(Originally posted: 11:15 a.m. Last update: 1:15 p.m.)
There is no shortage of problems with college athletics.
The NCAA too often seems overwhelmed. School presidents preach academics only when they’re not in meetings with network executives. Athletes make millions for universities but walk through campus bookstores, see replicas of their jerseys for sale and and know they won’t get a nickel for it.
But the biggest problem of all: Coaches who cheat and get away with it.
Jim Tressel has resigned as coach at Ohio State. Finally, somebody pays a price before fleeing for another job (see: Pete Carroll, Lou Holtz, etc.).
Tressel almost certainly beat Ohio State and the NCAA to the punch. He would’ve been fired and humiliated anyway. The NCAA is expected to hammer him and the football program for gross infractions, including knowingly playing illegal players for an entire season, all in the name of winning. Columbus hasn’t been subjected to this kind of embarrassment since Woody Hayes punched a Clemson player.
Jim Tressel is not just a problem. He’s the worst kind of problem.
The next time he works in college football, it should be mowing lawns or lining the fields. Just keep him far from the responsibility of raising young men, preaching values and reaffirming right from wrong., In those areas, he failed miserably.
Tressel released a statement that read in part: “After meeting with university officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach.” Not even a hint of guilt or remorse.
Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee said, “The university’s enduring public purposes and its tradition of excellence continue to guide our actions.” He and Tressel must have the same speech writer.
Gee should follow Tressel out the door. He exuded pomposity at Vanderbilt when he disbanded the athletic department, and more recently downplayed Tressel’s alleged NCAA infractions. Asked whether he considered firing Tressel, he giggled and responded, “I’m just hoping the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”
Further proof that a wall full of diplomas doesn’t ensure a man has integrity.
Tressel learned in April of last year that five of his players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, sold memorabilia to the owner of a tattoo parlor (who also has been charged with drug trafficking and money laundering). Rather than report it to the school or the NCAA, he covered it up. He lied it about.
Coming forward with the truth would’ve led to suspensions, similar to the one that cost Georgia’s A.J. Green four games for selling his jersey.
Tressel’s defenders will scream that he merely was protecting his players. In fact, he was protecting himself. Winning games was more important.
The NCAA is expected to slam Tressel and Ohio State. It fired the warning shot two months ago when it wrote in its preliminary report that the coach “failed to deport himself … [with] honesty and integrity.” That’s their way of saying, “You’re guilty. We’re just deciding which penitentiary to send you to.”
Ohio State has long exuded a certain arrogance, and Tressel exemplified that. He wore a sweater vest. He looked senatorial. But there are skeletons from his days at Youngstown State, where his quarterback was given money and loaned used cars by a booster, Mickey Monus, a close friend of Tressel’s. (A thin and belated NCAA investigation led to the school being cited for lack of institutional control).
Three of Tressel’s highest profile players at Ohio State — Maurice Clarett, Troy Smith and Pryor — all have had issues with the NCAA. Former Buckeyes receiver Ray Small admitted recently he sold his championship rings while at the school and added that players there, “don’t even think about [NCAA] rules.” There’s also an investigation into a car dealer who reportedly sold about 50 vehicles to players and their families.
None of this means Tressel is the personification of evil. But it would be naive to believe it’s all coincidence.
Tressel had enormous success (106-22 record, seven Big Ten titles, one BCS title) in his 10 seasons. Ohio State remains probably one of the five best jobs in college football, one reason why Urban Meyer may be drawn out of retirement in a year. Probation won’t scare him away. If anything, the challenge of rebuilding a dented program and the knowledge of low early expectations might be attractions.
For now, there is only humiliation and embarrassment in Columbus. That could have been avoided if Tressel had just been honest. But when there are games to be played, apparently that’s too much to ask.
By Jeff Schultz