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Ohio State Buckeyes football

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
rules.

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
soul.

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
donnas.

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.

Adios Jim Tressel

Ohio State Buckeyes college football head coac...
Image via Wikipedia

The bigger they are, the harder they fall

Jim Tressel brought a lot of things to Ohio State University but the last thing anyone expected was that he would bring shame to the school. Tressel brought winning seasons,
pride, a national championship, big name sports figures, the sweater vest
fashion trend, and money—lots of money!

Everyone loves a winner. The Buckeyes consistently placed in the top 10 nationally under
Tressel’s reign making him another OSU legend. He also did it with style and
grace. He avoided controversy at all costs always giving vague, non-committal
answers at press conferences earning him the nickname of The Senator. He preached
faith and family and wasn’t afraid to take the fatherly role and punish or “bench”
a player when needed. So how did he come to a forced resignation?

By now we all know the story of what is being called “TattooGate”. A few players sold
some of their championship rings, gold pants charms, and uniforms to an owner
of a tattoo parlor (who is now under federal indictment) for money and
discounts on tattoos. When Tressel heard about the incident several months
later he covered it up rather than taking it to the university compliance
office and the Athletic Director.

I like to think that it all began very innocently on Tressel’s part. Judging from the
love and respect his players publicly profess for him and his leadership, I feel
his first reaction was to protect his players who he viewed as his family. The typical
first reaction would be to wait until later to see how big of a problem this
might be. Why alert the National Guard if it is only a small domestic
disturbance?

But, unfortunately, this small step grew into a slight stumble and then a huge fall.
The first big mistake was in September 2010 when he signed an annual statement with
the NCAA stating he did not know of any NCAA violations he had not reported;
even though he first learned of the problem the previous April. By the time everything
came to light in December there was a huge problem. Ohio State had won the Big
10 Championship and was preparing to go to the Sugar Bowl.

That championship was won with ineligible players but NCAA and Ohio State officials were confident the problem was limited to just a few players. They were given the
green light to play in the Sugar Bowl but would have to sit out the first six
games of the 2011-2012 season. This decision involved millions of dollars. The Sugar
Bowl stood to lose millions by changing teams at the last-minute and the Ohio
State fans, who had already booked reservations for the game, would lose tons
of money.

Ohio State won that game but now may have to forfeit the whole season. This story wouldn’t be as tragic if Jim Tressel hadn’t portrayed himself as Mr. Do-Right. This tale
isn’t over and we may never know the full details. Was it an innocent mistake,
a tragedy of errors, an out-right lie, or a sacrifice to protect others? Did Coach
Tressel fall on his own sword to protect his players or someone in the
administration?

Who or what is to blame for this debacle? Is it the poverty or greed on the part of a few
players? Is it too much worship at the feet of the Great God of Greenbacks? Is
it the immaturity and inability to make good decisions on the part of the
players? Is it poor leadership at the top? Is it the culture of big time
college sports? Is it the trend of entitlement of today’s young people?

Although Coach Tressel made poor decisions, he did not create the problem. That began with a handful of players at a place they shouldn’t be, doing things they shouldn’t
do. Tressel is their coach, not their babysitter.

I heard twice today on sport talk radio and TV about entitlement and posses (as in a sheriff’s posse or a group of people with a common purpose.). High profile players are coming into colleges and universities accustomed to privileges and expecting more of the same. They expect to be put on a pedestal and catered to. The idea of a posse is new to me but Colin Cowherd said today on his radio show, The Herd, that this is a part of sports. These players come with their own group of hangers-on who do everything for them from carry their helmets to whatever.

Many are questioning Terrell Pryor and his fancy sports cars and life style. They say
once he arrived on campus everything changed. Pryor received special favors and
privileges, according to those in the know. He is also under NCAA investigation
according to today’s Columbus Dispatch.

All of these incidentals aside, the very root of the problem is money. College football is
no longer just a couple of rival hometown college teams gathering on a Saturday
to play for a bell or a wooden turtle. It has grown to a billion dollar sport. Let
us not kid ourselves, Ohio State IS Columbus’s pro football team.

I’m sure we will learn much more about all this as the investigations continue. But, for now, let us go back to a more normal life. The center of the spotlight, Coach
Tressel, is gone. Let us take a moment to thank him for some great games and
wish him well. He had to resign to deflect the glare of the lights from the OSU
football program as they prepare for the fall season—whatever that may be.

NOTE–Please read the attached link below. The interview with Tressel’s QB in Youngstown gives a whole new slant on Coach Tressel and controversy.