The Scarlet Effect

Today was supposed to begin “Non-AQ Week” at LTP, but based on the reverberation of the Jim Tressel resignation, I think we can all agree it makes sense to push Eastern Illinois previews in favor of how the new world order might look now that the sweatervest is getting tossed on top of the NCAA violation bonfire.  Let’s get in to it… 

The ripple effect of Jim Tressel’s resignation is now beginning to take shape.  The Sports Illustrated feature investigation that is now available will likely go down in history as the domino that finally forced the resignation of Jim Tressel.  Take 15 minutes and read it here.   The article paints a picture that  implicates Ohio State as an athletic program lacking institutional control which has become a euphemism for “they’re going to get hammered by the NCAA”.  Tressel’s turn-the-other-cheek, senatorial, professorial pious image is now going to go down as the poster child for hypocrite.  However, countless talk shows and media outlets will spend hours breaking all of this down.  I’m hoping that today is the dawn of a new era. I’m hoping that finally some good can emerge from one of these scandals.

If you’re a Northwestern fan, days like today offer hope. No, it’s not a day to bask in the demise of a fellow Big Ten member’s demise. Rather, it is a day that we hope is one day closer to a more even playing field. Let’s face it, Northwestern is challenged every single day in football as we straddle the hypothetical ideals of a student-athlete experience while trying to compete with the “win at all costs” environment of major college football.  The two seem fundamentally incongruous or to be even more cliche, diametrically opposed.  On days like today I feel perhaps THIS will be the turning point that forced the NCAA and its member schools to finally get serious about the improprieties that are so rampant in collegiate athletics.  Look no further than Auburn’s national title and the smoke surrounding Cam Newton’s one-and-done joke of an existence at the SEC national champion.  Much like Ohio State, the SEC sat on vital information before putting the hot potato issues surrounding Cam Newton’s father back in the lap of Auburn.  The sad thing is most fans don’t want to know either.

As a Wildcat fan we’re always cautious about projecting an elitist attitude as it is one of our barriers to new fan entry. We also know we’re not impervious to wrongdoing either. Heck, we had the most serious of ethical offenses – gambling/point shaving – within the past 20 years thanks to Dennis Lundy and several hoops players including Dewey Williams, Matt Purdy and Dion Lee. However, with Fitz at the helm, we feel pretty confident about things being done the right way.  Any move towards really rewarding the combination of on field performance AND in class performance is the type of move we would all welcome. 

The cynic in all of us knows that the wake of the Ohio State scandal will likely be some past wins being voided, a reduction of scholarships and little long term impact on Buckeye Nation.  There will still be 20,000 scarlet-clad diehards packing Ryan Field in 2013 on their next visit as they look to continue their mastery over a Wildcat team that has managed to beat them just once – in 2004 – in my lifetime.  You start to wonder how the heck we’re supposed to compete with this kind of a stacked deck where coddled superstar high school athletes are getting cars, money and other favors in an environment that preys on the same systemic way they were brought up.  Meanwhile, we’re selling a long term investment of education in a short term, what have you done for me today culture.  Perhaps tweeting about it will somehow make it different.

I feel a bit betrayed. I wanted to buy in to the sweatervest and the Tressel way.  However, I feel like I just watched the Shawshank Redemption and learned of the pious head of the corrections facility who leveraged God as a cover-up for the fraud.  I honestly believe the guy believed to his core that he was doing things the right way and that he had the best interest of his players at heart. However, his rationale devices became worped, cloaked in the “you can’t get in trouble for what you don’t know” philosophy. It’s a sad day for the Big Ten and college football in general.

I don’t care how much you dislike the competition.  I don’t enjoy days like this or news like this.  However, I’d rather we get it all out on the table so we can start inching towards the day when doing things the right way is rewarded.  We can hope, right?

Forde’s Scarlet Letter on NU Hoops

Pat Forde of lets it rip on Northwestern basketball as the numero uno case of underachieving programs. Nothing new here and yes, we deserve it.

Oh By The Way, We Also Have The World’s Top-Ranked Golfer…

While Northwestern women’s lacrosse made Memorial Day Weekend waves with their fantastic national championship over Maryland, another Wildcat claimed the top sport in his respective sport. Luke Donald bested Lee Westwood in sudden death fashion at the European Tour’s marquee event – the BMW PGA at Wentworth – Click here for more details.

