request, and we’re talking about 69 programs. It seems like Tressel’s top players are always getting in trouble with the law or the NCAA. Remember Maurice Clarett, the freshman star of the 2002 national title team? How about Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith? Both were suspended after taking money from boosters.

Could this just be an unlucky rash of improprieties in a sport replete with them at nearly every level? Sure. But it could also be a sign that football fans in Columbus Ohio should try and put things in perspective. If memorabilia is really so valuable on the local open market that gang and drug involved tattoo parlor lords are cutting fat checks to get their hands on them (or fat wads of cash, as is probably more likely), then maybe the problem isn’t Tressel or the athletes, its the fans. The violations showcased stupidity on the part of the players, but that stupidity was born of opportunity, and that opportunity was created by obsession.

Certainly, these problems are widespread across major Division I football programs. But Ohio State particularly seems to have trouble getting the boosters to keep their grimy hands off the players. Tressel gets a suspension, and so do the players. But the jury is still out on whether behavior will actually change.

Let the arguments for paying players commence, once again.