Coach's Corner

It isn't over until the NCAA sings your blues. Jim Tressel is a good football coach, but was probably forced to resign by the NCAA because he stupidly tried to cover up a scandal by his players. Pete Carroll is a good football coach, but he didn't get busted because he bolted for the NFL before the NCAA could get him.

Carroll was replaced by Lane Kiffin, who also didn't get busted because he left Tennessee just before the NCAA pulled into Knoxville.

None of these three coaches were guilty of doing anything that was against the law. All of them are probably a little narcissistic, but that isn't a crime in our American legal system.

The lesson here - take advantage of the NCAA loophole that an infraction doesn't follow you if you change employment.

NCAA penalties don't apply if you leave or even change schools? Go figure. They also don't say anything about selling your own property if you have completed your eligibility. That's what happens when you accept a college scholarship; you give up your constitutional rights.

Now I'm not saying the actions of Tressel, Carroll, or Kiffin don't warrant investigation or even punishment. What I am saying is they are being tried by a wholly unconstitutional system. They simply wanted to win, and refused to accept or believe that one or more of their players or students would cheat or break the rules. It's pretty obvious they were wrong.

Let's look at Tressel's crime first, because his resignation is currently all over the news. His players traded their bowl gifts for tattoos. Now I don't even like tattoos, but that is irrelevant. So is the NCAA rule that doesn't allow you to "trade" or "barter" something that is technically your property. Anything you are given, earn, or pay for becomes your property.

The law in this country says you can then sell your property for anything you like. It is your property, and all you have to do is go on eBay or any other trading website and find the highest bidder.

Barter has always been a fundamental part of any country's economic system. If you have a car, you can trade it in as a down payment, or swap, for another one. I could offer all my bowl gifts online, and that is totally "legal", even if I was offered more than they are really worth. It's perfectly legal.

Of course I don't work under the auspice of the NCAA anymore. I left.

Speaking of car deals, every time you buy a car, it's a deal. That's why they call them car "dealers". Directing a kid to a dealer who will cut them a "deal" is technically legal, as long as any other kid at the college can get the same "deal".

Of course, at The Ohio State University, roughly 50 kids on their team got a car deal, but that's not against the law. It's also not against NCAA rules for a regular student to trade their college possessions for whatever they can get. In fact, most of those students can get loans, jobs, or financial assistance to help them pay their costs of going to school. If you play ball though, you're not allowed to do any of those things, because those players have made the trade-off of having football or basketball be their job 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It's a business.

Think about this, because obviously the NCAA doesn't: Every college athlete on every team in America gets their room and board - plus tuition and books - as part of their scholarship. What do those players do with those books after they complete a term of study? They sell them back to the university book store and pocket the money. What is the difference between doing that and trading your jersey to a tattoo parlor?

Tressel's resignation shocked the sports world because he had been perceived as a good Christian and a straight arrow. He even wore a tie and sweater vest to prove it. I know people who worked for him, and some who are related to him. He is well-respected and a man of integrity.

But when it came to his attention that some of his players were "trading" what was their own property for tattoos, he decided not to reveal it in an effort to straighten out the situation himself.

When confronted, he tried to keep the situation in-house. The NCAA even decided that it would be OK for the players in question to play in their bowl game, but later decided they needed to be punished.

At least they didn't punish the other kids on the team, because that's usually what the NCAA does. They are notoriously known for busting the team for a "crime" committed by an individual. If you view a team as a family it's akin to putting your whole family in jail for a crime you committed.

My point is the NCAA plays judge, jury, prosecutor and defender in all cases. It might be the most unconstitutional organization in America, next to private golf courses.

Invariably, the guilty ones walk because they leave school, or graduate, and are therefore are outside the "jurisdiction" of the NCAA. Consequently, because they leave, there is no punishment.

So what does the NCAA do? They punish the kids who are still there, usually kids who had nothing to do with the questionable infractions. Somebody has to pay, so let's punish those who were on the team who did nothing, because that's collegiate justice.

It might be unfair, but that's OK because those kids probably knew what was going on. You can bet that The Ohio State University is going to be punished beyond the suspensions of players who got tattoos. That means every player will suffer.

