After ignoring, scoffing, stalling, tap-dancing, denying and eventually begrudgingly admitting that, OK, yes, rules were broken and since-resigned football coach Jim Tressel may have fibbed, Ohio State finally fell on the sword today.
But the Buckeyes are going to need a bigger sword.
Hoping to limit the damage, Ohio State has informed the NCAA that it is “embarrassed” by Tressel’s actions, put its football program on two years probation and vacated all wins from last year’s 12-1 season, including the Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas.
The university’s actions merely beats the NCAA to the punch. This is common in college athletics because it enables school officials to appear responsible, concerned and law-abiding, when in fact they’re only instituting penalties that the NCAA is expected to slap them with any way. But the fallout shouldn’t end there.
Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee — who infamously cracked, “I just hope [Tressel] doesn’t fire me,” when allegations of Tressel hiding and lying about NCAA violations occurred — and athletic director Gene Smith also should be out of their jobs. Both protected Tressel when it was clear violations had occurred.
Either they knew of what was going on or they didn’t want to know what was going on. Why? Because the football program represents the biggest ATM machine on campus.
Either way, Gee and Smith are culpable. But they’re not accepting responsibility. They’re going with the “Beverly Hall Defense”: Let everybody else get thrown under the bus while you protect yourself.
Consider an excerpt of Ohio State’s response to the NCAA, via the Columbus Dispatch: “The responsibility is upon Tressel. No other institutional personnel were aware [of the violations]. The institution is embarrassed by the actions of Tressel.”
The NCAA is not going to remove Gee or Smith. That’s up to the university. But don’t be surprised if the NCAA further penalizes the program with a loss of scholarships and a post-season ban. Vacating wins is somewhat of a hollow punishment since the games already have been played and receipts already collected.
Gee and Smith shouldn’t be able to walk away from this clean.
By Jeff Schultz