  • DRyan

    So, where are we now? The NCAA has less than 50 field investigators, and given the complicity of coaches and players, and the detachment that school administration exhibits, it is and will continue to be impossible for the NCAA to police major college sports. It has become so commonplace that most sports fans have, to now, believed that this kind of thing only happens in the SEC. Well now we are beginning to understand just how it works. Coaches and boosters will do anything in their power to get cash into players’ hands. They constantly seek loopholes or dark corners of localities to make this happen. These people are like crack dealers – shut them down on one corner and they simply move along to another, and so on.

    At OSU the problem didn’t begin recently, according to the recent coverage, it began when Tressel was hired and the choice OSU made to ignore his history at Youngstown State! Think about that, Youngstown Stage for God’s sake? These coaches are all of a piece. They are all cheaters, and operate above the rules and regulations that any gentleman would abide. This has now become such as serious situation that it will only be months, in my opinion, before Congress and the FBI get involved. It’s a criminal situation with federal implications – these schools all get federal grants, these grants are used to defray cost and build academic programming, which arguably leave the athletic departments free to pursue winning at any cost, which in turn benefits the school as well -and since the school is also a beneficiary of federal support, which by any other examination are your tax dollars, well you might argue with me but I’m sure you get the picture.

    Tressl resigning means nothing. He will get a settlement from OSU. Two years from now he will be providing color commentary on ESPN. The only solution here is for “death sentences,” meaning the NCAA must give life time bans to coaches like Tressel and to players who might also be implicated. The nature of the lifetime ban must be multidimensional, meaning that somehow if a coach or player receives a lifetime ban they cannot be associated with the sport at any level, or in any way…meaning professional sports and the media as well. This is where Congress will enter the picture – there will be laws passed that will ensure this. Will they be challenged in court as unconstitutional? Of course, and we’ll see if the Supreme Court will, at the end of the day, become the only institution in this entire fracas that gives a damn about the ruination of young mens’ lives that are occuring before our very eyes.

    Does Reggie Bush care? Does Cam Newton? Does Terrell Pryor? No, but they should. Does Jim Tressel care? No, but he should. Does Fitz care? I pray to God that he does. I believe he does. I may be wrong about alot of what I’ve said above, but I hope my faith in Fitz and the Northwestern athletic department remains intact throughout all of this crap.

  • Cynicat

    I’ve never really understood the buy-in to the facade of the conservative, upright, sweater-vest. Tressel’s program has been tainted with scandal from the start (Maurice Clarett, anyone?). And his lack of character was, in my opinion, just as evident on the field. Coach Fitz’s defense of him is, quite frankly, puzzling to me.

    This idea of 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust “Tressel ball” was as much fraud as his persona. That’s how he played powerhouse teams that he respected. Against those that he didn’t — including Northwestern — he had no reservations about pulling out the trick plays and aggressively attacking down the field well after the game was out of hand. Rather than being afforded the most basic of courtesy for showing up to compete, the “Little Sisters of the Poor” apparently deserved humiliation and euthanasia.

    I agree that one should never take pleasure at the misfortune of others — though with Tressel and _The_ Ohio Suck University, it’s awfully hard not to — but good riddance. More than any perceived inability of the conference to compete in the bowl season or on the national stage, the man and the university are an embarrassment to the Big Ten, college sports, and academia as a whole.

  • Rooge

    The financial pressures and incentives that drive the duplicitous behavior of coaches like Tressel, Nick Saban, Gene Chizik, et al, are identified in this very personal interview with DeVier Posey’s mother. Julie Posey is a widow and mother of four who has two sons playing Division I football. Here, she describes the financial burden that fell to her when her sons received their “full rides.”

    Notwithstanding the hypocrisy of the NCAA rules regarding the amateur status of Division I football players–rules that need to be changed–the Tressels of the world shouldn’t feign ignorance of rule violations while quietly steering athletes down the blind alleys of non-compliance. Tressel can be generously viewed as a caring mentor shielding his players from sanctions. He can also be painted as a coach protecting his $3.5 million/yr. job. I would certainly feel a tinge of guilt–driving a Lexus to work, playing golf with Jack Nicklaus at Muirfield and living in Upper Arlington–while the players who make all that possible scrounge for gas money. And that economic reality might tempt anyone to cut a few corners to help indigent families make ends meet.

