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Jim Tressel Suspended For Doing His Job....

Rock Mamola

Producer/Host on WSCR 670AM The Score.

You have to wonder sometimes why have rules to begin with because we all break them.  For instance driving home today on Lake Shore Drive where the speed limit is 40 MPH, I was easily breaking a law by surpassing the limit to keep up with traffic.  Those who prefer transportation by foot in the city for sure have began to cross a street without being signaled to in the first place.  Rules are set only because without them, there would be chaos....we think.
College athletics is no different from real life in that the rules that are set are routinely broken.  The latest example of such is the suspension of Ohio State (sorry....THE OHIO STATE) University's head football coach Jim Tressel.  Tressel was suspended two regular season games by the university for failing to disclose some e-mails he received about student-athletes who sold memorabilia.  This latest suspension follows five game suspensions handed out by the NCAA to five Ohio State football players who received improper benefits from a tattoo parlor.  Those to-be-suspended players of course were allowed to play in this past January's Sugar Bowl in which Ohio State defeated Arkansas 31-26.  
While the debate has gone on for several years now, Tressel's admission of disclosing possible evidence of a violation of NCAA rules is just the latest example of why NCAA athletes should be paid.  What Tressel did may have violated the rules of the NCAA, but what he did was in the best interests of what matters to both himself and Ohio State.
The success of the program.


Without question college athletics is a dirty business.  All you need to do is look to former athletes like Reggie Bush, OJ Mayo, and Eric Dickerson as examples.  All either received money or improper benefits in exchange for their play.  Just this past NCAA football season, there was evidence of Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton family soliciting money from Mississippi State.  The University Of Oregon reportedly paid a Houston based scout Willie Lyles $25,000 dollars weeks after highly-touted Texas running back recruit Lache Seastrunk signed with the school.  Now the NCAA suspending five Ohio State players for the first five games of next season, plus the university suspending the head coach for hiding information on it from the NCAA.
Notice the one common thread in all three of these stories?  All these incidents are from top five programs in the sport of college football.  While it may be easy to paint with a broad brush and say that you need to cheat the system to win in the sport, you also need to look at why these incidents happen in the first place.  Why was Cam Newton's family looking for schools to pay for their son's services?  The University of Oregon was in the national title picture for the first time in their history the past few seasons, yet losing both BCS bowl games affected their recruiting.  Ohio State had players sell merchandise because they could not afford the ink work they desired or maybe they did not have any money to begin with. 

The single common thread for which all three of these instances revolve around money.  Something which the NCAA makes billions of off players who play the game for "free".
While some may say that the latest suspension of Jim Tressel (106-22, seven Big Ten conference titles, one National Championship at OSU) is fair because he broke the rules of the NCAA, he did what was best for the program for that season.  Without the five players named for receiving improper benefits from this tattoo parlor, does Ohio State go 12-1, win the Big Ten and win the Sugar Bowl?  What is to say that the penalty by the NCAA would have been harsher if they revealed the information when it was originally received?   
If Tressel and Ohio State would have reported the incident to the NCAA as they were supposed to, the effects would have not only affected the season's outcome but also recruiting as well.  Ohio State is a destination school for many of the top players in high school.  If you were a top recruit and OSU was one of your choices, would you go to a school that does not protect its players when they mess up in this manner?  If I am a top  recruit, I want to go to a school who will stick by me when I make a simple mistake of being an unpaid athlete.  What Jim Tressel did by bending the rules, he had a successful season and minimized the effect this would have on recruiting by admitting he stuck by his players when he thought it was just.
Jim Tressel did the same job any other coach of a top program in college football would have done, he protected his players for the best interests of the university.  A two game suspension is nothing more than the University thanking Tressel for the past season's success while following NCAA guidelines.  This should not be shocking to anyone any more when there is a report of violations involving players in collegiate athletics seeking financial gain of some kind.   
There is one simple fix to solve this the players.
Pay the players based on a percentage of income that they bring into the university through television revenue, merchandise sales, and ticket and concession sales.  It is absolutely wrong for a player not to get a cut of the revenue generated off fans buying his jersey with his name on the back of it.  It is unfair for universities to collect billions of dollars of revenue and not show the athlete who generated the income in the first place not one dime of it.  A free education is not the reason by the top players show up to school, they want to play sports.  Reggie Bush did not sign up for a business degree, he signed up for USC running back school.  The future of Oregon's top recruited running back Lache Seastrunk will include more emphasis on wind sprints than biology labs.  Whatever the Ohio State players did with the "benefits" they got from this tattoo parlor for selling merchandise was because they needed them.   
If universities began to start paying players on some sort of scale, the NCAA would not have to worry about taking back Heisman Trophies and stripping national titles.  The NCAA would only benefit from it because then they can concentrate on growing the sport as a business rather than standing by their out dated and hypocritical rules and beliefs.
"Wherever we end up at the end of the day, Jim Tressel is our football coach," OSU AD Gene Smith said. "He is our coach, and we trust him implicitly. There is no question in my mind that his decision was from the heart."
Jim Tressel got "punished" for doing his job.  He protected the season for Ohio State, deflected what could have been a major blow to recruiting, and did everything he could to ensure that Ohio State made millions off their perennial national title contending football program.  Just ask Ohio State President Gordon Gee if he considered firing Tressel over these latest findings.
"No, are you kidding?" he said with a laugh. "Let me be very clear. I'm just hoping the coach doesn't dismiss me."
The only way Jim Tressel loses his job is if he loses on the playing field.  However with a 9-1 record vs. Michigan, eight BCS bowl berths and three BCS Championship Game appearances including six straight 10-win seasons........
This probably wont be the last time Tressel is involved in bending the rules for the good of the only thing that matters.  The program.
John "Rock" Mamola is the Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Morning Show and host of The Rock Report on WSCR 670AM The Score
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