By: Nate Jervey
Assistant Sports Information Director
Pretty good day to be an Ohio State Buckeye, wouldn’t you say? Sports Illustrated published a scathing report on its website today that sheds a great deal of light on the goings on at OSU. Reports so bad in fact, that on Friday Ohio State officials told Head Football Coach Jim Tressel that he either resigns or he will get fired. Needless to say, Tressel cashed in his chips over the weekend and walked away from the Scarlet and Gray.
Now, Tressel had already been suspended for the first five games of the upcoming season for failing to report violations to the NCAA, so news of transgressions committed by he and his staff are nothing new. The report recently published by Sport Illustrated doesn’t have that one single major blow that many people expected; instead it was a death by a thousand cuts. Numerous allegations of improper benefits being handed out, illicit drug use and a systematic cover up of the transgressions that, as Barry Petchesky of Deadspin puts it is: “… an immaculately reported dossier that Dohrmann and David Epstein have put together, a pattern of shady business under Tressel’s watch going back to the ’80s.”
That’s a pretty glowing/damning endorsement depending upon which side of the aisle you are sitting on. Keep in mind that the Dohrmann being referred to is George Dohrmann, who is renowned among sports writers for being the last sports writer to take home a Pulitzer Prize (2000). So its not some young whippersnapper looking to make a name for his/herself who is writing this piece and aiming for shock value, but an already revered member of the press who may have just put himself in a position to win a second Pulitzer.
Among the violations committed by Ohio State players, in particular senior quarterback Terrelle Pryor, are things like being given cars by various car dealerships, profiting off of game-worn memorabilia and equipment, trading of memorabilia for services such as tattoos, and a laundry list of other transgressions when taken by themselves are not Earth-shattering, but the sheer number of them combined with the overt hubris with which the players and coaches conducted themselves has put one of the nation’s premier athletic programs under the proverbial microscope.
Before everyone goes crucifying the Buckeyes, Tressel, AD Gene Smith and University President Gordon Gee, be sure to crucify them for what they did and/or covered up. Lest we forget how many people were quick to condemn Auburn and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton. Everything brought against Newton was “alleged” and in the end he and the University were not found to be guilty of anything. Now, I understand that Tressel and OSU have already been found guilty of some of this, but lets not crucify him/them for the alleged stuff until it comes to light that they actually did anything further.
Which brings me to what they did. Yes, Terrelle Pryor appears to have committed some rather serious “crimes” in his time in Columbus, but does that mean that everything that he did is “crime”-worthy? I, for one, do not believe that signing a jersey, a pair of shoes, or a pair of gloves and selling them should be against NCAA rules. Georgia wide receiver AJ Green was found guilty of the same thing a year ago. He sold the jersey that he wore in the Bulldogs’ bowl game to a collector for a few thousand dollars (I believe it was $2,000). People all over this country take game-worn memorabilia, have it signed and turn around and sell it. Why is it that the player can’t do it himself? He did perform in the jersey, he is the reason that it is valuable, the apparel belongs to him, so why can’t he do with his personal property as he sees fit? Now, Pryor is not charged with doing only that. Apparently he sold/traded such things as helmets, shoulder pads and other equipment that the University would more than likely have asked for back. But his shoes, his gloves, and even some of the jerseys? The University was not asking for them back at any time and, thus, they belong to Pryor and if he wants to sell them he should be able to in my opinion.
The current NCAA President, Mark Emmert, has said that he would be in favor of finding a way to compensate athletes beyond their scholarships. The NCAA makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year on licensing fees and using the likeness of various athletes in a multitude of ways. Money that those athletes never see. While I don’t think that they should be entitled to all of it why can’t they get some of it. Or, as ESPN talking head Jay Bilas recently said, treat them like Olympic athletes. Olympic athletes are allowed to earn money through endorsements and other avenues, while still maintaining their status as amateur athletes. I don’t know if the same system would work for the NCAA, but something along those lines would probably be in the best interest for all parties, because the current system is obviously not working.
To be fair to Ohio State, I am sure that they are not the only school that is breaking the rules in this manner, or in any one a 1,000 different ways. They just happen to get caught. Lets not make them out to be the villain….yet. As long as there are Bruce Pearls, John Caliparis, Lane Kiffins, Jim O’Briens (who coached basketball at OSU coincidentally enough) and other coaches that are less than squeaky clean, there will be the constant threat of athletes/coaches/administrators committing violation after violation. And as long a administrators continue to look the other way and refuse to police their employees and athletes boosters and other “friends of the program” will continue to push the boundaries in what has a become a multi-billion dollar arms race.