I've never really liked Jim Tressel, but I could never properly put my finger on exactly why I felt that way.
Sure the 2006 Fiesta Bowl loss played a big part in this dislike, but so did Maurice Clarett's shadiness and the fact that Troy Smith was one of the most underwhelming Heisman winners in history.
There are probably a lot of reasons to dislike Tressell and the Buckeyes (of which winning plays a large part---much to their credit), but the biggest one for me is how the entire Ohio State program, as symbolized by Tressel and Gordon Gee, make themselves out to be this upstanding and highly moral entity.
The sweater vest.
The bow tie.
Big Ten Championships
THEEEE Ohio State!
Forgive me if it makes me want to vomit all over Tressel's perfectly placed American flag lapel pin.
Here's what we know about Jim Tressel: He without a doubt belongs in the same breath as the other "dirty" coaches in college football. Whomever you put on that list, Tressel is right up there with the best of them. And as a consequence, the Ohio State program is among the dirtiest in the nation too.
Maybe it's not SMU in the late 1980's or the institutionalized and ingrained pay-for-play culture like at Auburn, but that doesn't mean we should just shrug off what's been going on at Ohio State.
*From 2000 to May 2009, Ohio State reported 375 violations. Of course most of these were minor, but that's almost an infraction every week for 10 years straight.
*Arguably Ohio State's three best offensive players during the Tressel era (Maurice Clarett, Troy Smith, and Terrelle Pryor) all have taken money from boosters, received illegal benefits, and broken NCAA rules.
*Now, news broke that Tressel knew about the situation with the "Suspended Five" months before the NCAA came snooping around and he did nothing about it. What's more, he lied right to the NCAA's face about his knowledge of the players' activities.
At a press conference Tuesday night it was announced that Tressel will be suspended for two games and fined $250,000. That is the penalty Ohio State has enforced upon the Buckeyes head coach and not something coming from the NCAA.
The question now is, will this be enough?
Will the NCAA sit back and allow this rogue behavior to stand, especially when Tressel flat out lied to their face a few months ago?
Is it worse that all of this information came out via a report from Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel* and not from the initial NCAA investigation?
*Wetzel is the co-author of "Death to the BCS" and continues to blow the hypocrisy of certain aspects of college football to shreds. I like him and feel personally offended that people are trying to drag his name through the mud because of this story. It's not like he has a history of digging into the truth behind what happened at USC...oh wait he does.
How can the NCAA not bring the pain in a situation like this?
I truly don't think this would bother me as much if it wasn't for that squeaky clean image that Tressel has worked so hard to cultivate and the fact that a majority of the Ohio State fan base has no problem either ignoring the infractions or downgrading their seriousness.
"Tressel does a ton of charity work, he's a better human than you will ever be!"
"All the best teams are doing this stuff anyway!"
"Cecil Newton committed a felony of attempted extortion, and we're getting all of this for some tattoo's?!?!?"
"Why doesn't (insert other football school here) win some games?"
These are the type of comments you're going to see from Ohio State fans as there will be precious little remorse or head shaking at what Jim Tressel has wrought in Columbus.
Right now they are trying to stick up for Tressel because he was advised by a lawyer to keep quiet on this issue because there was a federal drug investigation going on with the man who gave the "Suspended 5" their tattoos.
"I was scared and didn't know what to do. You know that guy who gave my players money and tattoo's and God knows what else? Well he was under investigation at the time and I certainly couldn't compromise that case by telling my AD or President or even the NCAA what had happened.
And when the NCAA came in December to sort this whole mess out, I figured it would be best just to play dumb. Heck, I got the players to participate in the Sugar Bowl, right?"
Ohio State fans will try their hardest to not make this a big deal by complaining that those suspended players weren't given $50,000 like "what would happen in the SEC." But the large issue isn't those players "selling" stuff for money and gifts, but how Tressel and Ohio State have handled the entire situation.
How does this not make Tressel look like any other cut throat SEC coach hell bent on winning football games? Do these people really want us to continue giving Tressel and the program the benefit of the doubt because he dresses so nicely, does charity work, and writes motivational books?
It's not like there are a bunch of accusations that can't be proved here, because it has been a pattern of behavior for the better part of a decade.
Could you imagine what would have happened if Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen and Michael Floyd had all received illegal benefits and been suspended? Or if Brian Kelly did the exact same thing that Tressel has done?
The internet would explode from the outrage from every single corner of this wide earth.
No one should take this as me trying to look down on Ohio State, because that is not what this is about. I'd be horribly naive to think that many other programs don't cheat, bend, or break the rules to win. But in so many cases we have no proof...there is no smoking gun, no suspensions, no ruling from the NCAA, etc.
Ohio State doesn't have that excuse.
Their program is plagued by a lack of control, a graduation rate that hovers around 55%, multiple star players who have illegally accepted money and gifts, and a coach with a past that stretches back to Youngstown State making it totally clear all of this behavior would be perfectly acceptable.
To be honest, I don't really care what the NCAA or Big Ten does in the future with this matter. Nothing is going to change unless they come down with some serious penalties (vacated wins, scholarship reductions, etc.) and that seems highly unlikely. He'll probably have to sit out two or three games in conference and then everything will go back to normal.
Just like the sanctions that hit USC, I didn't sit back and laugh at the Trojans misfortune because I want to continually beat them when they are good, and not when the NCAA reduces their program to a shell of its former self.
Of course punishing cheaters has to be done, but I don't REALLY care enough about Ohio State to wish that their football program falls apart and dies because of this fiasco.
I just wish Tressel would take off that damn sweater vest and stop pretending to be something he's not. I'd much prefer he rock the leather jacket look that lets everyone around the country know Ohio State doesn't run a tight ship and never has since he's been in Columbus.