Over the years, we’ve seen nearly every major college football program face some type of NCAA probe for possible violation.
You name a big time college football program and it’s almost certain there has been some type NCAA investigation whether minor or major. This latest drama with Ohio State, which has led to the suspension of several football players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, and the sudden resignation of highly popular coach Jim Tressel on Monday has to make one wonder if cheating and success are synonymous in college football.
The blunt answer is yes.
There is a an argument to be made that no one coach football program has been more successful under one coach than Ohio State has under Tressel the last 10 years. Tressel guided the Buckeyes to a BCS national title in 2002, while also putting them in eight BCS games in 10 seasons, winning or sharing the Big Ten title the last six years and perhaps most important for an Ohio State coach, his teams beat Michigan nine times and only lost once during the last 10 seasons.
Yet now we know that several of Tressel’s players were trading their bowl and conference title rings and jerseys for tattoos. Maybe some were being allowed to use cars. All these things are against NCAA rules. None them amount to what is considered major violations.
But collectively there was a problem and we are learning this thing could go back as far as Tressel’s second year on the job, according to a Sports Illustrated article. That and the fact Tressel knew about these problems, which would have rendered some of his star players ineligible, didn’t report it to his school and then lied to the NCAA when questioned about it, gave OSU no choice but to get rid of its most successful football coach.
All the same, we all have to be wondering if many of the issues dogging the Buckeyes right now are just part of the culture of major college football. The answer is likely yes.
USC, Texas, Washington, Arizona State, Alabama … You name the school and there have been violations committed.
Young athletes are prone to have their hands out. Athletic supporters and fans of the program are all too willing to extend an extra benefit to get closer to their team. And coaches honestly don’t want to know.
I can’t imagine very many student athletes with a big enough conscious to be willing to turn down a seemingly harmless exchange for a bowl ring or a jersey for a tattoo or another benefit. Another dirty secret of college athletics is players often sell their allotted tickets for money or other privileges. Coaches do it, too.
Maybe the Big Ten and other major conferences are on to something with proposed legislation that will allow student athletes to receive money beyond their athletic scholarships. Maybe not.
The real key is to change the culture of college football across the board and that will be beyond difficult to do.