|"Don't worry Terelle, I won't tell anyone!"|
Here's how Christmas unfolds in a normal family; mom and dad discreetly figure out what their kids want, secretly go out and buy those things, hide them in the closet until the kids are out of the house, quickly wrap them and re-hide them before the kids get home, put them under the Christmas tree, and have their kids open the presents on Christmas morning. The gifts come as a wonderful surprise to the kids and everyone is full of Christmas cheer while Frosty the Snowman is playing in the background and grandpa is pretending to not be a crotchety old man simply because he feels an obligation to be joyful on Christmas. Please hold while I throw up...
Here's how Christmas unfolds in my family. Dad approaches my brother and I in early December, tells us what our budget is for Christmas and when we need to get our requests in by. We kick around the possibilities and tell dad what we want. He goes out and buys it...with us. My mom insists on wrapping the presents even though there is literally no surprise and we mock her constantly for it. The presents are then opened; sometimes on Christmas sometimes on Christmas Eve...one year, my brother and I somehow finagled a way to open our presents on December 21! Simply amazing! All that to say, I haven't necessarily had a normal Christmas experience. In fact, as you might know, I kinda hate Christmas so I'm glad I haven't had to deal with it.
Despite being out of school, out of the house, married and on my own; Christmas hasn't changed much for me. This year, I submitted my order prior to Thanksgiving so most of the gifts could be bought on Black Friday (what an abomidable day!). One of the things I asked for was Madden 11, and I really wanted it early. So, my parents mailed it to me...before December...and I played it all of December! Merry Christmas! The main thing I asked for was a Droid X. I've had some cool phones in my life, but I really wanted to get a top of the line smart phone. Email, Facebook, Twitter, ESPN, the internet...all at my fingertips! SO AMAZING! SO MUCH SPORTS!
Now, I'd like to officially submit my request for next years Christmas gift. I would like a filter for my sports news. No, seriously, I would like to be able to filter what news I hear and don't hear. I don't want to have to ignore ESPN and the radio; I just want to choose what topics I have to hear about. Bill Simmons has talked about this quite often and I concur with his idea. He calls it "ESPN Outsiders" and, predictably, its the complete opposite of ESPN Insiders. I love it and I need it! If I were an ESPN Outsider member right now, the first story I would banish from my life would be the Jim Tressel story. It's not because I'm not interested in the story and it's not because I don't want to know more; it's because I live in Columbus and I have had to hear about this stupid story non-stop 24/7 since it broke! Please, give me more Miami Heat choke artists stories, give me more Big East Tournament is amazing stories, heck, give me more PETA hates Michael Vick stories! I just don't know if I can take another minute of a local sports radio host speculating on whether Tressel is still a good person!
That having been said, and my Tressel fatigue aside, I do live in Columbus, everyone around me is a huge Buckeye fan, and I do have a strong opinion on this situation. I had hoped to do a podcast OSU super fan Nick Laney, but that fell through and I feel I need to comment on this situation before Prince drives me insane (he asks me every hour whether I've got anything written...LEAVE ME ALONE PRINCE!!!!!!!).
There are so many different angles to this story that it's difficult to know where to begin. So, I'll start with sharing the very first thing that came to my mind...
"I can't believe that Jim Tressel would do this!"
For the most part, I tend to assume just about everyone in college athletics is cheating in some way or another (apart from moral giant John Calipari of course...). That really isn't a ground breaking conclusion to come to. With as many coaches/players/programs that have been caught in recent years, and with as many rumors and stories of other improprieties, it's a fairly logical thing to assume. However, if you had asked me who the one clean guy in the entire country was, I would have pointed to Jim Tressel...without thinking. Even after the initial Tattoo-gate broke, I still would have pointed to Tressel! Think of the way he spoke, think of the things he said, think of what he supposedly stood for! This was the class act of college sports!
Now, it's easy for me to sit here and slam Tressel, and he most assuredly deserves every last bit of it. Plain and simple, he screwed up and he violated some very serious and very major rules. He can make all the excuses he wants (do we really believe for a second that he didn't know what to do with that email?) but, in the end, he lied. Period. Does that make him a pathological liar? No. Does that make him a hypocrite? Maybe a little bit. Does that make him a bad person? Not at all. We all do things that are wrong. Fortunately for us, we don't have the spotlight staring us right in the face to illuminate our every failure.
Believe me, I'm not exonerating Tressel or saying what he did was a simple "mistake." Keep in mind, he willingly and knowingly witheld information and subsequently lied about it. That isn't a mistake, that's a serious screw-up. But really, any reasonable person (including OSU fans) should already know this. All I'm saying is it's ridiculous to call him a bad person because of this one incident.
