Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Downfall of Tressel Good, But Solves Nothing

Ding, dong the warlock is dead.

One down, how many to go?

The demise of Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel is a blow struck---a blow struck for honesty, decency, ethics, and playing the straight and narrow. That much is true.

But if you think now that Tressel is gone---having resigned in shame from OSU---we have eradicated cheating in college sports, well, I just hope you're not that naive.

Tressel wasn't the only cheater, and he won't be the last to be caught. You're also naive if you think that the other cheaters are now scared straight. As nice of a thought as that is, it's just not realistic.

College sports are just pro sports without the players salaries. And without the integrity, steroids be damned.

Tressel had himself an amazing 10-year run in Columbus, and now we suspect that at least part of that success was due to his being able to play the system like Perlman with the violin.

Now we see quarterback Terrelle Pryor driving around in cars that would make a multi-millionaire pro athlete blush.

Who knows how many ineligible athletes the Buckeyes played with over Tressel's decade of Big Ten dominance? Who knows how many were on the take? This isn't over with, by a long shot---the discovery of grisly stories of largesse and hubris flowing from Columbus.

It may turn out that Tressel was operating a football factory in the Third World sense---full of corruption and disregard of labor laws. Only, this was no sweat shop. OSU's football players were taken care of, it seems.

Combining Tressel's decade at OSU with the revelation of what happened with Pryor and other players last year begs the question, "Do you HAVE to cheat to win big in college sports?"

It's tempting to say, yes, you do.

It's also tempting---and I've been one of these to say so---to strongly suggest that athletes get compensated while making their institutions lots of money. Those opposed say that it's not just athletes who make the dough---the best and brightest students do, too, via research grants and other forms of money that are bestowed based on academics.

And those eggheads don't make a dime, either.

And what about the free room and board and training facilities and medical care the college athlete receives? Isn't that "compensation," too?

Well, yes, it is.

But it's not enough. My opinion.

Let's please be real. Let's stop pretending that college athletes---of the money programs like football and basketball---are just some kids passing through town for a few years who should be thankful for the opportunity, while the institutions rake in piles of cash using their likeness on TV, in magazine ads and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the athletes risk injury, just as the pros do, and work every bit as hard at their craft as the eggheads do at theirs, if not more so---physically, at least.

The athletes should be paid, plain and simple. And with a compensation system comes a wonderful opportunity to establish new rules and regulations that are easier to monitor and harder to look the other way from.

Don't buy the argument that paying athletes is "throwing money" at a problem that money can't solve. Don't buy the notion that with salaries comes more greed and corruption.

Do NFL teams have to cheat to get personnel? NO---because they have an equitable compensation system.

As far as how MUCH to pay college athletes, that's part of the regulations that would arise with the advent of such a system.

Sure, there'd still be some cheating initially, as less-than-ethical schools decide to test the system. But if the NCAA does it right, and tweaks it as necessary, they should be able to create a good enough filter to catch the scum.

I know that the mere thought of paying college athletes draws the ire of many and strikes at the core of what lots of people believe college athletics to be.

But tell me, how is that idealistic, doesn't-really-exist-anymore model of college athletics working out for you nowadays?

Jim Tressel is just a symptom. Getting rid of him has solved nothing, other than making the Big Ten winnable again in football for 10 other schools.

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