Ohio State Scandal Raises Troublesome Questions About College Football
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — December 23, 2010 is truly a day which will live in infamy.
With the news that six Ohio State players would miss games the following season for violating NCAA rules, their legacies were forever changed. So were the lives of everyone associated with Buckeye football, particularly Head Coach Jim Tressel, who will ultimately face his own suspension for concealing knowledge of those violations.
In the five months that followed, Ohio State’s program has been opened up like a Thanksgiving turkey. It has been laid on the operating table for all to see, including the vultures who quickly swooped in for their pound of flesh.
It has become all-too-convenient to pile on Ohio State without stopping to take a look around at what the current predicament in Columbus might imply about the reality of the college football landscape as a whole.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“It happens around the country. You go around the locker rooms in the NFL and you hear stories,” said former OSU captain Doug Worthington, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“It happens, unfortunately, because guys are in a million-dollar business and get a couple thousand dollars a month. Some have aspirations of being in the NFL and people back home can’t afford things that they need.”
Along with Terrelle Pryor and his four teammates, names like Reggie Bush, Cam Newton, Stanley McClover, A.J. Green and Greg Little have captured national headlines with their alleged violations, but to assume this problem is unique to Ohio State, USC, Auburn, Georgia and North Carolina would be naïve at best and ignorant at worst.
“It’s tough times. We’re living in one of the toughest times in our country, so if a kid who is 17 or 18 years old has a ring that’s worth a thousand dollars, and their parents don’t have food on the table, what’s the best thing for them to do,” Worthington asked.
“The NCAA doesn’t think it’s the best thing for their programs because they’re almost pimps when it comes to us. They get to have all the funds and all the money and we have to just play ball. We get a great education and that is great, but at the end of the day as far as the money involved in the sport, players don’t get their due.”
The debate over paying college athletes is one of the most heated in all of sports. Type the word “should” into the Google search bar and one of the first suggestions will involve the question of paying players.
Although they may not be backhanding their players on street corners, the NCAA is a multi-million dollar industry that capitalizes on the free labor of amateur athletes. The important question, however, may not be whether this is right or wrong in the eyes of the public, but rather how the players themselves view their role in what has become the big business of college athletics.
“You see the coaches with the free cars, the money and all that good stuff and you put in so much work and some people don’t understand the tradition at Ohio State,” Worthington said.
“A fan or somebody comes up to them with a whole bunch of money or X amount of dollars for an item when mom is calling for your brother who’s sick or food on the table. You do anything to help your family. I understand the situation those guys were put in. Unfortunately you can’t do those things and those guys got caught.”
Originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Worthington is heading into his second season in the NFL, which he says is 90 percent likely to happen despite the current lockout. The defensive lineman from New York was a senior on the 2009 team that beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
He insists he never accepted anything he didn’t pay for during his time as a student-athlete at Ohio State, but Worthington does not look down on any of his former teammates who took a different path.
“I feel for those guys, those teammates of mine. I know what kind of kids they are, I know why they did what they did. I know they are not greedy guys. Something had to happen for those guys to sell those items and I don’t think they really understood how important those items are with the tradition,” he said of Pryor and the four others who sold Big Ten championship rings and Gold Pants.
“It takes you a while to really grasp the tradition of Ohio State. As a freshman you come in and you have the big eyes of 105,000 and then you start listening and learning more of the tradition. You see the fans and how passionate they are about what we do, and by your second or third year, you know how important that stuff is for when you get older.”
Pryor, DeVier Posey and Mike Adams were all in their first year at Ohio State when they sold Big Ten championship rings and Gold Pants from their freshman seasons. Boom Herron and Solomon Thomas were in year two.
All five of them were implicated when the FBI raided the home and business of Edward Rife, the owner of a local tattoo parlor. Had it not been for the involvement of the federal government, it’s possible that none of this would have ever come to light.
“I don’t think it’s just those five guys,” Worthington said.
“You have to understand who those five guys are. You have Terrelle Pryor, you have Boom Herron, Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas—all those guys that you saw at the Sugar Bowl with big contributions to the team. They’re not just average guys on the football team. When some things go down like that, you have guys who never played a down at Ohio State who sold things and did things.”
In their letter to Ohio State, the U.S. Department of Justice also listed items belonging to former Buckeyes Chris Vance and T.J. Downing, along with a mystery player “G” who accepted more than $7,000 in improper benefits.
According to Worthington, we can cross one name off our list of suspects.
“I never sold any of my items and I never gave anything away. I paid a pretty penny for my tattoos and all my stuff is accounted for and I’m proud to say that,” he proclaimed.
“No shame on anyone who had to, by my stuff is going to stay with the Worthington family and I’d be happy to show anyone who wants to see.”
Previously published related article
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