Tressel's poor judgement has cost him his job, and his reputation. Had he resigned, or moved to another school or job, nothing would have happened to him. That's what Kiffin and Carroll did.

Unfortunately for Kiffin, his team had to pay for "crimes" that happened under Carroll's tenure, crimes that happened five years before any USC player had even enrolled. In some karmic way, it's probably appropriate his 'dream job' was one saddled with sanctions, because he would have had something similar happen to him if he had stayed at Tennessee.

Sanctions may be avoided at Ohio State because of Tressel's resignation, and the suspension of the tattooed players for the first five games next year, but don't count on it. Those without ink will not be able to avoid punishment, even though they did nothing wrong.

Do star players get preferential treatment on college teams? Probably, but stars get preferential treatment in every walk in life. That's why they are called stars. That's just the way it is, and life isn't fair when it comes to performance.

Are players like Reggie Bush and Terrelle Pryor entitled and greedy kids? Probably, but college is an exercise in poverty and stars are always subject to privileged status because they are the ones that bring in the bucks, and while they may come into college broke and humble, money has a way of changing that in a hurry.

Does the third-string left guard expect to be treated like the starting quarterback? Doubtful, because there is a pecking order in everything we do.

Is college football crumbling under the scandals at USC, The Ohio State, Boise State, Auburn and North Carolina? No, but it certainly is closing in on basketball for out of control behavior.

Are any of these scandals the result of illegal behavior by coaches? The answer is again no. Almost every instance involves behavior by those who are outside the control of the institutions. Agents, obsessed fans, boosters, and tattoo parlors are always "tempting" the kids, and college kids will take every extra benefit they can because most of them cannot afford to do what other wealthy kids on campus can. So what do they do? They take advantage of anything their name recognition can do for them.

Let's get real - college football is big business and gets lots of publicity and media attention. It is not "professional", but the kids do get paid with their college education in the form of a scholarship. They work extremely hard for that scholarship, and they also want to enjoy the same things that other college kids do.

It might be something like free admission to a club, movie, or party, and often they don't even ask for it because it's usually offered to them.

The situations at The Ohio State University and USC are not the same, but both schools do give off a perception of arrogance when it comes to rules violations. USC defied the NCAA by deliberately delaying their appeal of the Reggie Bush sanctions until they could sign close to 30 players this last year, even though they were limited to 15. They were denied an appeal to lessen their penalties, but had already stockpiled enough talent. They simply delayed the inevitable.

The very name - The Ohio State University - is in itself an arrogant title, and they have a long tradition of breaking rules, and still have not been hurt or significantly penalized. Even if they were, they just keep on keeping on.

Remember the names Joey Galloway, Big Daddy Wilkinson, or Maurice Clarett? They were all busted, but did it do anything to slow down the Buckeyes?

How about their coach paying a foreign basketball player only a few years ago? Yet last year they held the number-one seed in the NCAA tournament.

Of course, the NCAA also threw in a basketball case involving O.J. Mayo and a tennis player when they slammed the Trojans, but ignored similar cases at other schools.

In the Buckeye case there is an NCAA rule that specifically addresses awards and selling or trading those awards, but of course it only applies to student-athletes who have eligibility remaining.

In the "tattoo" scandal, most of those athletes still had eligibility, but had they waited until after they were seniors then all would have been cool.

So, what to make of all of this? One of the best commentaries on this case came from an ex-coach, Urban Meyer, who recalled the steroid problem that plagued our game back in the 1980's. The NCAA ruled that if you got caught using banned substances that you were immediately declared ineligible and had to forfeit a year of eligibility.

It proved to be a positive deterrent but did not totally end the problem.

When you have billion-dollar TV contracts, I'm not sure the student-athletes who are living in relative poverty are getting a fair deal, but that's a separate issue.

However, if the rules state that if you immediately lose your scholarship as well as you eligibility if "convicted" of committing a major infraction, that would make kids think twice when tempted by outside influences. It might be a little harsh, but it could be the most effective deterrent to temptation.

Either that, or tattoo removal.


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