Friday, June 17, 2011

An Open Letter to the NCAA

To the NCAA Enforcement Committee:

For years, you have been seen by your myriad critics as toothless hypocrites.  You have a history of talking big and acting small.  You are quick to accept self-imposed penalties and show your "power" by adding something minor onto them.  But when it comes to programs that stonewall, lie, or intimidate potential witnesses into silence, such as the Ohio State University, you usually do nothing. 

You had a chance to punish the Ohio State University once, in 2004, when Maurice Clarett was seen on television by millions of viewers.  You may remember it; he told ESPN how he had received free cars, "escorts," "tutors" who not only did his classwork but took his tests for him, and "golden handshakes" from well-heeled boosters. 

You then "investigated" the Ohio State University, but "found nothing."  You scheduled Clarett to testify before the committee, but elements within and around the program who often like to refer to themselves as the "sacred brotherhood" intimidated Clarett into silence.  Actually, they intimidated him so badly that he ended up going to jail when caught driving with the weapons he had purchased for self-protection.  But I digress.

You told the public that Clarett's appearance on television didn't count as evidence, and that you had no evidence to proceed with a case against the Ohio State University.  To those in Columbus, you appeared to be fair and just.  To the other 98 percent of the football world, you appeared to be idiots. 

Anyone who was paying attention to what was happening at the Ohio State University knew that there was both systemic and systematic cheating going on, but you chose to bury your individual and collective heads in the sand.  You chose to allow the Ohio State University to not only get away with cheating, but to continue their actions with no consequences.

Whenever compliance is publicized, you are always sure to mention that self-reporting is the very backbone of your entire code of ethics: that without it, the system doesn't exist.  When the Ohio State Univesity started reporting numerous "minor" violations on a yearly basis, you chose to interpret it as evidence that the Ohio State University was serious about self-reporting.

In truth, though, the Ohio State University's behavior is and has been antithetical to the entire concept of self-reporting.  When two players were interviewed this year about violations and admitted to many, they were silenced by the "sacred brotherhood" within twenty-four hours of speaking.  They tried to recant their stories, but both had been taped, one in a courtroom. 

There are many more examples of the stonewalling, lying, and tampering with potential witnesses that routinely happens in Columbus, but you already know of them.  This does, however, lead me to the real problem here: as long as you continue to reward programs that refuse to fully cooperate with investigations, those programs are going to continue to lie, stonewall, and tamper with potential witnesses.

You cannot insist that self-reporting is the backbone of NCAA ethics when you punish programs that self-report worse than the programs that don't cooperate.  If a school is punished for cooperating and rewarded for dragging its feet, what motivation does that school have to cooperate with any investigation? 

How can you expect a school to display ethics under those circumstances when unethical behavior is the reason they are being investigated in the first place?

The only way you are going to clean up the NCAA is to punish programs that don't cooperate more severely than those that do.  Otherwise, unethical programs, including but not limited to the Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, Oregon, Alabama, and Auburn, will continue to cheat because the reward for cheating and refusing to cooperate with the subsequent investigation is greater than the punishment for getting caught. 

In the case of the Ohio State University, you have a chance to fix all of this.  You have an opportunity to show programs that lie, stonewall, and tamper with your potential witnesses that they will no longer be rewarded for doing so.  The first thing you must do is to utilize recorded interviews by third parties such as the media as evidence in your investigation.  The burden of proof isn't the same as it is in court because your members agree to abide by your rules and accept punishment according to your judgement.

It has been shown in the past, and shown again in the last two months that anyone who threatens to expose the Ohio State University's cheating to the NCAA recieves threats on their own personal well-being, including death threats, and subsequently refuse to testify before the committee.  Therefore, if you want to get to the truth, you will have to accept testimony outside of the committe as evidence.  Taped interviews will have to count as testimony before the committee, because nobody who has been threatened with death is going to physically testify before your committee. 

Then, you need to give the Ohio State University the worst punishment ever given to a school.  If they want to threaten potential witnesses with death, it is very appropriate to give their football program a two-year death penalty.  Also, you should make the Ohio State University forfeit every game they have played since those in which Maurice Clarett admitted he was ineligible. 

I seriously mean forfeit: not vacate.  Vacating games does nothing to reimburse teams who were cheated out of victories in those games by teams who used ineligible personnel.  That is why every team that played against the Ohio State University and their ineligible players should recieve credit for a win in every game they played against them. 

For the last part of their punishment, you should sentence the Ohio State University to ten years of probation and allow them no more than fifteen scholarships a year during that time.  The only way to deter other schools from cheating is to punish the Ohio State University so badly that other schools know you are now serious about enforcement.  Anything less will only empower schools that cheat. 

Your bottom line is this: you can continue to be a major part of the problem or you can decide to be a major part of the solution.  The Ohio State University has reaped huge profits from their cheating for the last ten years.  It is time for them to make restitution. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How Many Christmases can I Stand in One Year?

THE scandal at THE Ohio State University just keeps getting better and better.  There seems to be one or two bombshells related to the investigation into their systemic and systematic cheating every week now.  Last week, Jim Tressel quit.  Then, George Dohrmann (rhymes with "George Foreman") finally released an article in Sports Illustrated with evidence that 28 players have hung out at Ed Rife's tattoo parlor, and that they regularly were provided with free drugs, alchohol, food, and apparently whatever else they wanted.

The next day, as Dohrmann was being interviewed by Dan Patrick, Patrick asked if there is "more."  Dorhmann, in a voice that sounded like the most attractive woman in the world had just texted him with amourous intent, said three simple words: "Yeah, there's more."  Then, ex-Ohio State player Ray Small said in an interview with the student newspaper, The Lantern, that "everybody was doing it" when he played there.  Of course, the "sacred brotherhood" contacted him and he tried to backtrack.  Since The Lantern recorded the interview, though, it was a little late to lie.

It was a great week, but following college football now is like watching the Daytona 500: it's a great spectacle, but we are always waiting for the "big one" to happen.

Fast forward to this week.  Tuesday, it was annoucned that Jim Tressel sent 77 texts to Pryor's "mentor" Ted Sarniak over a thirteen month period, provinig that he did know what was going on.  Tuesday night, we heard that Terrelle Pryor will no longer be playing at THE Ohio State University.  Then, the "bombshell" dropped that an ex-friend, who Pryor angered and alienated when, according to the ex-friend, he "became more arrogant," had just told ESPN that Pryor made between $20,000 and $40,000 in 2010 alone selling autographs and paraphenalia. 

Then, Sports by Brooks broke the story that the a freelance photographer and a businessman who sells paraphenelia on E-Bay wrote checks to Pryor and that he deposited them in his personal bank account.  Then, we found out that the photographer was told to disassociate himself from the program sometime last year. 

What all of this has done is to show beyond any doubt that the Ohio State University administration and coaching staff knew about all of the cheating, and that they covered it up.  Then, to make things worse, they lied to the NCAA and to Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney about what was going on, and then lied about their knowledge of what was going on.

The Ohio State University is the most corrupt program that we have seen since SMU recieved the death penalty in 1987.  The effect of the penalty was so bad that SMU didn't field a team the following year, either.  The Ohio State University deserves the death penalty, but it is well-known that the NCAA doesn't want to ever use it again. 

Since the NCAA won't give THE Ohio State University the death penalty they so richly deserve, they should at least wipe the entire Jim Tressel era out of the record books.  They actually deserve to forfeit all of the games, but under the current guidelines, the NCAA only makes teams vacate them.  

The Ohio State University also deserves ten years of probation with a loss of fifteen scholarships a year.  Let them sign ten players a year and fill the rest of the team out with walk-ons.  They deserve to be on television, though.  Let THE Ohio State University field terrible, undermanned teams on national TV as a reminder of what happens to cheaters when they get caught. 

The Ohio State University fanbase wanted Michigan to get the death penalty over 15 minutes of stretching.  Let them apply their own standards to themselves.

What's really funny about this is that the worst isn't over yet.  I would imagine that the IRS is now very interested in Terrelle Pryor and anyone who wrote him a check.  I would imagine they are now very interested in any other player who may have cheated.  Brent Musburger once said that when the local media get involved in investigations concerning NCAA rules, "it's all over."  He was partially correct.  When the IRS and/or FBI get involved, it's really over.

I just hope the NCAA punishes THE Ohio State University so severely that it sends a message that schools will no longer profit from ignoring the NCAA rulebook.  THE Ohio State University gained an unfair competitive advantage over the rest of the Big Ten for the entire Jim Tressel era becuase recruits signed up knowing that they would recieve a lot of "perks." 

For years, OSU has stonewalled investigators, denied everything, and their toadies have made death threats toward those who wanted to come forward with the truth.  Everyone was afraid to "rat out" the "Sacred Brotherhood."  The Scarlet Wall of Silence and Denial reigned supreme in Columbus.  Finally, though, they found out that you can't hide the truth forever.  They also found out that you can't intimidate everyone into silence. 

And college football is much better off for it.

I just wonder what goodies will be under the tree next week for the continuation of "Christmas in June."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The First Domino Falls in Columbus

Finally, after months of stonewalling, Ohio State University, the second-most corrupt program in college football decided that keeping Jim Tressel was a untenable position.  Of course, it was called a "mutual decision," but we all know what that really means.  The impending release of a Sports Illustrated article detailing a ten-year pattern of abuse in Columbus was apparently too much of a potential public relations disaster to justify keeping him. 

Reaction from the Columbus faithful is predictable, but it is the agreement of the national media that is most disturbing.  Tressel is being portrayed as a "man of integrity who made one mistake" because he was "protecting his students."  Now, just as OSU began to distance themselves from Jim Tressel, they are distancing themselves from Terelle Pryor.  Pryor is actually being scapegoated by many of the Columbus faithful as "The Player Who Brought Jim Tressel Down."

