Tattoo-gate, Tressel-gate, Car-gate and Autograph-gate are all circulating around Columbus. All of them revolve around an institution spiraling out of control. It’s the Ohio State University.
Ohio State may be charged by the NCAA with lack of institutional control. It’s no longer just a Jim Tressel problem.
There is no question that Tressel lied and covered up for the “Tattoo Five.” But Ohio State can no longer hide behind Jim Tressel, claiming his transgressions were a man acting alone.
There is too much evidence that shows Ohio State should have acted, or known about potential violations to its program. The case for lack of institutional control is growing.
In December, Gene Smith admitted that the “Tattoo Five” were not properly instructed by its compliance office about selling their player memorabilia. It’s an admission that the university was not in control of its job.
This spring, allegations began flowing around about one salesman selling 50 cars to Ohio State players and families. It’s hard to believe no one in the compliance or athletic departments had an inkling that something needed to be investigated.
If Ohio State was really in control of monitoring athletes, the car deals would have received a great deal of scrutiny.
Furthermore, compliance officers didn’t proactively go to the athlete parking lot to observe player cars, which were supposedly a financial reach for most players. Coaches didn’t report anything either.
It’s strange that the Columbus Dispatch had the ability to discover car-gate, not Ohio State officials.
Former Buckeye Brian Rolle, on ESPN Radio, said he turned down one of these incredible car deals because “I wasn’t raised to do something like that.”
This is incriminating and it’s not hard to conclude that Ohio State was lax in monitoring car deals by its athletes.
Furthermore, Sports Illustrated found that 28 players were involved with the selling of memorabilia, a huge discrepancy between them and Ohio State who reported six in December.
It’s another indicator that Ohio State wasn’t monitoring athletes. They were simply turning a blind eye to violations.
Recently, Fox Sports reported that Ohio State was informed in 2007 about football players associating with Dennis Talbott, a shady character who received free player football tickets in 2008 and worked on the Ohio State sidelines as a photographer.
He is the same Dennis Talbott that ESPN reported paid Terrelle Pryor between $20,000 and $40,000 for autographed memorabilia. As details emerge about his relationship with the program, it could be the smoking gun that finally brings Ohio State down.
And not to be forgotten, the whimsical atmosphere the administrators displayed toward the Tressel cover-up at the March 8 press conference has turned out to be indicative of how Ohio State viewed NCAA violations.
The president and athletic director saw the cover-up as trivial.
They gave Tressel a “slap on the wrist” and claimed that Ohio State was above reproach when it came to NCAA compliance.
Why did outsiders like ESPN, The Columbus Dispatch and Sports Illustrated find potential violations with relative ease, while Ohio State acted with little initiative?
It’s a simple answer; Ohio State didn’t want to know or didn’t want to get caught violating NCAA regulations.
How many non-athletes are getting free loaner cars at the same dealership that the players frequent? How many non-athletes have expensive jewelry, Gucci shoes and $2,000 tattoos? How many non-athletes get free meals at local restaurants?
The answer is not many. The only ones who get that treatment are the poor downtrodden Ohio State football players. And the athletic department doesn’t care.
Ohio State should look for a letter from the NCAA outlining lack of institutional control, if the NCAA expects to have any credibility dealing with the Ohio State scandal.
How should this end?
The penalty should be severe, a three-year bowl ban, loss of 10 scholarships each of the next three years, and a five-year probation since Ohio State is a repeat offender. Jim Tressel deserves a three-year “show cause.”
Gene Smith needs to review his buy-out stipulations. Gordon Gee has an obligation to fall on the sword.
Neither will be missed.
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