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.

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