The misdeeds of soon-to-be former Buckyeyes’ QB Terrelle Pryor and other teammates plus the resignation of former head coach Jim Tressel, has everyone talking about an SMU-type NCAA penalty
For the sake of preserving what remains of the sanctity of college football, a swift purposeful example needs to be made of the Ohio State University Football Program.
The developments that came to light leading up to and following the resignation of head football coach Jim Tressel exemplify a program filled with corruption, glad-handing alumni and a Head Coach at best ignorant and at worst downright complicit with violations against the NCAA so egregious that severe sanctions must be handed down quickly and swiftly by college football’s governing body.
Star quarterback Terrell Pryor is accused of driving sports cars given as gifts from those connected to the Buckeye program in various capcities, receiving cash for tattoos, while four other players stand suspended for trading game used jerseys, autographed memorabilia and Big Ten championship rings for tattoos all valued between $12,000 to $15,000. All five players along with Tressel are suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season.
All along Tressel had knowledge of his players’ misgivings but failed to report the actions and violations to his superiors or the University’s compliance department. Worse yet, he lied to the NCAA about the eligibility of Pryor and others. Put in its most simple form, Tressel had knowledge of the numerous NCAA violations, lack of institutional control and corruption at Ohio State, but rather than report his players, he chose to protect them.
So for those keeping score at home, Pryor, his four teammates and Tressel are suspended for the first five games of the 2011 football season and Tressel resigned from his post. Yet the NCAA has yet to issue sanctions or specific punishments on Ohio State University.
When they do, the program should be given the death penalty.
The players involved have an easy escape clause: The National Football League. Tressel has already taken his golden parachute; an absence from coaching before undoubtedly landing at a top tier University at some point in the future where he will once again have the opportunity to lead a major program towards multiple BCS National Championships. Yet the University which embraced this culture is allowed to continue business as usual moving forward, and that’s just wrong. The culture of college athletics needs to change and the loopholes need to be closed.
That duty of cleaning the culture obviously cannot be left to individual Universities where the supreme motivation is winning at all costs both financial and ethical. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that Tressel was not fired from Ohio State in April when specific language from the NCAA linked him to having knowledge of the illegal activity taking place under his watch.
That unenviable task lays in the hands of the NCAA. SMU was the last program to have the NCAA pull the plug, and that was more than 20 years ago. However the egregious violations of the NCAA code of conduct, the lies and the corruption have been reoccurring in great succession in recent years and the Buckeyes, and Tressel after his previous misgivings at Youngstown State now typify this trend.
The time has come for the NCAA to drop the atomic bomb and show that the actions of Ohio State will not be tolerated. To see a juggernaut fall because of internal turmoil and fraud would set an example to the rest of the NCAA whether it be football or basketball that such actions cannot and will not be tolerated. Meanwhile Tressel should be banned from strolling the sidelines on fall Saturdays for life, and policies be instituted to prevent coaches from engaging in implicitly banned activities and protecting his players in these kinds of situations.
It’s one thing to condemn the actions of Tressel, Ohio State, USC and Jim Calhoun but in order to finally take the step towards cleaning up college athletics, a swift example needs to be made of the program at Ohio State. It must be shut down.
Matt Lombardo is a reporter for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoWC