National Collegiate Athletic Association

Football Offers Many Lessons

Adam Notestine--7th grade

Football season is just around the corner and this year promises to be interesting. There is a shifting force at work and only time will tell whether it is for good or bad. Long time powerhouse programs such as Ohio State and Michigan are in a state of transition as they adjust to new coaches.

While Ohio State fans lick their wounds and wait for the dreaded judgment day to learn our punishment for breaking the NCAA rules, we learn that the University of Miami has an even bigger problem. Our Tattoo-gate seems amateurish next to Miami’s allegations of sex parties, prostitution, nightclub outings, cars, and even an abortion.

As a grandmother of a young football player showing great promise, all of this worries me deeply. Do I want him exposed to this ugly side of college sports? Will he have the moral fiber to resist the temptations? When he began in the sport in the first grade, it was just fun and games to him. He was usually too busy laughing and having a good time to pay attention to what was happening on the field. Even though he was usually the largest kid on his team he merely played patty cake with the opposing linemen rather than having his mind in the game. He showed potential but never got serious about the sport until one day it all clicked. From that point on he has been serious about his sport and has taken up wrestling in the off-season to improve his agility and footwork. He has even taken a special conditioning class to improve his strength and stamina. Entering the eighth grade, he is 6’2” and 252 pounds of pure muscle.

It looks like he will have the size for big time college football. He is also showing dedication, determination, and desire to continue to improve. All of these qualities are what coaches look for in their players. If he continues on the course he has set, I’m pretty sure he and his parents will be hosting college coaches in their living room in a few years to choose the school right for him. Although, if Ohio State comes calling no other school need apply since his bedroom is full of OSU memorabilia.

Will the NCAA, the colleges, and their boosters have a workable system for clean sports programs worked out by then? NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “If the assertions are true, the alleged conduct at the University of Miami is an illustration of the need for serious and fundamental change in many critical aspects of college sports,” Last week, Emmert led a group of university presidents in drafting an outline for change in college sports, including higher academic standards, a streamlined rule book and new parameters for athletic scholarships.

“The serious threats to the integrity of college sports are one of the key reasons why I called together more than 50 presidents and chancellors last week to drive substantive changes to Division I intercollegiate athletics,” Emmert said in his statement Wednesday.

In the past 18 months the NCAA has investigated or sanctioned Southern California, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and LSU. The mere fact that eight leading universities across the country have been investigated shows that a serious problem exists in college sports. Many fans view the players as gods and the players begin to think of themselves as deserving special and privileged treatment. Nevin Shapiro, a former Miami booster and the source of Miami’s current troubles, said he did it because he could and because there was no one to stop him.

Young people learn a lot from sports. They learn life lessons that will be with them through their entire lives. They learn teamwork, goal setting, self-confidence and self-reliance, how to handle diversity, how to deal with defeat and how to win with grace. I once worked as a secretary for a minister who was a former football player and watched him verbally abused and attacked on many occasions. But when those same people needed help he was always the first one at their side. I asked him how he could bounce back so quickly and rush to their aid when they had been so cruel to him. He told me he learned in football “you play the game on Saturday, take Sunday to rest, and Monday is the beginning of a new week.” This was a life lesson that had served him well for many years and one I try to follow. The game is over so it is time to put the past behind you and go on.

Football is an honorable sport and I hope the players and fans can maintain this honor. I feel most coaches try to run a clean program but it is usually the people hanging on in the outer edges who bring trouble. Many players are also at fault when they expect privileges and adorations. I hope my grandson will be able to play a clean game and always be proud of his performances both on the field and off—and keep a level head.

I hope someday all of this nonsense will be part of the past. A new season is about to begin, so as the teams put on their fresh, new uniforms and the fans trot out their lunatic regalia, let us have fun with the sport and do it in a clean, honorable fashion.


Good Bye and Good Riddance, TP

He came to town with much fanfare. He was the number one recruit in the nation when Coach Tressel landed him in 2008. Coaches across the country salivated over Terrell
Pryor or TP as he is known. He was the all around multi-talented athlete. He was
an all-state football and basketball player. He could play quarterback, wide
receiver, running back, and anything else you wanted. He was even predicted to
win the Heisman trophy. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do—except follow the

But did Jim Tressel and Ohio State sell its soul for this golden athlete? Every day we are
finding out more and more about TP and his transgressions. As we are learning
today, apparently Coach Tressel and the athletic department knew of his
reputation when he came to campus and assigned two aids to follow him to keep
him out of trouble. The system sounded good on paper but there must have been a
break down somewhere. It is beginning to look like TP was the key source of Ohio
State’s problems.

A lot of irony is wrapped up in the TP package. He was the key to Ohio State’s successes
on the field and now the key to its failure off the field. As I heard on a
sports talk show, he was also the cause of Coach Rich Rodriguez’s failure and
firing at the University of Michigan because he couldn’t land Pryor and the cause
of Coach Tressel’s resignation because he did. Rodriguez desperately needed
Pryor to lead his unique type of offense. When Pryor bypassed Michigan, that
left Rodriquez with no one with the skill set he needed. Buckeye Nation was
jubilant because we managed to defeat our arch enemy both on and off the
field. But beware of Trojans bearing gifts.