    I hope Tressel’s story eventuates in some realistic form of compensation for NCAA college football players. Player’s from poor circumstances NEED a car (provided by the university) to transport themselves from classes to practice to lifting to film sessions. Those familiar with Northwestern’s Evanston campus, understand why every NU player needs a car to get from campus to Ryan Field, where all football-related activities (including training table meals) take place. Had I needed a car when I was a student at NU, my parents would have supplied one. But not all parents can afford this kind of luxury that football makes a necessity.

    That said, tattoos and marijuana are not necessities. But the lack of funds for basic necessities creates a black market that causes impressionable players to seek out and find unscrupulous boosters and manipulative hucksters who offer that path of least resistance to the “spoils” of being a big-time athlete.

    Julie Posey is right. Tressel’s hypocrisy has its roots in the NCAA. She says, “The NCAA is amazing. Every time you turn around, they come up with something new to ensure that the young men who have poured their hearts and souls and energy and intellect into their craft are continually kept at a disadvantage while everybody else around them is running to the bank.”

  • Mr Marbles

    for a little background, I’m an Ohio State fan/grad & NU season ticket holder. I was there for Cooper’s last year & Tressel’s first three. A few observations:

    1) I’m not a Tressel defender. He deserved to be fired months ago. The athletic director as well as President Gee should be held accountable in the same fashion. This mess has been embarrassing to all of us who hold a degree from the university and don’t cry or storm out of the stadium in anger after every loss. He brought players of questionable character into the program, and whether he had anything to do with their wrong-doings or not, he knew the risks involved with ignoring character for the sake of better talent.

    2) Despite that, for every wrong, he did 100 other things right. He’s not evil, just not the saint he/we tried to portray him to be. Relative to Cooper’s teams, I was always proud of the professionalism and modest demeanor displayed by 99% of the players. Of course, Cooper did set the bar quite low for this one.

    3) Mark Titus’ comments about players with expensive cars were dead on and applied during my time at OSU as well. Not all players–not the majority–but you’d have to be blind to not notice the most expensive vehicles around campus were being driven by football players–specifically, football players who were well documented as coming from a less than ideal financial and family situation.

    4) I personally know players who did everything the right way. I believe most of them did. But, I always questioned why one of the high-profile football players in my Psych 101 class went to another room to take his tests/exams (the joke was that he had to have someone read the questions to him)

    5) I wouldn’t wish the job of OSU Athletic Compliance Officer on my worst enemy. Columbus, its love affair with OSU football, and irrational boosters combine as a beast that no one will ever be able to completely control.

    @ Chad–I expect hyperbole when I read your posts–but my goodness, your “he had no reservations about pulling out the trick plays and aggressively attacking down the field well after the game was out of hand” comment is completely absurd. One fake punt with a decent but not “out of hand” lead does not define one’s coaching career. Your comment indicates you the other 100+ games OSU played during Tressel’s tenure that did not involve NU.

  • Mr Marbles

    ooops, apologies to regular poster Chad. Last comment was directed at cynicat’s comments above.

  • vaudvillain

    Just read the SI article — it’s sad, really. I have no personal knowledge of the climate at OSU or in Columbus, but Mr. Marbles’ comments ring pretty true to me.

  • cece

    hate it that OSUgate is taking all the attention away from NU LAX ‘Cats and Luke Donald. Tressel and that so called university president….new terms for weasel.

  • Whenever I hear stories about coaches like Tressel–and believe me I heard alot about his wayward ways from friends of mine in Ohio–it’s frustrating that the NCAA and university presidents won’t take at least some steps to improve academic integrity and institutional accountability. I believe that one of the biggest mistakes the NCAA ever made was allowing freshman to compete. It bothers me that kids at NU will play in their first football game before attending a single class. I would establish a rule that freshman are ineligible and then give them four years of eligibility. In addition, it used to be that there was an offseason. One of my closest friends is a former NU offensive tackle and when the season was over there was no “required” training regimen that in essence has become year round. I would eliminate such workouts and let the kids enjoy school and immerse themselves in academics. As some of you have posted, there needs to be a death penalty for coaches like Tressel. I come from a family of IU grads and it’s painful to watch the Hoosiers, unless they are playing NU, play basketball. Kelvin Sampson was no good from jump street and most IU fans and alums knew it. A once-proud program is now a national laughingstock. Sampson received a five year ban and quite frankly, like Tressel, should never be allowed to coach college kids again. However, I am against paying players and think that the Big Ten’s consideration of it is ridiculous. Anyone who has children in college and graduate school as I currently do, bristles when he hears about how free tuition, books, room and board aren’t enough. If we did not have a 365-day a year sport then kids could get part-time jobs at the university or through approved employers. Someone above said NU has a disadvantage and he’s right. We’re not ever going to be pure as the driven snow, but it’s always our goal. For years I’ve said we play against professionals in the Big Ten (also Auburn from the SEC), particuarly the team in Columbus. Let’s hope Tressel’s demise is a sign that OSU values its academic and professional reputation and hires someone who mirrors such a reputation.

