In Big-Time College Football Nobody Is Innocent
By Tony Gerdeman
News of the NCAA's Notice of
Allegations to Ohio State has understandably been the popular topic
around the college footballsphere for the last 24 hours or so.
been a story since December, and there doesn't appear to be any let
up coming until October at the earliest. With periodic updates
to re-enliven the clamorers, the echoes barely die down before new
canyon-spanning cries take their place.
What the NCAA is alleging is
not overly different from the information the university has admitted
to prior, though it's not exact either. The allegations are the
same—players sold items, got discounts, received improper benefits,
and Jim Tressel knew about it, or at least should have known about
The good thing for Ohio State, however,
is that no new allegations have emerged, nor have new targets
emerged. Basically, the investigation is limited to Jim Tressel
But that doesn't mean the most recent
round of rabble-rousing isn't without merit. Tressel's level of
guilt hasn't diminished.
The facts haven't changed.
Players broke rules and Tressel ignored it. He's still as deserving
of dismissal as he was before, but he certainly isn't more
deserving now. After all, it's not like he's done anything new since
Ohio State sent their findings to the NCAA.
Just because there's another day or two
of news cycling doesn't mean that another pound of flesh is due, especially since the NCAA is still chewing the fat on the last pound
Certainly, Monday's update is worthy of
commentary, critique and questioning, but any new cries for Jim
Tressel to be fired are a little late, or remarkably early. If
there is a straw that is going to break the camel's back, the camel's
been carrying that straw for a while now.
That doesn't mean that a
weightier load isn't coming Tressel's way once the NCAA makes their final
ruling. At that time there
will be actual reasons for new opinions, or more solidified ones, but we've got a long way to go until we
reach that point.
The outpouring of glee and bile from
the media and fans for this case, as well as the recent Auburn and
USC cases, makes me think that people get the sport that they
I am guilty of this just like
everybody else is. Everybody loves a good scandal. After all,
everyone wants to see “the bad guy” get his comeuppance.
We, the jorted masses, enjoying our
bread and circuses, always impatiently waiting for Caesar ESPN to
tilt his damning thumb groundward.
This is the life that we have
chosen: following a sport tainted by dagger-gripped hangers-on
desperate for contact and always willing to “lend a hand'; a sport
spoiled by athletes bolstered by the life that being a college
football player can bring if you seek it; a sport tarnished by
coaches who can justify winning at all costs as long as they just don't do
it all of the time.
All of this under the umbrella of
an organization of pick and choose, rules that drift out to sea with
the tide, sometimes to be applied, and sometimes to be lost in the
It's a systemic problem in all of
college football, and it's clearly alive and well at Ohio State.
What is it about college athletes that
makes certain people want to give them money and whatever else? I
would assume it's for the party invites, but I could be wrong. Do they keep giving money once an athlete has left the school?
At what point does a “benefit giver”
stop giving benefits? I assume it's shortly after they stop getting
whatever it is they're seeking in return.
When players funnel other players to
Mr. Such and Such, has a player ever declined, knowing it was wrong?
Has that player then ever gone to the university to let them know
what they've seen?
Maybe. Would it matter? After all,
the one thing that all of these situations has taught us is that just
because somebody at a university is aware of wrongdoing doesn't mean
it will get handled like it should.
Jim Tressel screwed up and he is going
to pay, but nothing that came out this week changes what that
ultimate price is going to be.
Each day the banks of
approving public opinion continue to erode thanks to the rushing
waters of media momentum, and it doesn't help that that momentum
contains pearls of wisdom like “The first thing I'd tell them to do
is quit recruiting players like Maurice Clarett and Terrelle Pryor,”
from ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit.
Those two players could have gone
anywhere in the country to play college football. The warning signs
that Herbstreit now says should have been clear and apparent while
they were being recruited is hindsight at its worst. Neither had
ever been arrested for receiving stolen goods prior to being
recruited like Cam Newton was. Have you ever heard anybody at ESPN
say Auburn shouldn't have brought somebody like Cam Newton in?
Should Auburn stop recruiting players
like Newton and Stanley McClover? Or should they simply stop
recruiting any remaining children of Cecil Newton?
The problem isn't necessarily the type
of player (especially since I don't even know what that means), it's
the sense of entitlement—which is repeatedly realized—that causes
the problem. A player can want the moon, but as long as there's
nobody willing to give it to them, there is no problem.
If a tree falls in the forest, but
nobody is there to give it a hundred-dollar handshake, is an
There are certainly players who would
be viewed as risks, and if you don't think Ohio State, or any other
school, has steered clear of certain kids, then you're flat wrong, but it's idiotic to cite one school for “taking a risk” on
certain players, when 119 other schools would have gladly taken that
There are few things more useless than
hindsight. Both Clarett and Pryor have brought
more harm than good to Ohio State, but I don't remember hearing
anybody arguing it before they even committed.
In a sport fathered by
schools, disappointing athletes, disturbing panhandlees, morally-opaque
head coaches, blood-soaked media, and the baffling NCAA, it's a wonder
as great as college football was ever spat out of its whore mother's
There are no innocents here. Even
those who have committed no wrongs carry the stink of those who have.
You don't have to have your hand out to receive the benefits of a
The love of money is the root of all
evil, but the love of winning is a close second.
Jim Tressel made a mistake and his
legacy will forever be changed because of it.
Few ever get out of the college
football world without their share of wounds and scars, and now Jim
Tressel will be no different.
Ohio State will heal with or
without Tressel. The university and college football will move on.
We will finish our bread and call it a day.
Then be right back at it again
We're all just as guilty, and just as
much a part of this as Tressel, but at least we never pretended we