Pryor became a narcissistic-entitled-prima donna-athlete. Our
society worships athletes at the Temple of Sports Stadium every weekend. We pray
that the God of Sports will favor us with a win. We offer libations of booze
and beer and burnt offerings of brats and burgers in hopes the gladiators will
slay our enemies and bring home trophies so we may bask in the glory of victory.
We entwine our own identities with that of our heroes. We must win at any and
all costs. We put pressure on the great priest coach. We follow the chants of
the priestesses on the sidelines all dressed in identical robes bearing the
insignia of our army. We improvise warrior garb bearing the likeness of the
great priest coach or the identifying number of our hero god as we gather
around the battlefield cheering for our team.

Now priest-coach Tressel and hero-god Terrell Pryor are gone.
They have fallen from grace and it is a sad time in Mudville as the Mighty
Buckeyes strike out. Many warrior fans are burning their Number 2
jerseys; but, I’m sure time will provide more exciting days at “Temple of the
Shoe”. It might take a while and Buckeye Nation must be patient as we search
for new heroes. Only time will tell if we learned our lesson for selling our

What now for Ohio State?

A text logo for Ohio State University
Image via Wikipedia

Where does one go after a public fiasco? It is becoming clear that our beloved Buckeyes, their coach, and the school aren’t as squeaky clean as we thought. So what happens now?

The first step has already been taken with the resignation of Coach Tressel. The next
step is a lengthy investigation into the school, the athletic department, and
the players involved. If the allegations in the current issue of Sports
Illustrated are true, then the school is in a hell of a lot of hot water. It appears
the problem is much more extensive than we thought with the practice of selling
sports mementoes for cash, tattoos, and other favors going back eight years and
including over twenty students.

The school’s image is as battered and bruised as the football team after a Michigan game. As a fan I am not looking forward to hearing the scandal rehashed each Saturday
for the next several years. So what can be done to repair the image and gain
respect once again?

Once the investigations are finished the coach, school administrators, and players
should acknowledge their part in it and publicly apologize. No making excuses;
just man up and admit what you knew and when you knew it. Telling and accepting
the consequences will go a long way to regain respect.

Next, take all punishments and sanctions without whining. The punishment will hurt all involved, including the fans, but it is necessary. Next, clean house if needed to rid the
campus of guilty and unsavory characters. Start with a clean slate.

Institute and oversee stricter rules for all players in all sports. It is not a right but a
privilege to wear the Ohio State uniform; make it an honor to belong to the
team. This honor should be enough reward in itself. There should be no
pandering to special, elite athletes and their hangers-on. I know this
suggestion will be unpopular and many will argue it is unrealistic in today’s
world; but a team should be one cohesive unit, not a group of catered-to prima

If the elite athletes don’t like these rules they can go somewhere else—and probably will. However, this puts Ohio State in a unique position to lobby the NCAA for reform and
insist on uniformity and fairness in all schools. Ohio State is not the only
school to find itself in such a mess, so we must look at the culture of college
football overall. It is time for the NCAA to get real and address the problems
of over-enthusiastic boosters going outside the rules to enrich the athletes’
pockets and their own image at the same time.

Everything boils down to money. Win at all costs because it brings in money and recognition to the school; athletes looking to turn pro in a few years because of big money;
impoverished young student athletes with no money. College sports is a multi-billion
dollar industry and the athlete is the only one not reaping a financial reward.
True, in the future, either armed with a degree or an outstanding sports
pedigree, these athletes stand to be financially successful; but what about
right now? Remember your college days peppered with work, studies, and fun? It all
took money but most students were able to hold a job while attending college. Because
of the intense pressure to be the best, particularly at high-profile schools,
most free time is spent in the weight and conditioning room when the athletes
aren’t actually preparing for a game. There is little or no time for a job. This
need has created the phantom job many boosters are guilty of when paying the
athletes for just showing up or signing autographs.

The world has changed and so has college sports. The NCAA must revamp its rules and bring sports into the 21st century and Ohio State is in a unique position
to lead the way for reform—once it has had time to lick its wounds.


One of the last untarnished icons of truth, justice, and the American way just received a black eye. The man who preaches morality, character building, and “do the right thing” is guilty of one of the worst sins—lying.

Today, we learn that the squeaky clean, all American boy who grew up to become a revered football coach of one of America’s premier football programs, The Ohio State University, is just human. He is no longer the god on a pedestal but has fallen off that pedestal with a loud thud. People everywhere are condemning him for what he did and the talk shows are crucifying him. It has brought shame on the university and its outstanding (and prosperous) football program. The penalties will be harsh, as they should be.

