It's often been said that fish rots from the head down and this past Monday, we all found out just how rotten the head of the fish that is the Ohio State football program really has been for a long time.
Head football coach, Jim Tressel announced his resignation over the long holiday weekend hoping to diffuse the ensuing firestorm from the Sport's Illustrated article that would be hitting newsstands this week. In it, Tressel is described not as the pious, professorial character we've all come to admire but as a sleazy, deceitful, delusional individual so consumed with winning he assumed a utilitarian view of extra benefits as long as the win column continued to stack up in his and his team's favor.
Listen, I get it. Coaches and Division I football programs cheat. It's the nature of their occupation and the landscape on which they're forced to compete. I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't tell you that I found some level of cheating is an inevitability when trying to field a competitive athletic program, but it's the impunity with which Tressel operated that really disappoints me.
It wasn't too long ago that the college football world assailed a young man by the name of Maurice Clarett when he insinuated that he had received thousands of dollars in extra benefits arranged by Jim Tressel including (you guessed it) a car from a local dealer.
Right message, wrong messenger. Clarett was characterized as a disgruntled former player and kicked off the team—much of that having to do with his own immaturity, stupidity and overall chemical imbalance.
There was smoke then, but the blame fell squarely on Clarett's shoulders not Jim Tressel's. Clarett it seemed was just another example of a coddled college athlete more enthralled with the trapping of fame and NFL glory than the actual work it took to achieve it.
That smoke has since become a fire and following a more than five-month investigation into a group of players including starting quarterback and resident knucklehead, Terrell Pryor selling memorabilia in exchange for tattoos, marijuana and cash it was revealed that Tressel had once again tried to cover up the story.
The only problem was that this time there was the fuel otherwise known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation involved after it was discovered that most of the memorabilia went to an unsavory character in the Columbus area who owned a tattoo parlor and laundered drug money. The thread of Tressel's past couldn't hold this investigation together.
He tried like most men in a position of power to deflect the blame and assumed his usual utilitarian posture—hiding behind the need to "protect his players." It had become painfully obvious that what many hoped were just isolated acts of selfishness by a group of 20-somethings was in fact a culture of extra benefits that Tressel had helped cultivate at OSU.
There were e-mails from concerned alumni that went unreported to the compliance department and by doing so eschewed his fiduciary obligation to the school. That was followed by more news about (wait for it...) special deals on vehicles from a local car dealer.
This little flame had mushroomed into a full scale 12-alarm fire and with a full blown NCAA investigation bearing down on him and the OSU program, Jim Tressel did what was right for him and jumped ship. It almost seems appropriate that Tressel was fondly referred to as "The Senator."
We grown accustomed to our political figures painting a holier than thou portrait of themselves only to be caught with their pants down with an intern or assuming a "wide stance" in an airport bathroom.
It's an unfortunate yet common affliction for college football coaches. It's their job to convince us that their program is the one concerned with doing things the "right way," which by the way, I've come to learn is just coach speak for winning and making the school millions of dollars.
They'll point to the graduation rates of their student-athletes yet half of them don't sound like they can conjugate a sentence when interviewed, they'll tell you it about the (insert your school name here) family and developing young men into leaders when all they're really hoping for are a group of exceptional athletes willing to accept a pay cut for three to four years while their respective institution profits off their talent.
In Jim Tressel's wake are assistant coaches, their families, players who actually believed in him and loyal fans. Each will judge him differently, but it goes without saying that the man, Jim Tressel never earned the respect and praise we showered upon him. I'm sure there's a lot of good in Jim Tressel, he just never got around to showing it when it mattered the most to the rest of the world.