Monday, May 30, 2011

Ohio State's Tressel Resigns Amid Pool of Lies

After ten seasons coaching the Ohio State Buckeyes Football program Jim Tressel announced this morning that he is stepping down from his post. Below is a short statement from Tressel proclaiming the decision.
After meeting with university officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach
Ironic that he finally chose a course of action that was in his university's best interest after exposing them to a host of decisions that will surely lead to further scrutiny and certain punishment from the NCAA.

If you recall, late in 2010 stories broke about several Ohio State football players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, receiving improper benefits. The stink of the matter is not only that Tressel's players had cheated, but moreover he had knowledge of the improprieties more than eight months prior to school officials uncovering the scandal.

Of course, this is not the first time Tressel has been linked to scandals in association with his role in players receiving improper benefits. Former running back star Maurice Clarett accused Tressel and members of his staff and boosters of providing improper benefits, such as loaner cars and 'bogus' landscaping jobs to funnel thousands of dollars into Clarett's pocket. Additionally, Clarett insisted he likely would have been ineligible for the 2002 season, in which he scored the game-winning touchdown in Ohio State's national championship game, if he had not been introduced with an academic advisor who selected classes with teachers who would pass Clarett regardless if he showed up for classes or not.

For the record, Ohio State was never found guilty of any of Clarett's accusations. Perhaps, though, they simply did a better job of covering up that mess than they have with the latest set of wrongdoings.

Another star, former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, received improper benefits from a local booster and was suspended for the 2004 Alamo Bowl and first game of the 2005 season. Allegations for another former star, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, indicated receipt of money from an agent while he was playing for the Buckeyes.

Most recently, Ohio State is under scrutiny for its connection to a car dealership and owner of a tattoo parlor, who are allegedly responsible for giving players extreme discounts on their services. Former walk-on Ohio State basketball player, Mark Titus, shared his thoughts on the matter and was consequently berated by crazed Buckeyes fans for his strong remarks challenging his university.

The recurring theme throughout all of those transgressions is that Tressel knew of (either allegedly or confirmed) of the situations and apparently did nothing about it. There is yet to be a report that he handled punishment behind closed doors. If anything, he further encouraged the poor behavior by continuing to allow his players to live their lives without consequence.

His unaccountability is no doubt reinforced by his failure to conduct himself with honesty in front of the NCAA. As reported on CBS via an AP story released this April, it was revealed that the NCAA issued an indictment against the now former Ohio State coach.
In a 13-page indictment of Tressel's behavior, the NCAA alleged that Tressel had "permitted football student-athletes to participate in intercollegiate athletics while ineligible." It also said he "failed to deport himself ... (with) honesty and integrity" and said he was lying when he filled out a compliance form in September which said he had no knowledge of any NCAA violations by any of his players.
What is perhaps most shocking about this ordeal is that Tressel's former players are forthright in showing their support despite the dishonest and unlawful nature upheld by their former leader. To me that is a sign of poor leadership, not good leadership.

As a leader, Tressel owed it to himself and his university to set a positive example for his student-athletes. Lying and covering up scandals are not attributes of good leaders, period.

To be fair, it is understandable that his former and current players feel a connection to the man who led them for years on and off the field. What is not understandable is to blindly declare that he was a good leader. He lost that privilege when he lied to the NCAA and failed to reprimand his players.

I suppose it should not come as a surprise. After all, how should one expect an unaccountable man to hold his followers accountable for their actions? Now his university is left to clean up his mess. The end is most likely not in sight for the Buckeyes as investigations are still ongoing. Also, if the NCAA's ruling against USC's appeal on its transgressions is any indication of what the future will bring, the Buckeyes better prepare themselves for seemingly assured loss of scholarships and potential fines.

So, on this Memorial Day, depending on your relationship to Ohio State and it's football program help yourself to a heaping serving of denial, humble pie, shame, indifference or embarrassment. For me, I'll stick to fan favorite schadenfreude. It is most delicious when served with justice, although Ohio State certainly has a long ways to go before ridding itself of the improper behavior exhibited by its so called 'leaders' of the university.

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