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What now for Ohio State?

A text logo for Ohio State University
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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.

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