Is this really a surprise? After all, Ohio State has had one of the more trying offseasons any program has had in a very long time.
At first, “Tattoogate” seemed to be under control. The university had dealt with the issue as best as most had expected. Five players were suspended. The head coach was suspended and fined. All seemed to be going as expected.
When Jim Tressel announced that he would be serving a five-game suspension (rather than the initial two-game suspension), it seemed as if that would be the end of the story for Ohio State.
Then, a Sports Illustrated article detailing the long-standing and well-sourced history of Jim Tressel's underhanded dealings, lack of integrity, lying to investigators and downright cheating set off an explosion the likes of which the college football world hasn't seen since the 1980s in Dallas.
Not only did Jim Tressel have previous knowledge of the improper benefits, he actively tried to conceal the information from compliance officers at Ohio State. When questioned by the NCAA, he not only lied, he lied in writing.
Then the flow of horse manure continued to flow over Ohio State and Jim Tressel.
Terrelle Pryor had driven no fewer than eight different vehicles in his three years at Ohio State. Tressel himself rigged raffles for recruits as an assistant at Ohio State. The list seemed to grow with each passing hour.
By Memorial Day, Tressel's job at Ohio State was untenable, and he resigned. But even his resignation left a sour taste in the mouths of many.
His letter of resignation that was released to the press spoke of him resigning in the “best interests” of Ohio State and for “the good” of the program, as if he was falling on the sword in one last gallant act of integrity and honor.
Trouble is, with all that has come out about Jim Tressel, only the most diehard of Buckeyes fans believe Jim Tressel is anything other than a lying, cheating weasel.
Ohio State is doing the best they can to move on. An interim head coach has been named, Terrelle Pryor has left the program and the athletic department is desperately trying to move forward. But questions still remain.
What did Gene Smith know and when did he know it? What did Gordon Gee know and when did he know it? Why did Dr. Gee joke with the media about Jim Tressel dismissing him?
In hindsight, that seems not only calous, but tragically juxtaposes the position of head football coach at Ohio State with president of Ohio State, and does so in the most negative way possible.
It now seems likely that Gene Smith will lose his job, and it's quite possible that Gordon Gee will be asked to step down as well. Only then can Ohio State effectively cleanse the athletics program and hopefully return to some sense of integrity.
There's also the little matter of the NCAA's investigation.
We'll likely not find out what punishments Ohio State will receive until mid-August, after Tressel, Smith and others meet with the NCAA. Ohio State has already vacated all of their wins from 2010, which would include their share of the 2010 Big Ten championship.
They also conveniently threw Tressel under the bus as best they could in hopes of staving off harsh NCAA penalties. But the NCAA isn't going to respond to the biggest scandal since SMU with simple vacation of victories. Some sort of probation, scholarship reduction and postseason ban is coming down the hill.
So what can possibly alleviate the intense media spotlight on Columbus?
The short answer is, not much. The media loves a good story, and one of the most successful programs in the nation over the past decade in deep, deep trouble is a great story.
But the intensity of that spotlight will be greatly reduced on September 1. Look at it this way.
Right now, the college football media has little else to do but watch everything that happens at Ohio State. There's simply not much else to talk about. But when the season starts, there are suddenly 119 other things to talk about.
The scrutiny of Ohio State can only be blamed on Ohio State, and the Buckeyes deserve whatever penalties the NCAA inflicts and then some. But once the season starts, there will likely be a collective sigh of relief from the offices of Ohio State's athletic department.