What did he do? He lied to the NCAA and covered up a problem involving six of his players. He explained his concerns, fears, doubts, and confusion at Tuesday night’s press conference; however some aren’t buying his explanations. The simple plain truth is Coach Tressel lied. That is it in black and white. But, we all know that life isn’t just black and white, it is shades of gray and a myriad of colors in between.

Before I go any farther let me say I am not defending Tressel and I did not go to Ohio State. I have lived in this town for many years and joined others in cheering the team on to victory over those years but that is as far as it goes. However, I think I have a unique perspective of this situation—one not shared by other “experts” discussing this event.

I married a former football player and coach late in life. Something I have observed when we meet a player or coach is the instant bond they all share. It is an exclusive private world in which they share combat and the joy of victories and pains of defeat. It is a universal family of athletes, more exclusive and prestigious than any fraternity. They recognize the drive and need for excellence in each other and close ranks if an outsider threatens one of their own. This seems to be true of all players and the instincts are intensified if that threat is to one of the members of their own team. I have heard former OSU players talk about Buckeye Nation and how they are proud to be part of this family and they would do anything for one of their players. This belonging is what drew Chris Spielman to visit Art Schlichter in prison. He discussed this on his show recently, and said he hadn’t planned to go but a Buckeye was in trouble, and he felt the need to go see him to give him support.

And it is a family in every sense of the word. The coach, as head of that family, looks after his players. Former head OSU coach, Earl Bruce, said that Tressel was only trying to protect his players the way any former Ohio State coach would have done. I might add—the way any parent would look after and protect his own kids. Coach Bruce added, “I wouldn’t turn in players. I would try to help them, and Coach Hayes did the same thing.”

Another overlooked factor in this situation is the culture of sports today. Everyone likes to win and the adoring public is in love with the athlete who can create the wins. This goes as far back as the Greeks and their Olympians. They were special and idolized people. Today, instead of crowning our athletes with a simple crown of laurel leaves, we push cars, bling, money and other forbidden objects their way. Troy Smith (former Ohio State quarterback) got in trouble when a booster shook his hand and left $500 in his palm. This is too much temptation for a young college student. And, let us not forget that these are young people—not accomplished adult pro athletes. Many of them are still teenagers trying to find their way in a big, crazy, and tempting world and they don’t always make the best choices. College athletes of any school are constantly being given special perks whether it is free pizzas or fast cars. Some outstanding athletes grow up being pampered their whole lives and begin to expect it. This is not right but it is a fact of today’s life.

 Finally, let us look at why the school is in so much hot water in the first place. It is because a few football players sold team memorabilia they thought was theirs and did not know they could not sell. What is confusing is once they are out of school then they can do what they want with the items but, as long as they are in school, then it is not really theirs to do as they please. So it is theirs but it isn’t.

Compounding the problem, some players sold the items for extra cash thinking they could help their families. The ones who traded the items for tattoos were just stupid but the ones who were in real need illustrate another problem with student athletes. The scholarships are great but they don’t cover everything. According to the NCAA rules, others can not help the struggling athlete. However, the ones from more affluent families don’t need to worry if they need extra cash to fill the gas tank, buy a pair of jeans, or go on a date. Just ask Mom and Dad. Because all their extra time is spent in the weight room or on the practice field, even in the summer, they can’t hold jobs so how will they get extra spending money? My husband did not come from a money background and if it had not been for a generous aunt who sent him money and bus tickets, he would have been stuck on campus his whole time.

The outrageous aspect of this is the vast amounts of money the athletes are bringing to the university, the athletic department, and to the town. College athletics, especially the money sports such as football and basketball, are no longer just sport but big business. Everyone is making money on the backs of the poor student athletes. It is a shame that an athlete can’t sell his jersey for even a few dollars when he can look into the stands and see a population of 100,000 people with half of them wearing a jersey with his number on it. Where is the justice in this?

Yes, what Jim Tressel did was awful. He got caught up in the culture of big sports with big problems and big pressures. I’m sure it started out with the need to protect one of his own from outside wolves, but it snowballed until it became a cover up, a lie, and one huge fiasco.

I see some positives in this whole ugly affair. One look at the coach’s eyes and it is clear he was remorseful and feeling great pain. It is rumored he even tried to resign. This is in contrast to so many today who never admit wrong and make a mockery of the system they perceive has done them wrong. Coach Tressel said he learned he should have gone to compliance and legal departments to discuss this further, taking the burden off his shoulders. Another positive is it brings to light the poverty of some student athletes and the vast temptations available to them. Also, it shows that the athletic department is not just for sports but it is big business. Many people view college football and basketball as farm teams for the pros, maybe it is time we acknowledge this for what it is and redesign the system to benefit both the business side and team sports. It is time the NCAA addresses the needs of athletics in the 21st century and develops rules to protect the needs of the athlete and the integrity of the sports.

Instead of banging the drums and demanding the heads of all involved, let us use that energy to make positive changes so similar situations won’t happen in the future. It is time for change.