  • Cynicat

    @ Mr Marbles

    No, I haven’t watched every OSU game, just enough to know there was a marked difference in how Tressel coached his “gimme” games compared to those against “respectable” opponents. Up 45-20 against Eastern Michigan with under 5 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, was calling the flea-flicker so his Heisman-candidate quarterback could catch a touchdown really needed to seal the win? Or let’s go back to that NU game you mentioned with 11:30 left and OSU leading 31-10. Here are their last three series: fake punt leading to a touchdown, 3-and-out passing the ball that took less than a minute off the clock, touchdown with 7 seconds left. Yes, I can see how a 3+ touchdown lead in the waning minutes of the game is a bit tenuous, especially when that’s more points than the opponent has scored all day.

    It’s interesting to contrast those games to, say, the game against USC in 2009, where you could almost hear Tressel let out a sigh of relief and look happy riding out a 3-point lead in the 2nd quarter. Or the Iowa game a couple years ago to determine the Big Ten champion where, tied at the end of the game, both teams all but refused to score. Where were the aggressive play-calls and trick plays then?

    It’s also interesting to compare the end of the OSU-NU game to last year’s PSU-NU game, where in the last 11:30 minutes leading by two touchdowns, PSU ran 4 minutes off the clock running the ball and, getting it back with a minute-and-a-half left, ended the game kneeling down. This was, if you remember, against an NU team that had just given up 5 straight touchdowns on the day that JoePa achieved his 400th career win. As infuriating as that game was, you couldn’t help but gave Paterno a hat-tip for the class he displayed in victory.

    Am I picking and choosing? Perhaps. Biased? Sure. Feeling a little slighted? Undoubtedly. But I hardly think it’s hyperbole – and the evidence certainly exists – to claim that, against lesser opponents, Tressel opened it up and coached for the blowout, while against stiffer competition he played it safe and coached to not lose. If beating up on the littler guys while playing nice with the bigger ones isn’t behavior indicative of a bully, I’m not sure what is.

  • Mark

    Here are my ideas: 1. No coach makes more than the President of the university (similar to Bobby Knight’s statement that he’d never coach in the NBA unless he made more than the highest paid player); 2. No recruiting high school athletes until they finish their junior season in the sport in which they’re being recruited (the feeling of entitlement needs to be minimized; the recent Iowa offer to a freshman is illustrative of the problem); 3. A scholarship should cover the cost of attendance, be a four or five year commitment, and allow automatic transfer and immediate eligibility if the head coach is fired or leaves; 4. The maximum number of scholarships per year should be 1/4 of the total allowable scholarships (meaning the coaches must bring students who will be capable of academic success and if not the depth chart is depleted). Realistic? One of the all-time great basketball players at IU was not recruited until he had graduated and actually started his freshman year at WKU. Another thing to realize is that the structure produces results more than the individuals within the structure.

  • This is sad for the whole Big Ten – even us. (And even Michigan.) We can point and laugh at Ohio State, but the reality is that it makes all of the Big Ten look bad to some extent. I feel sorry for the “clean” players, staff, and fans at Ohio State. I hope the “dirty” ones at OSU get it with both barrels.

    I am glad to be a Wildcat, especially on a day like today. May it ever be so.

    Go Cats!