Former players and even fellow head coaches are all rushing to Tressel's defense, praising his integrity and talking about how "tragic" this entire "isolated episode" is.  Counting his tenure at Youngstown State University, Jim Tressel has engaged in over twenty years of systematic abuse of NCAA rules.  Twenty years of abuse does not constitute an isolated incident.  Tressel's sycophants can blame Terelle Pryor all they want, but all Terelle Pryor did was take advantage of a system set up by Jim Tressel. 

Terelle Pryor didn't bring Jim Tressel down; Jim Tressel brought Jim Tressel down.

But Jim Tressel, who has said he lied to the NCAA to "protect his players," is now allowing those very players to be thrown under the bus by Gordon Gee, Gene Smith, and the "sacred brotherhood" of those who have played and coached at Ohio State.  If Jim Tressel is "all about protecting his players," then why hasn't he made a public statement asking fans not to blame Terelle Pryor for everything, as many are now.

The Ohio State way is to lie, deny, rinse, and repeat.  Over and over and over.  Terelle Pryor was just one what will probably turn out to be over 200 players who accepted illegal benefits over the length of Tressel's tenure in Columbus.  They got incredibly lucky when the "Olentangy Mafia" got to Maurice Clarett before he could talk to NCAA investigators.  Really, though, what is happening right now should have happened in 2004. 

Numerous media outlets have documented all of Tressel's abuse, dating back to his early years at YSU.  Despite the blatherings of OSU fans and media shills that the entire affair is about tatoos, and therefore trivial, the tatoos are only the most visible aspects of a culture of corruption.  It seems that if the media has its way, Terelle Pryor and tattoos will become the symbols of the "tragic downfall of a good man."  It's time for someone in the National media to call "bullspit."

It's time for someone in the national media to hold Jim Tressel responsible for his actions.  George Dohrmann's article is a great start, but he needs some support here.  George Dohrmann is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer.  He was quoted as saying that he investigated Tressel becuase the Columbus media refused to do so. 

The Columbus media has long been reduced to mere shills for all things Ohio State; that is so self-evident as to be expected.  But the national media does not need to follow the lead of the sycophants who masquerade as "sports writers" in Columbus.  Fellow writers at Sports Illustrated and a few from Yahoo agree with Dohrmann's conclusions.  The main problem is that nobody on television is standing up and holding Jim Tressel responsible for his own actions. 

Television still influences more people than any other medium, and somebody has to strike a blow for honest journalism here.  Hopefully, the current allegations are just the beginning of a torrent of abuses coming to light.  Anyone who follows sports with open eyes knows that tattoos are trivial compared to what is really going on in Columbus. 

Maurice Clarett's allegations of golden handshakes, free cars, "hostesses" from local strip clubs, and "tutors" to relieve players of the teidum of things like attending class and doing classwork were correct.  It was only death threats from the "Olentangy Mafia," an absurd NCAA loophole, and the Scarlet Wall of Silence that kept Ohio State from the consequences they so richly deserved concerning Clarett's allegations.

Now, Terelle Pryor is slated to be the "rogue" and the fall guy.  The OSU administration will try to make it appear as if Terelle Pryor walked into a compliant program and ruined it with his greed.  It reality, though, Terelle Pryor is one of as many as 200 greedy players who have played at Ohio State. 

The only difference between Terelle Pryor and almost every player who has ever donned the Scarlet and Gray is that Terelle Pryor is so stupid and arrogant that he made it obvious that something was going on.  Pryor's ego made him see himself as "untouchable," and he flaunted his illegal benefits with a feeling of utter impunity.  On an ethical football team, one that tries to turn young men into upstanding citizens who make a contribution to their communities after graduation, it would be the coach's job to keep Terelle Pryor's ego in check. 

And this begs a question: where was Jim Tressel while Terelle Pryor's was drowning in his own ego?  Where was the guidance that a coach is supposed to give a teenager to help him grow and prosper after the cheers have faded?  And where is Jim Tressel right now as Terelle Pryor is getting thinly-veiled death threats on his twitter page?  Jim Tressel is apparently in the same place as his integrity: nowhere to be found. 

There will be more.  Tattos may very well be the enduring symbol of the Tressel saga, but they will only be the most superficial aspect.  While my predictions of the fall of the Scarlet Wall of Slience may have been premature, it has definitely been breached.  The "sacred brotherhood" and "Olentangy Mafia" are going to shut up a lot of people, but they can't get to everybody.  The system of abuse has had too many casualties over the years, and too many of those casualties still have an axe to grind.

If only one or two players or ex-players tells the truth to the NCAA, the entire system of illegal benefits and denial of those benefits will crumble.  And it will be just desserts for a university that his thrived for at least ten years by blatantly abusing the system set in place by the NCAA to ensure fair competition.  As for those "dominoes," I would expect Gene Smith and Gordon Gee to follow their friend Jim Tressel out the door shortly. 

It sure is a fun time to be following college football.