Coach's Corner

The problems The Ohio State University is experiencing right now certainly have a familiar ring to it. The similarities of their dilemma to the problems we experienced at Washington in 1992 and 93 are incredible. The outcome will be entirely different largely because Buckeye AD Andy Geiger has already announced his retirement.

Did you ever notice how coaches get fired and AD's retire? Interesting distinction. Geiger will likely spend the rest of his term fighting for his team and his school. He already has done a marvelous job of deflection and is adamant that his school in the end will prove that they do have "institutional control." They are investigating everything themselves and will assess their own penalties. You watch, there will be no need for the Big 10 to investigate. Then the NCAA will rubber stamp the penalties, and the Buckeyes may miss 1 year of bowls and lose, say, a total of 5 scholarships (if they lose any).

The point is, they themselves, will try to straighten things out and they are already active in damage control by blaming their problems on a few "rogue" boosters.

I would add that it also involves a few "rogue" players and their greed and neglect of rules they chose to violate. This is where the similarities to Washington case years ago really are obvious.

First of all, both the Buckeyes and Huskies were pummeled in the media by disgruntled players. Both schools had kicked kids off of their respective teams for violations of either NCAA or team rules. It is the public testimony by these players with axes to grind that is at the heart of both scandals.

Washington's scandal was triggered by its offensive star, Billy Joe Hobert, and centered on his loans and car and his subsequent confession of his "Christianity" to a devious reporter with the Seattle Times. Ohio State's Maurice Clarett was clearly the Buckeye's offensive star and that investigation started with his use of a loaner car and then his stupid attempt to commit insurance fraud. Both players were financially needy student-athletes who quickly realized the benefits of their celebrity status. Unfortunately, both were too immature to handle their sudden infamous status. They realized fans, alumni, and boosters would gladly buy drinks, meals, green fees, clothing, cars, admission to clubs, discounts for jewelry, rent, or anything else they wanted or thought they needed. It happens in every program in America. Fans simply want to connect and "help" their stars. Association is a tremendous societal force. People love to be connected to those in the spot light.

I don't know about Coach Tressel at Ohio State, but can honestly say that Washington's Don James is one of the most honest and straight forward men I have ever known. I will never understand why Barbara Hedges and Bill Gerberding turned on him. I can also say that I am positive that none of us "cheated" with premeditation. I never gave a kid a penny, never told him he didn't have to work for his summer job, nor did I ever arrange a car for anyone. Yet, all the positive things our staff did to avoid problems never came up in the investigation of our program. Because our administration was spineless, we got rolled over in the court of public discrimination, er I mean incrimination. I'm hoping for the Buckeye team that they will be spared the same neglect.

Now OSU will suffer the same thing Washington did. The innocent team members and coaches have no real legal rights under the NCAA, so why not hold a trial in the court of public opinion? Sports talk radio, internet sites, newspapers, television, any outlet of accusation will do. Because Ohio State is a public institution, they are forced to comply with any disclosure requests. If they were ND, Stanford, USC, or Duke (private schools), they would not be subject to disclosure rules. That is why those schools always escape scrutiny.

Isn't it interesting that all the kids that are providing the negative information are the ones that are breaking the rules? It comes across as if they are blaming their cheating on the school for allowing it to ever happen.

Most of the time the NCAA agrees with this.

I can distinctly remember a quote by David Price (currently the lead NCAA investigator) when he was taking a statement from a kid who was a convicted drug and gun dealer and know gang leader and who became their star witness against the Huskies. This one disgruntled player personally accounted for at least 60 fictitious violations against Washington alumni and they were all published by the LA Times in a follow up "piling on" article.

The LA Times never bothered to check the validity of his claims and once it became print, then it became accepted as fact. Price said there was no reason to question the honesty of a "student-athlete" just because he was a known criminal. I couldn't believe he would make such a ridiculous statement. The Pac-10 agreed with our lawyers to throw out all his testimony because he was obviously lying and had been removed from the team due to his many and varied offenses.

Then David Price went ahead and sent it all on to the NCAA anyway.

Now The Ohio State University is up to its neck in this scandal and it seems to grow with each day. What I appreciate is how they were able to get across their side on national TV. The television media has essentially taken the side of the Buckeyes and defended them as an institution, or at least agreed with Andy Geiger that nothing was perpetuated by their coaches or administration and that, in fact, they had held meetings and had forms signed that the players knew the rules and would obey them.

The Ohio State University will swing their weight on this one and you can bet they will not be convicted by the opponents in their own conference.

This is where the similarities to the Washington case ends. If you don't defend yourself in the "court of public opinion", you are going to be found and assumed guilty. You cannot run and hide, or pull some BS move and try to "leave no stone unturned," as the UW administration tried. Washington capitulated whereas the Buckeyes will fight it with distinct and well planned public statements.

In the end, it will be interesting to see what their actual penalties will be.

To recap, Washington wound up having to give up 10 scholarships for 2 years in a row and was banned from bowls for two years in a row. They also had to give up 10 recruiting visitations for those years. Much less consider the damage done to everyone's reputation and integrity. You become defenseless if your administration turns its back on you. I can only think that the Buckeyes will do better.

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