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Thompson: Tressel Offers NCAA Golden Opportunity

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Jim Tressel

Jim Tressel (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

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College football’s year of scandals continued this week, with The Ohio State University being the latest guilty program.

In a year when numerous big name college football programs have been sanctioned, the Buckeyes and Coach Jim Tressel have offered the NCAA a prime opportunity to make a resounding statement. The past season incorporated more off the field trouble than most seasons combined. Severe penalties against one of the premier coaches and giants in college athletics could significantly deter other programs and coaches. Unfortunately, I fear that the hypocrisy that is the NCAA won’t do enough.

The number of major football programs that received NCAA sanctions in the past year is startling. Michigan, Auburn, Georgia, Ohio State, USC and North Carolina are all guilty parties and don’t even encompass all the programs that were in NCAA hot water. Something must be done and hitting Ohio State with stiffer sanctions than what was levied against USC is a start.

I’m not naïve to the fact that big time college athletics is a dirty business. It’s about money more than student-athlete’s educations. Winning and losing determines if coaches keep their jobs more than anything else. I understand all this, but how can we allow a coach to cover up a scandal that would have prevented his star quarterback and four other players to play?

It’s one thing for 18- to 22-year-old players to make mistakes, but entirely another when coaches, who clearly know the rules, commit infractions. Players are young, impressionable and some have been told since they were young how great they are at athletics. This type of behavior and age can lead to a “rules don’t apply to me” type of attitude. I’m not giving a free pass to players who violate NCAA rules; I’m simply saying that a coach breaking rules is egregious and should receive harsher punishment.

In 2009, the NCAA suspended Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant for an entire season for lying to the NCAA about having lunch with Deion Sanders. Having lunch with Sanders doesn’t violate any rules, but lying to the NCAA does and that’s why Bryant was suspended. Doesn’t Tressel deserve worse than a Bryant?

The questionable decision-making by the NCAA last season regarding Cam Newton and Ohio State made the NCAA look hypocritical. How can you suspend five Buckeye players for games next season, but let them play in this year’s bowl game?

The NCAA has a unique opportunity to send a message to other programs that this type of behavior by coaches is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. By levying heavy sanctions against the biggest athletic department in the country and its coach will set a precedent for the NCAA to follow in the future.

It’s ignorant to think that the NCAA can prevent scandals or violations from happening in college athletics, but the NCAA can take a step in the right direction by bringing the hammer down against Tressel and the Buckeyes. It’s a golden opportunity, I’m just not sure the NCAA will take advantage of it.

Do you agree with Brad? Post your comments below.

brad thompson bio pic Thompson: Tressel Offers NCAA Golden Opportunity

Brad Thompson

Brad M. Thompson, a former college football player and coach, made his return to the Midwest in 2009 after fighting wildfires out West. He earned his master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and covers the Big Ten Conference and Chicago sports. Follow him on Twitter at @Brad_M_Thompson. Find more of Brad’s blogs here.

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