Ohio stink: Tressel abandons players in trouble

How corrupt can college sports get before someone with power and influence gets angry enough to do something about it? There must be a limit to the putrification, mustn’t there? When will the stink grow so pungent that it can't be denied any longer?

Never. When it’s the people with the power and influence who are corrupt, there isn’t any stink at all.

What other conclusion can one draw after these past couple of weeks? Even Stanford’s discontinuing its “A is for Athlete” program, the practice of providing a list of easy-A classes exclusively to student-athletes, came only after reporters asked about it. But it’s really what’s going on in Columbus, Ohio, that makes college sports seem like an integrity-free zone.

On March 8, Ohio State revealed that it was suspending football coach Jim Tressel for two games and fining him $250,000 for violating NCAA rules. In doing that, the school committed an unforgivable moral trespass.

Tressel’s failure to notify Ohio State about several players being caught up in a federal drug-trafficking case and the sale of memorabilia isn’t the issue. Neither is the response of OSU’s athletic director: “Wherever we end up, Jim Tressel is our football coach. He is our coach, and we trust him implicitly."

It’s that Tressel and OSU have deliberately and calculatedly sacrificed students in order to save a winning football program.

Ironically and disgustingly, Tressel learned about his suspension and paltry fine (his salary is almost $4 million a year) while on tour promoting his latest book, Life Promises for Success: Promises from God on Achieving Your Best, the follow up to his earlier work, The Winners' Manual: For the Game of Life.

At the same time Tressel was touting “the perfect daily reader for anyone looking to reach their highest goals, achieve greatness, and inspire others to do the same,” quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four other OSU players were contemplating their five-game suspension (one player received a one-game suspension) for NCAA violations their coach had known about for almost a year.

Jim Tressel is a dirty phony, but not because he withheld information about a federal investigation from Ohio State for more than nine months (Tressel knew last April that some of his players had sold championship rings and jerseys). It’s not even because he writes books about integrity while breaking his contract and lying to the NCAA. (In September 2010, five months after he learned of the federal investigation, Tressel signed an NCAA Certificate of Compliance Form attesting he had no knowledge of any possible NCAA violations).

It’s the way he has treated his players that makes him beneath contempt.

The moment Tressel learned of the federal investigation, he should have gone to Terrelle Pryor and the other implicated players and confronted them. He should have said to them, "Boys, I know what you’ve been up to, and it has to stop."

If Tressel meant it when he cried last Tuesday when talking about players gone wrong and if he's someone who “take[s] my responsibility for what we do at Ohio State tremendously seriously," he would have stood with those boys every second. But he abandoned them instead.

No matter what his record, Jim Tressel is a failure as a coach. For nine months, Tressel knew his players were in trouble and never reached out to them. He never went with them to the athletic director or the dean or the police. When the players were suspended last December, they were alone; Jim Tressel let his players face the NCAA by themselves. Tressel even discussed the violations with OSU’s president for three hours and let his players take the fall, never confessing his own knowledge and complicity.

At his press conference last Tuesday, Tressel said, “I don't think less of myself at this moment,” and Ohio State obviously feels the same. By admitting that, what the coach and the university are really saying is they couldn’t think any less of their students.
Juanita lives on a farm in Charlotte County with her husband, son, and many dogs.