Monday, May 30, 2011

The Jim Tressel Saga: How Much Credit Do We Take?

Liar Liar, Vest on Fire
It's been just a little over 12 hours since I found out that Jim Tressel was resigning from his head coaching position at Ohio State.  And let me tell you, there are very few college football programs whose misfortune is something I enjoy witnessing. Ohio State is right at the top of that short list, because, well, I just can't stand seeing them win anymore.  For anyone who's ever been a college football fan, or a fan of any sport for that matter, disliking a rival team is almost as important to being a fan as rooting for your own team.  Without an opponent, there's no point in competition. And a rival opponent? There is no sweeter victory.  So a few months ago, when news about this Ohio State scandal began to slowly emerge, I assure you I enjoyed every minute of it.

But I was just as shocked as everyone else this morning when news broke that Tressel was stepping down.  I thought this could happen down the road, if the NCAA got more involved and more violations became public. But I never thought it'd happen three months before the start of the season, which basically leaves no time for Ohio State to find a suitable replacement.  I know we'll hear the rumors of Urban Meyer, and possibly Bob Stoops from now until the end of the season, but until then we'll have to continue watching Ohio State pick up the pieces of this total train wreck of a situation.

The other day, while watching an ESPN special on college football scandals, one analyst commented that the number of college football infractions isn't any worse than it was decades ago.  It just seems that way because the NCAA is better at finding them, and the media is better at reporting on it.  Which got me thinking, if Tressel and his players had committed these infractions 10 to 15 years ago, how would this have turned out? The players may have still been caught, Tressel's emails may have still been found, but the media coverage may not have been as significant.  Social media can turn the most trivial scandal into the next Watergate. With every new development in this story, Twitter, Facebook, the blogosphere, and every major sports website became flooded with comments.  There were plenty of supporters, but as with any other situation, the haters are always the loudest.  I'm sure the Ohio State administration heard it all. There are very few coaches in college football who are bigger than the programs they run. Jim Tressel is no exception.  Tressel and Ohio State's big wigs knew they had too much to lose by attempting to fight back or try to act like this would just go away.  It's one thing to deal with the NCAA and a few newspaper articles, but when you've got 24 hour coverage from ESPN and a million college football fans tweeting in your direction, it's pretty hard to ignore.

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