  • Lord Willie

    Tressel was always a grade A, self-righteous fraud. In fact the entire OSU football program has been acting this way since the early 1930’s. The Bucks are looking at USC type penalties, which could set them back 5 to 7 years, meanwhile the Badgers and PSU are the big winners in this toilet flush.
    Unfortunately the Tressel act only begs for the acceleration of splitting the top 20 or 30 revenue generating football schools, into a super semi-professional conference, away from the pirates of the NCAA. Football programs with +$50M budgets will be forced to contribute 3 to 5% of their OPEX for labor with a pension plan, since the players will actually be employees.
    Paying players, using free market principles of labor—the most valuable players can name their price, while 3rd teams might be luck to clear $200/game– would stop the nickel and diming with “undesirables”, and University Presidents, ADs, coaches and players can stop lying about money, grades and values and focus on being good employees and management.

  • I just hope that Ohio State Football team can find another coach as soon as possible. Even though they lost a long time coach they have, they should move on and focus on the teams goal.

  • Alaskawildcat

    I suppose this could provide additional ammunition for the “little sisters of the poor” trying to dismantle the BCS “monopoly.”

  • tevis

    Nice comment. As an alum, I bleed purple and white for NU sports but NU plays on the razor’s edge nowadays competing in DI athletics, particularly in football. What happened at Ohio State was a disgrace. We are confronted with entire conferences (SEC being the poster child) that are predominantly running programs that maked a mockery of the student-athlete ideal. I really believe that BCS football is at a moment of truth. BCS football is close to a point where schools like Northwestern (and any self-respecting institution for that matter) should not even bother competing.

  • Icehockeycat

    I am starting to agree with Lord Willie on some of this – there needs to be some kind of “pro” path out of high school like they have for baseball and hockey for the players who really have no business being on a college campus, or who want to really focus on their sport as a career. This nickel and dime money items in the NCAA is really a football problem, as even in basketball, it is possible for the upper athletes to go pro quickly or even spend time in the D-league if money is the issue. Ice hockey there is the major junior route, which is actually a better pro development route than college; the players who want the education stay for 4-years in college but if you really want to get some cash and spend 100% time on hockey, you can go major junior. I think the issue with football is that college is the only real development path for these players, even for the ones who have no desire to be in school.

  • Lake The Posts

    Cheers to all of the well thought out posts on this topic. I really enjoyed reading the back and forth and the offering of solutions – how realistic or unrealistic they may be isn’t the point. It’s days like this and threads like this that give me great pride in the fact we’ve built a great community here. Thanks!

  • cece

    here’s hoping the NCAA is not dumb enough to believe it is just a Tressel problem, or wishes to sweep it under the rug by stopping with his resignation. The problem at OSU was pervasive, the coach was not the only one in the know, and the university president just seems to want to win football games or is clueless. OSU deserves harsh punishment, not just the loss of a coach.

  • tevis

    @icehockeycat, interesting comment about a separate “pro” path in football being needed. By way of background, hockey is “my” sport (I played at a boarding school in Mass. and many of my classmates played at schools like BC, BU, Maine, etc.). I certainly agree with your assessment that there’s a good 2-track option (i.e., juniors or college hockey) for players. Interestingly, more and more NHLers come from the college route. The fact is that for various complicated reasons, there is a larger number of hockey kids who are legitimately eligible for a tough college education (e.g., Yale, which had in my opinion the best college hockey team this year and they don’t recruit dummies). A separate and profound issue is money and college hockey programs, while big time in a few parts of the country, don’t have the national profile of college football. In any event, the idealist in me would like to think that BCS football could give athletically gifted kids a leg up, and an education, but with the endless stream of ridiculous stories about college football players these days, it’s tough to keep the faith.

  • Icehockeycat

    @tevis – yes, the NCAA hockey programs are starting to turn out some real NHL prospects, but even those, they only stay in school for a year or so and jump. Part of this is how players even get into NCAA programs – most have to do a year of USHL or NAHL and are starting school at 19 or 20 or so already… don’t know how many true 18 year olds get a scholarship offer right out that have not already been picked up by a major junior program, sometimes with a pro contract already signed.
    This is where I think the B1G sponsoring ice hockey will have a huge difference. Playing games against rival schools with huge crowds is going to be very appealing. Can you image the Wisco-Minny-MSU-Michigan and even PSU games?? You will pull in the “regular” sports community who follow their schools to these games. This is going to be a huge plus for college hockey; if you are a 16,17 year old kid faced with the option of a pro contract and 2-3 years in major junior vrs going to a big school for 3-4 years and then the NHL, today, it is a no brainer for the kid (sorry college hockey..). With the B1G games on TV and the crowds that show up, maybe not such an automatic decision anymore…