While I'm willing to give Tressel the benefit of the doubt as a person, I'm completely unwilling to give him the benefit of the doubt as a football coach. I'm not talking about his game plans, his playcalling, his recruiting, or anything else that relates to on the field coaching. I'm talking about his ability to maintain administrative control of his program. In his time as coach, Tressel has had enough violations occur under his belt to make even Lane Kiffin blush. Few people know that Tressel was cited, while coaching at Youngstown State, for "doing an incomplete investigation" into improper benefits allegations surrounding star quarterback Ray Isaacs. Several years later, the Ohio State program was embroiled in the aftermath of several Maurice Clarett violations. Again, in 2005, Ohio State was forced to deal with yet another improper benefits case, this time involving future Heisman winner Troy Smith. According to the Columbus-Dispatch, Ohio State has reported more than 375 violations since 2000, the most of any FBS program. Many of these are small secondary violations that amount to nothing, but it goes to a larger point. Rant and rave all you want about Tressel's integrity, but the evidence proves he has little to no control of his program. I'm not suggesting he has a direct hand in all of this stuff, but the coach of Ohio State (making those dollars nonetheless) should have a handle on his program. Tressel, clearly, does not.
Keeping all this in mind, I cannot understand, for the life of me, why Ohio State would simply slap Tressel on the wrist and tell him he's been naughty. Sure, $250,000 seems like a lot to you and me...but Tressel makes over $3 million per year! Yeah, two games seems rough, but it's Akron and Toledo! Even Mike Singletary with his pants around his ankles could win those games! Let me get this straight; a coach with a history of a lack of institutional knowingly covers up a major eligibility issue and lies to the administration and the NCAA about it. Did I get that right? Did I miss anything? Two meaningless games and a couple nickels is the punishment for that? Tressel and Cam Newton should be giving seminars on how to weasel your way out of trouble!
Let me make a comparison here to give you perspective. Bruce Pearl commits a major violation (like Tressel), lies about committing the violation (like Tressel), but then comes out, of his own volition, and tells the truth (unlike Tressel). He is suspended 8 conference games (albeit by the SEC, though Tennessee was in agreement), his contract is terminated, and he is essentially fined $1.5 million. Summary: Bruce Pearl did something that was not as bad as Tressel and received an immensely larger punishment.
Here's another comparison. This one doesn't involve a coach, but it's more of a way to illustrate how ridiculously lax Ohio State is being on Tressel. Brandon Davies, a forward for BYU, has pre-marital sex with his girlfriend. The BYU honor code clearly states such behavior is against the rules and will not be tolerated. Despite being ranked #3 and having a great opportunity to earn a #1 seed in the tournament and maybe even bring home the championship, BYU dismisses Davies from the team for violating the rules. It certainly would have been easy to relax the rules because of a desire to win, but BYU chose to stick by the honor code that they set up. You can argue the merits of that code and whether it's "right" to kick him off for having sex with his girlfriend, but Davies knew the rules before enrolling and I salute BYU for having the integrity to stick by it. (Side note: How ironic is it that a Mormon school would dismiss somebody for a sex related offense? Didn't Joseph Smith have tons of wives?! Is it ok to be a polygamist as long as you marry them before having sex with them? I'm confused.)
That brings us full circle back to Ohio State. We know that Tressel lied. We've heard all about that. Personally, I'm more infuriated at the response (or lack thereof) of the Ohio State administration. The rules are very clear and they've now set a very dangerous precedent for themselves. For a long time, Ohio State has been the standard for a clean program. That's all shot to pieces now and we may just be seeing the very tip of the iceberg. The NCAA is going to conduct their own investigation and who knows what they will find! What if Tressel did forward the email and the cover-up was larger? That's unlikely, but I've heard that conspiracy theory (and you know how I love my conspiracy theories!). The more likely scenario is the NCAA simply digs up the rest of the story and presents a clearer picture of exactly how bad the situation is; and for Ohio State fans, you should probably start expecting the worst.
In light of the Cam Newton travesty last year and the subsequent fall out, the NCAA is on a huge kick of hammering big programs. USC was crushed last year, Connecticut basketball got hit, and Tennessee football and basketball is about to get hammered. The fact that Ohio State already got a "gift" from the NCAA last year is definitely not going to help things (those players should NOT have been able to play in the bowl game and you know it!). If there's one thing that will guarantee trouble, it's lying to the NCAA and Tressel did that in a big way. I would fully expect USC type sanctions to be levied against the program. Expect a loss of scholarships and a possible postseason ban. It's also very possible that games from last season will be vacated, including the precious first bowl victory over an SEC team (still winless then, that's rough). Finally, Tressel's future becomes very, very interesting. I don't expect him to get fired, but I think it's possible. I do, however, expect the NCAA to levy additional penalties, including more suspension. Don't fool yourself, these are very major violations and he is in a lot of trouble. While I'm at it, I'll throw this out there (prepare to permanently hate me Ohio State fans), I think Jim Tressel should be fired. He's shown enough of a lack of control already that this should be it. It won't happen, but it absolutely should.
Agree or disagree, I'd love to hear your comments. The comment section at the end of the post is a great way to get in touch. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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