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A Word On Ohio State and the NCAA

I have avoided speaking about the ongoing turmoil in Columbus partly because I don't really care what happens in Columbus. I am not a huge fan of the Buckeyes, but I don't actively root against them. I feel pretty confident in saying that I am an extreme outlier in the context of an Ohio resident. I have lived in the state for my entire life and managed to come out completely and utterly non pulsed by all things Ohio State. This is the one, and most likely, only trait I share with Ohio residents who don't follow sports at all.

The primary reason I have avoided the subject to date is that I don't particularly enjoy watching schools, no matter how arrogant or annoying their fan bases may be, get sacrificed on the alter amateurism. A long dead notion, remnant of an age where people thought the best way to stop people from drinking was to make drinking illegal, which totally worked by the way. That is the kind of inside the box thinking that permeates every layer of the NCAA bureaucracy.

The accusations are in, formally. Basically OSU players fucked up and admitted it. Pledged to take their punishment like men, but not till next year. The circumstances at that point looked bad, sure. But everything was self contained, by and large to those actively involved in the gear for tats scheme. No better, or worse really, then Troy Smith's 500 dollar hand shake, or the entire existence of Maurice Clarrett. Things took a turn when it turned out that Tressell was involved in a long and ongoing cover up of the scheme. Now the Ohio State compliance department is digging into the sale of "at least" 50 cars to Buckeyes, current and former and their families. By doing so they lend an air of wrongdoing to what could very well be nothing. While the transaction of Thadeus Gibson is certainly, um, eccentric.

Public records show that in 2009, a 2-year-old Chrysler 300 with less than 20,000 miles was titled to then-sophomore linebacker Thaddeus Gibson. Documents show the purchase price as $0.

This could all be for naught. You have to keep in mind that loans based off "projected future earnings" are still 100 per cent above board in the eyes of the NCAA. Or they were, that rule could have changed recently without my knowing it.

So, with all of this swirling around the new accusations pretty much confirm the rampant speculation that has almost certainly sky rocketed the page requests for With the once sterling reputation of Jim Tressell in tatters there can really only be one way forward. To bring the black death down upon the Athletic Department in Columbus. If Gorden Gee is anywhere near as principaled as he projects himself to be the rusty axe of reactionary decisions will fall swiftly upon the neck of Senor Sweater Vest.

This entire series of developments is a non starter for me personally. It is just one series of developments after the other. Each successive one driving the discourse on the subject further and further into the rabbit hole of irrationality.

For a start compare what is happening in Columbus with what is happening in Boise. The Bronco's have a women's Tennis coach who is flagrant violator of NCAA rules that no one understands in a sport that no one cares about. Ohio State on the other hand has the very public face of it's institution involved in a basically a year long cover up about his players violating the one absolutely inviolable rule in the NCAA's eyes, having players profit from being themselves. Yet Boise State appears to be the school in real danger of a hard line reproach from Indianapolis, not Ohio State. Again this isn't something that you didn't already know, the NCAA has long punished those least able to protest more stringently than those schools which make the NCAA money. I don't need to sort Boise and Ohio State into their respective categories, I trust you can figure that out.

But from a more removed position looking at this situation I don't quite give a shit about it. I really don't. Did Jim Tressell willingly and flagrantly violate NCAA rules? Yes without a doubt he did. But everyone in the media seems to be approaching the story from the same angle. Namely what does this do to Jim Tressell and the reputation of the Ohio State Athletic Department, here to fore recognized as one of the best run athletic departments in the country? In my eyes it does nothing.

The question that no one seems willing to ask is "What place does the NCAA and its 1,000 page long manual of rules and regulations have in modern College Sports?" I don't fundamentally understand how this can be by and large removed from any discussion on the issue. It was a tack that was largely absent from the debate surrounding Cam Newton late last fall. It was entirely committed from the discussion about Marvin Austin and his band of Rouge Tar Heels. There are some in the media who can't wait to latch onto these types of stories, if for no other reason than to trot out the well trodden cliche of the decadent and self involved collegiate athlete. But that is so lazy and missed the larger picture.

The NCAA broken. Fundamentally, systematically broken. It is inherently supportive to breaking rules. There are gaping holes in it's structure and modus operandi. Anyone with an average IQ and a little willing can circumvent the NCAA rules. Starting with the self policing nature of violations. The NCAA has no supeona power and no ability what so ever to police every athlete under their (nominal) control. So Athletic Departments are tasked with making sure they don't break any rules. That is obviously going to be a success right British Petroleum...BP...? moving on. I won't go so far as to say that Compliance Departments across the country are actively engaged in suppressing events from coming to light. But they are clearly put in very difficult positions. Speaking in generalities In the grand scheme of an athletic department hierarchy the compliance director most likely struggles to crack to the top 10. 

You couple that with the absolutely massive amounts of money being made by these kids. The numbers are pretty staggering. Lets just stick with the TV money because it is the easiest figures to find. The current march madness contract is worth 10.8 Billion dollars, SEC's contracts are worth 3 billion, the PAC 10 deal is worth 3 Billion, the Big 10's TV contracts are worth 3+ billion, the Big 12 just inked a new deal estimated in the neighborhood of 3 billion dollars as well. Let's not forget the ACC which just signed a 1.86 billion dollar deal last summer, and the Big East which is currently negotiating an extension to the current contract which will more then likely be valued at more then a billion dollars when all is said and done. So that is the money, or more accurately part of the money. That doesn't count ticket sales, merchandising, donations and the like.

So I have sat here for weeks reading story after story about how this should cost Jim Tressel his head, about how shady he really has been in his time at Ohio State. It wouldn't stop, and just when I think that everything has slowed down for a bit. After everyone came to grips with the NCAA's notice on infractions it seemed like it was over, more or less. Now the car kerfuffle is dragging all the old arguments back out into the light, and from the oddest of places. I keep being told by the media in general that I should feel outraged about all of this? And you know what, i'm not. Not even a little bit. I am more outraged at seeing these same stupid arguments trotted out that I should feel hurt or betrayed or something by these athletes trying to profit off the notoriety we as sports fans give them. It's a two way street. We have a multi-million dollar recruiting fetish. We make 18 year old kids household names before they set foot on a campus, we flock to their youtube highlights by the thousands. And yet when those same kids that have been lionized, in many cases for years, act accordingly there is so often a tidal wave of outrage.

Is anyone surprised that Terrell Pryor, a kid that had one of the most drawn out recruiting sagas of recent memory, every single step of which was documented and chronicled down to every detail, would be at the center of story that is in essentials about athletes and entitlement? I mean really that surprises you? I bet that you were surprised that things that are shot into the air come down. These kids aren't stupid, they know that they have value, they know that their name is worth something now, even if it might not be worth something in a month. Nature abhors a vacuum, and for most of these athletes aren't receiving their market value from the system. If they have to operate outside the confines of that system to get all they can while they can so be it. It has always boggled my mind that this, the most meritocratic of societies has such a virulent reaction to the notion of paying college athletes. The bottom line is that the system in place was perfect. In 1954. Everything has changed since then, there is nothing amateur about sports at this level any more, and it has been that way since Magic and Bird changed college sports forever. The system hasn't adjusted, but the players have. The NCAA would love for everyone to think that the OSU scandal is an outlier. It isn't, it is closer to the norm then most people know. But until the system changes things like this will continue to crop up year after year.