The dark clouds over Columbus this week are somewhat coincidental, considering the miserable situation enveloping coach Jim Tressel, the Ohio State football program and, to a larger extent, the entire university. Allow this slice of perspective to serve as a little light.
Major college athletics — men’s football and basketball — are complete anarchies, and have been for a long time. In reality, the NCAA, the highest-powered hypocrite in a world of frauds, is completely devoid of ethical standards.
The college athletic governing body and its corporate partners can profit from athletes, but punishes the athletes who try to profit from their own, self-made fame. Coaches will cover it up to protect the players and their own job security.
The NCAA never has properly contained this “lawlessness.”
Frankly, the only way to judge someone accurately in major college athletics today is by — help me, Charlie Sheen — winning.
Now, there’s no defending the tenor of the press conference Tuesday evening. Especially considering we expected a public apology because, after all, OSU’s self-report included the “punitive measure” of requiring Tressel to “issue a public apology.”
It felt like the OSU administration thumbed its collective nose at the NCAA. It stood up for Tressel, and issued the same sort of underwhelming punishment the NCAA would love to place on a major program like OSU.
What I can’t defend is the slew of cringe-worthy moments, from President E. Gordon Gee’s joke — “I just hope the coach doesn’t dismiss me” — to Tressel joking that he was notorious for talking in circles, and then proceeding to talk in circles.
What I can defend is Tressel’s marks at OSU: 106 wins, seven Big Ten titles, a national title in 2002 and a 9-1 record against Michigan.
The line between college and professional sports continues to be blurred as more scandals like the one here at OSU, or at Southern California, are made public.
Above all else, what’s most important in professional sports? Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis said it: “Just win, baby.”
Was Tressel ethical? By the NCAA’s flimsy standards he was. Was he even cognizant of the fact that he was violating the terms of his contract by not reporting to his superiors? Yes, he was.
That’s grounds for his termination. But, you can’t exclude other important factors of his job — graduating players, molding them as individuals and, the most essential: winning.
By all indications, Tressel is an upstanding individual. His former and current players will back that up.
What some members of the media forget, being on the moral high horse that they are, is that they bought in to the notion that Tressel was any different from most other coaches in terms of the lengths that he will go to win.
Tressel isn’t morally bankrupt. He didn’t frame a recently deceased player as a drug dealer for his own personal advantage, like former Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss did.
He’s like a lot of other college football coaches. The only difference is, he’s more successful than most on the playing field — the only place it should truly count in today’s world.