If there are any "sure things" in life, you have to point to death, taxes, and Ohio State football being one of the toughest teams in all of college football. That's all I have known growing up, watching Big Ten teams get picked apart and out-played by a team with a man in a sweater-vest roaming the sidelines.
To me, it appeared as though this team was untouchable, unstoppable.
Then, news broke that Tressel and some of his players had violated NCAA rules, and suspensions were handed out by the University. It was tough enough as it is to imagine an Ohio State sideline for five games without Tressel, but now, we will likely never see him there again as he signed a letter of resignation on Memorial Day, allegedly mutually agreeing that it was best for him to move on.
My first reaction to this was decidedly negative. I thought Tressel had made a very cowardly move by essentially deserting the players he forced to stay in school for another year, but it wasn't long before I realized how wrong I was.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Tressel was acting as a father figure here, with his sons (the Ohio State players in question) acting like complete idiots. These guys were going out and breaking NCAA rules, knowing full well what they were doing, and frankly, for those who were trading memorabilia for tattoos, I think they were acting flat out stupid.
Yes, Tressel was knowingly lying to the NCAA, and I am by no means excusing that. Tressel was in the wrong, and he knew it. The bottom line is that Tressel deserved a suspension for his actions, for lying to the NCAA, but did he deserve to have to resign from the Ohio State University?
In my opinion, the resignation of Tressel falls directly back on those players who made the mistakes. He was protecting them, and they were continually abusing that protection.
Still, aside from those players who were using the memorabilia for tattoo art, I think the other guys might have been justified. Playing college football, even here where I am at the University of Sioux Falls, is like a full-time job--and then some. You have to be a full-time student, which itself is a full-time job, but then you have to be part of the football team. That includes going to practice four or five days a week, watching film almost every day, playing and preparing for game-day on Saturday, and maybe taking one single day off on Sunday. These kids do not have time for a job to make money, and while they are having their education paid for in full, that doesn't mean they have extra cash like a normal kid who works does.
The argument there is that since they have nothing else to do besides school and football, they shouldn't need any extra money. I mean, you can eat on campus, and why would you need a car if you have nowhere else to go? In an ideal world, sure, that's how it works. However here in the real world, that's not how it is. No matter how big the campus at Ohio State is, I can guarantee you that no kid wants to stay there year-round. These guys might want to go to the movies, they might want to buy new clothes, or maybe they want to go to Wal-Mart and buy Call of Duty. Regardless of what they want the money for, it's not abnormal for college age students to require extra cash, and I say that because right now I'm in college, and I know how it is.
I don't doubt that the Ohio State players were using the money and memorabilia for some of the wrong reasons, but some guys were trying to keep their mothers from being evicted. Some guys were just trying to support their families, so who are we to judge whether or not a couple of locals want to help them out in exchange for an autograph?
Well, the NCAA says that's a big no-no, so obviously we look down upon those guys immediately without knowing exactly what was going on in their lives. On that note, I'll go back to the Jim Tressel/father analogy. He knows exactly what is going on in each one of these kids' lives, and so what if he lets it slide here or there so that a kid can send some money to his mother? So what if Tressel signs a magazine, jacket, or headshot so a kid can make an extra bit of cash just to live off of. Let's not sugar-coat this--we know that a vast majority of collegiate athletes are from lower class families, so it's not like their parents can just wire them $100 dollars whenever they might need it.
Again, I'm not trying to excuse what these guys did, but I'm also asking some of us to lighten up in some cases. In others, it's far more serious. Selling memorabilia for marijuana, tattoos, or continually breaking NCAA rules while knowing exactly what's going on is wrong, and those guys knew it. It's definitely a case-by-case basis, and it's hard to say that one kid was in the wrong while others were not--they were all in the wrong.
Jim Tressel is paying the ultimate price for their wrong doings, and the media continues to rub it into the ground. As one who typically roots against Ohio State, I have to say that I have always respected Tressel and the Ohio State program. This is not going to be a good situation for the program, but look at what has happened to USC. USC lost bowl eligibility as well as scholarships, but that hasn't prevented them from being a recruiting powerhouse. The same will likely be true for OSU, who will land a blue-chip head coach, and likely will continue to be a recruiting power in the Big Ten.
Still, it's sad to see Tressel go this way. He stuck up for his guys when they were in the wrong, and he took the ultimate fall for them. Every Ohio State player, or at least a majority of them, probably have only great things to say about Tressel and how he treated them. Negative things might continue to emerge in the media, but Tressel is forever an Ohio State legend.