Fourth and Long

Published 10:55 am Friday, March 11, 2011

They say people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Using that logic it would seem clear to me that as a Carolina fan I should leave all opinions regarding the most recent Ohio State controversy to myself.

Luckily for you I don’t use logic and keeping my opinion to myself isn’t exactly something I’m good at.

In case you have been living under a rock for the last week you know that a bad situation created by several players was recently made much worse by their coach.

News broke months ago that Buckeye quarterback Terrelle Pryor and several other members of the football team had allegedly been trading memorabilia and autographs for tattoos.

While against the rules, such violations are not the end of the world. The players and coaches spoke to the NCAA and, after a brief period of investigation, the NCAA ruled that while they would be allowed to compete in the upcoming BCS bowl game the players would be forced to sit out the first five games of next season.

The Buckeye’s beat Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl and at the end of the day the deferred punishment was a blessing for the Ohio State football program. While the team would certainly miss those players the coaching staff would have months to prepare for their absence.

Just when Buckeye fans and the national media were beginning to get over the controversy, Yahoo! Sports broke the story this week that apparently Head Coach Jim Tressel knew months before the university did that players were trading gear and autographs for tats.

It seems that in April a former player turned lawyer from the Columbus area emailed Tressel after discovering that at least two players were giving a tattoo parlor owner items such as the gold pants given to all OSU players that beat Michigan in return for tattoos.

The information had become known to this lawyer because the owner of this tattoo parlor was under federal investigation for numerous wrongdoings.

Ethically and by contract, Tressel should have immediately informed the university of what he had learned and, with spring football going on, they would have had plenty of time to get to the bottom of it before the season began.

The problem with that, however, is that the Buckeyes were preseason favorites to win it all and when you coach football in Columbus, Ohio your job is not to run a clean program. Your job is to beat Michigan and win national championships.

Tressel proved what many had already suspected; in the business of big time college football winning is more important than anything.

In an effort to help shield themselves from what would certainly be a mess when the feces hit the oscillating device, OSU announced this week that Tressel would be suspended for the first two games of next season and be fined $250,000.

This was unfortunatly a weak and almost insulting attempt for the OSU athletic department to police themselves. The first two games of next year are against Akron and Toledo. Neither stands a chance against the Buckeyes with or without Tressel and the suspended players.

Things will become more difficult when the Buckeyes travel to South Florida to take on Miami, but that doesn’t come until game three and, unless the NCAA steps in, this game will be Tressel’s first of the season.

In regards to what appears to be a hefty fine I would be very curious to compare it to the bonus he received for winning the Sugar Bowl last year. Having Pryor and his tattooed teammates playing may have ultimately paid for the fine themselves.

The truth is the whole situation stinks. Now the NCAA has a decision to make.

Dez Bryant, a former wide receiver from Oklahoma State was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA for having lied to investigators about a perfectly legal lunch he had with Deon Sanders. In doing so, they set precedence.

What the NCAA does with Tressel will either garner themselves a new reputation as a tough and strict organization that demands high character from all of its member schools or it will once again remind us that like life, the NCAA is simply not fair.

David Friedman is a long-time contributor to Roanoke-Chowan Publications. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at