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Tressel violates trust

There’s nothing amateurish about college athletics anymore and there’s not much about it that’s pure, either.

The lure of money in the form of big television contracts, coach’s salaries and endorsement deals is nothing short of what we see in corporate America on a daily basis. College sports is all about the money and the NCAA is becoming more and more of a complicitJim Tresselpartner in the money grab, while still claiming to be a watchdog.

Yeah, sure you’re a watchdog, NCAA. You watch as schools and coaches continue to do whatever is necessary to put a winning team on the field or the court. It’s often only when the media uncovers a scandal that the NCAA rushes to the scene to do its own investigation and hand down its own edict.

If you can’t tell, I’m jaded about the whole process. Next week, I’ll begin covering another NCAA basketball tournament in which the players are referred to, with a straight face, as student-athletes. It’s the NCAA’s way of trying to hang on to its last vestige of purity, I suppose.

I love college athletics and, like most of you, I’m willing to put up with the unethical behavior so often shown because college sports are just so much fun. But I’m getting fed up with schools and coaches who care nothing about integrity, only about wins.

Ohio State and its football coach, Jim Tressel, are the latest culprits. Tressel was suspended by the school for the first two games next season – against Akron and Toledo – after OSU self-reported on  major rules violation to the NCAA on Tuesday. Tressel failed to notify the school about information he received last spring concerning allegations of improper benefits involving two of his players.

Tressel also was fined $250,000 and the big, bad NCAA could impose further sanctions. Let’s hope it does, because so far Tressel is getting off with a slap on the wrist.

Yahoo Sports reported earlier in the week that Tressel knew about the allegations of improper benefits seven months before the university was notified by the U.S. Attorney’s Office as part of a broader investigation. On Jan. 13, while reviewing an unrelated legal issue, Ohio State became aware of Tressel’s prior knowledge.

During a news conference Tuesday, Tressel came across as unapologetic and somewhat clueless while OSU president E. Gordon Gee sounded weak.

Asked if he considered firing Tressel because of the offense, Gee responded: “No. Are you kidding? I’m just hoping the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”

More telling words about the state of college athletics have never been spoken. Gee was making light, but not really. It is Tressel and coach’s like him who have the power on college campuses these days. The revenue produced by Ohio State’s football team is incumbent on the well being of every other facet of the university.

Who doesn’t cheat in college athletics?

When so many do, and have been caught, it’s fair to wonder whether everybody does. At least at the highest levels. But pressure doesn’t live only in BCS conferences. In fact, you can make a case that many coaches at that level have already reached the pinnacle and made a sufficient amount of money to be able to live comfortably.

What about coaches at smaller schools who aspire to get to BCS schools? How much shady stuff is going on at those places?

I wish I could tell you I’m sure of the integrity of most college coaches, athletic directors and university presidents. It would be my pleasure to report to you that everybody is playing within the same rules and regulations.

It just isn’t the case.

Tressel’s reputation is the latest to be scorched.

In December, the NCAA suspended five key Ohio State players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, for the first five games of next season because they sold championship rings, jerseys and awards to the owner of a Columbus, Ohio, tattoo parlor. Ohio State could have, and should have, sat those players out of the Sugar Bowl, where the Buckeyes played Arkansas, but did not. Why? Do I really need to ask?