So a little news item came across the wires this week … the tenure of James Patrick Tressel as head coach of The Ohio State University has come to an end. A devious, mind-blowing, and shockingly stupid end. A 106-22 record, with eight double-digit win totals in ten seasons, and all of it undone by the inability to forward an email. What in the name of the LSU Golden Girls is going on?
Is the staff here at Conference Chalk disappointed? You’re goddamn … The Vested Wonder led his Buckeyes to a 10-2-1 record ATS in 2010 and has delivered consistent gambling results for most of the decade. It’s highly possible his players are disappointed, too … they may have to pay actual money for tattoos now.
But let’s look at the big issue in play …
Should college players be allowed to do whatever they want with the gifts and prizes that they receive?
This issue of players taking cash and improper benefits is no different than the steroids issue in baseball or the HGH issue in football … everyone is doing it, and people need to stop acting like it’s a small, contained issue at certain schools. This stuff is happening everywhere, all the time. You might think your friend Gale is jaded, but corruption in sports is rampant … boosters, illegal recruiting, performance-enhancers, free stuff – it’s all there for the taking. As a wise man (likely Sterling Archer) once said, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Look at everything that just went down with Cam Newton and Auburn. Alabama and USC have both been on probation in the past 10 years for paying players. And Ohio State has had multiple issues this decade … the tattoo issue, the cars, Maurice Clarett, plus the basketball mess with Jim O’Brien a few years ago.
Personally, I think the current OSU situation is different from the booster scandals that plagued some of the other programs: these players were given legal, NCAA-approved gifts based on on-field performances, and they sold them (no different than putting something on eBay). Is it disrespectful? Sure. However, once they receive those gifts, they become the players’ private property. If Terrelle Pryor wants to turn some gold pants in for a full-body tattoo of Macho Man saving us from the Rapture (speculation), it’s his right.
It’s not like this is the first time it’s happened. At least four Heisman winners have later sold their trophy … Billy Sims, OJ Simpson, Charles White, and Larry Kelley. What is different about those circumstances from these, other than that the transactions didn’t happen until after the guys had left school? What if Tim Tebow had won a second Heisman and decided to sell it for charity because he didn’t need two trophies? It’s a business, people.
Tressel was wrong for not reporting a possible violation once it was presented to him, and that’s what cost him his job. It was idiocy at the highest level … all he had to do was click “Forward To” on his keyboard. However, why should players selling or trading personal property have ever been a violation in the first place? What’s come out beyond that initial infraction (shady car loans, other booster problems) is a legit problem, but what started this nonsense shouldn’t have mattered to anyone.
In closing, I have no idea what to think about Jim Tressel. I remember his first speech to the OSU faithful at halftime of a basketball game, where he said, “”I can assure you that you will be proud of your young people in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the football field.” The building went crazy, and sure enough, he proceeded to go 9-1 against the Wolverines. Isn’t that what fans want … to beat their biggest rivals? To play in a BCS game eight out of ten years? To see a bunch of their players go onto stardom in the NFL?
I’m not saying I defend Tressel … it’s moronic that he allowed things to unravel the way he did. It’s clear from the multiple infractions that he likely did not run a clean program. But I really don’t see what the problem is with selling gear, and that shouldn’t have been the core problem that brought him down. Terrelle Pryor will never play another down in college football. A legendary program is probably going to get blown up. And if we’re going to continue to think that these incidents are isolated, then we’re almost as bad at lying as the Vest himself.