Jim Tressel screwed up and has certainly come under fire for it. But solely blaming “The Senator” has become such a cliché. So for a change of pace, I would like to direct the blame elsewhere for a little while.
It would be a travesty if the NCAA walked through this entire ordeal unscathed. After all, it was the NCAA’s rules that the players broke. Had these rules not been in place, they would have never been violated.
And there is a serious case to be made.
The NCAA profits off the athleticism, abilities and skills of college athletes without paying a dime back to the players. A 2009 article in The American Spectator reported that from 2002 through 2013 CBS will pay the NCAA $6 billion for the television rights to the men’s college basketball tournament. That is $6 billion the NCAA will make from young men playing basketball.
But that is not all. College athletes also are granted no rights when dealing with what should be considered their property. Athletes receive tokens of recognition for their on-field accomplishments, such as trophies, awards and medals. It makes sense to me that if a player earns such a prize, then he or she is the sole owner of it. Therefore, they should be allowed to do with it what they want, even sell it.
The rules state otherwise. No athlete can personally profit from a trophy or piece of apparel. But the NCAA can profit from selling jerseys, photographs and other items, using the likeness of these individuals without compensation. No wonder so many athletes leave college early to play professionally.
It is no mystery that Ohio State athletics is despised by much of the country. In 2008, ESPN.com writer Mark Schlabach wrote that this resentment is due to the program’s continual success. That makes sense. Teams that win often are easy to hate.
So naturally, many people are now euphoric that the NCAA is punishing the OSU football program. But who was mostly responsible for the Buckeyes winning this year’s Sugar Bowl? The NCAA allowed a handful of the team’s best players — all of whom played a major part in the victory against Arkansas — to participate in the game. This was despite still finding it reasonable to suspend the players for the first five games of next year.
The NCAA said the players could participate in the game because they did not know what they did was wrong. It conveniently ignored the biggest reason: money.
So the NCAA used lapsed judgment at the time because it likes its bread to be buttered. Yet now it comes riding into town like Wyatt Earp to melt the avalanche of corruption in Columbus, trying to make an example of the university.
This, of course, does little to ease the stomachs of Buckeye Nation regarding the selling of the gold pants. For this, perhaps Michigan is partially to blame. If the Maize and Blue had been more competitive the past handful of years, even, God forbid, winning a couple, then the players might have had more appreciation for the pants and would not have sold them.
Receiving the tattoos was wrong and should not be defended. That was clearly a result of the players being rewarded solely for their status.
That is a foreign word to the NCAA, so allow me to define it:
“Reward: something, such as money, that is given or offered for some special service.”
Hopefully that eliminates any confusion.