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The Vest Doesn’t Know Best

May 31, 2011

It’s become an all-too familiar story in collegiate athletics.  Allegations of cheating, either in the form of improper payments and benefits to players or recruits, or outright lying to cover it up.  Jim Tressel of Ohio State may have played a part in both.  As a result, he paid the ultimate professional sacrifice in pursuit of another BCS crown.

Tressel went down because of the old axiom our parents told us, “Don’t compound your mistake by lying about it.”  But lie he did, convincingly well, in fact, until the mounting evidence was too much for even Tressel to deny. 

Maybe it was such a shock to college football fans because we held Tressel to higher standards.  He was the “Senator”, the calm father figure, natilly attired in a scarlet sweater vest, quoting scripture in the morning and vanquishing Wolverines by night.  He selflessly donated considerable time and money to various charitable organizations.  He was a good guy.

But hindsight shows us Tressel was more Warden Norton from Shawshank than Billy Graham.  Both talked a pious path to salvation, but covered up years of misappropriations to benefit the program and their bottom line.

And that’s where this “pedestal placement” gets a little murky for me.  Should we really be surprised when athletes or coaches cut corners to win?  Recall the old saying in baseball, “If you ain’t cheating, you’re not trying.”  I long ago convinced myself that I wouldn’t be surprised by anyone in MLB getting popped for a positive PED test.  It was a fool me once type of scenario, as McGwire, Bonds, A-Rod, etc. all were connected to steroids or HGH.  As name after name has been revealed over the years, my shock and disgust has waned as I came to grips that it was a huge part of the game, not just isolated to the superstars of the sport.

That’s what I’m concerned is going to happen with college football.  As more and more colleges come under investigation, our outrage as a fandom will dull, much like in baseball.  We’ll believe that’s it just part of the game, the cost of winning at the Division 1 level. I do believe that rules get bent to an extent at every school, but in OSU’s case, it was brazenly over the line and went on far too long.  Once all the sordid details came out, the administrators had no choice, but to hang the Vest out to dry.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Laura Stutzman permalink
    May 31, 2011 8:43 pm

    You hit the nail on the head, Tony.

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