2010 was, on the field, a banner year for the Ohio State Buckeyes. OSU won 12 games and lost one en route to a Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas. Of their twelve wins, only their games against Iowa (3 points) and Arkansas (5 points) came by way of single digits. Their only loss was to a Wisconsin team with an all upperclassmen offensive line and its usual cadre of lightning fast bulldozers at tailback. They also had JJ Watt. But, all in all, it was arguably one of the most successful Buckeye seasons in the program's illustrious history.
In response to the pending NCAA investigation of Tatgate and Jim Tressel's lying to NCAA investigators, Ohio State has stripped itself of its 2010 victories and placed itself on two years of probation. In addition, the school "sought and accepted the resignation of Jim Tressel." That, along with the 5 game suspensions of the players associated with Tatgate and giving back a trophy or two, is the sum total of Ohio State's punitive actions against itself for its sins. According to Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith, "All I know is that this is significant. A lot of people may not view it that way externally, but this is significant. When you think about all the other athletes who participated in those games, those records will be gone. ... Might the NCAA do more? I just can't speculate on that."
When Michigan was pinned to the wall last year over improper accounting of its practice time, Michigan self imposed sanctions as follows:
[T]wo years of probation on the football program, reduced its "quality control" football staff from five persons to three, self-imposing a reduction of 130 hours of training and practice time on the program for the next two years, and terminating the member of the quality control staff who lied to NCAA investigators.
What this means is Michigan fired three people, cut off 130 hours of practice time that it obviously needed, and put itself on probation for two years because they miscounted 15 minutes of stretching time during their summer workouts.
Ohio State, in contrast, had a head football coach who knew about major violations before the football season, lied to investigators and his own internal compliance office about it, then lobbied the Big Ten and NCAA to allow those players to play in the Sugar Bowl after the first of their transgressions became public, half-assed their own internal investigation not once but twice on the same allegations, and has proven to the world that their own compliance department doesn't have a clue what its athletes are up to.
Two probation for all of the above. Two years for stretching. Yeah. Those are the same.
Before I go any further, I have to point to the silver lining of the NCAA Death Cloud that's currently hanging over Columbus. It's pure comedy when you think about it. Of all the schools that were screwed the most by OSU's transgressions, Michigan State has to be near the top. It's glorious. The Spartans somehow roll to a dream season at 11-1. Because of the Big Ten's tie breaking system, when MSU, Wisconsin, and Ohio State all checked in at 11-1, MSU got sent to the Citrus Bowl while Wisconsin went to the Rose and Ohio State rolled to Sugar. And this despite the fact that MSU convincingly beat Wisconsin when the two squads met in October. Sparty goes 11-1 and its reward was to get molested by a pissed off Alabama squad.
Flash forward four months and MSU finds out they should've won the Big Ten outright! Instead, they're still sharing a title with a Wisconsin team they beat and wondering what the hell happened. If OSU's transgressions are public before the season, MSU ends up 11-1, the undisputed Big Ten Champion, and is playing in its first BCS bowl ever (probably the Rose Bowl, which they haven't sniffed in decades]). Instead, they get screwed out of it by a lying sweater vest, watch Wisconsin take their slot in the Rose, and end up buying out Walgreens supply of Preparation H after their meeting with 'Bama. The "If only's" will never stop, yet the answer will never change. Sparty was Sparty No'd, and it wasn't even their own fault. It's just too delicious. I couldn't possibly have another bite of it... okay... just one more piece. It's sooooo good.
Returning to the present, I'm just stunned by the idiocy of Ohio State's athletic department. Two years probation, no scholarship reductions, no bowl ban, no... well.... nothing. In fact, OSU's claim that they "sought and received the resignation of Jim Tressel" isn't true either. In fact, OSU changed Tressel's resignation to a retirement. Are you kidding me? Ohio State initially fines Tressel a quarter million dollars, then says they got his resignation, then decides neither should be applicable. Why is this significant? According to ESPN:
In a reversal, Ohio State -- which earlier said it had asked for Tressel's resignation on May 30 -- said Friday it had now agreed to allow him to call it a retirement. The school also said he did not have to pay a $250,000 fine levied against him for his actions. On top of that, Tressel will receive the last month of his base pay ($54,000) and has agreed to cooperate when Ohio State goes before the NCAA infractions committee on Aug. 12, and both he and the university agreed that they wouldn't sue each other. Just last month Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee vowed that Tressel "will pay the fine." - Emphasis MnB
Dear Lord. Even Evil Knievil didn't do things this stupid. And not to point out the obvious here, as ESPN did, but isn't it convenient how Tressel's fine was dropped by the school on the same day he takes full responsibility for the fiasco? Ohio State's recent vilification of Tressel is as transparent as glass. The Vest has happily decided to fall on his sword in exchange for his base salary, not having to pay a $250,000 fine, and getting to retire rather than resign. All this while the school stood by him and attempted to slap him on the wrist no four months earlier.
This is institutional incompetence on a near criminal level. Ohio State's football program was committed violations on a major level, its compliance department has been proven completely incompetent and incapable on monitoring a 4 year-old let alone a major college athletic department, and yet they think two years of probation and vacating one season is enough punishment.
If you're looking for a comparable scenario, look no further than our friends at USC. When they got nailed for NCAA infractions, this is what they got (some things omitted for brevity's sake):
• A postseason ban in football following the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
• A loss of 30 total football scholarships over the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons.
• A vacation of all football victories starting in December 2004 and running through the 2005 season. This includes the national championship win over Oklahoma on Jan. 4, 2005.
• All titles won during ineligible games must be vacated and trophies and banners must be removed.
• Four years of probation.
And that was without a finding that the head football coach was the one leading the deception, not some rouge booster. For the sake of fairness, Reggie Bush was taking mountains upon mountains of money from
boosters wannabe agents outside the program. But then again, how is this different in practice than Terrelle Pryor taking gobs and gobs of cash from Dennis Talbott for rounds of golf and autographing piles of merchandise? Plus, there's the allegation that the general manager of the Scioto Reserve Country club called the OSU athletic department to warn them of the situation and nothing was done about it.
For the Ohio State partisans, I'm sure you'll be able to point out all kinds of holes in my theories and tell me that I don't have the whole story. Maybe you're right. Maybe there's more to this story than I could possibly know. But, as we've seen, the more that comes out on this subject the worse the situation becomes for OSU.
All I can say is that Ohio State's "self-imposed penalties" are a joke and an embarrassment to the University. For all the crap Michigan fans give Ohio State fans, OSU is a world class university with a proud history success in academics and athletics. Certainly there are dark spots in the school's history, but I believe in my heart that the vast majority of OSU fans want to win the right way, with honor, and to see their school uphold the highest standards of conduct. As a result, I am in shock that Gene Smith is still employed and allowed to speak to anyone on the school's behalf. These "penalties" are so shockingly insufficient that it almost begs the NCAA to bring the hammer down harder than it did on USC. Why would the school even announce this? I'm sure they have counsel, I'm sure they've done their research, but in the media court and with the information that is readily available to the NCAA already these penalties are the equivalent of running into a tiger cage slathered in meat juice with a T-bone steak tied to your genitals.
Honestly, I think the moral of the story is that Ohio State may not get hit with USC level sanctions but the chance that the NCAA accepts these penalties is in negative numbers. At a minimum, OSU will lose scholarships, lose bowl eligibility for a year, and possibly vacate a couple more wins (if the Pryor Talbott connection is substantiated). For Ohio State, vacating the 2010 season is just the beginning of what promises to be a very painful beating from the NCAA.