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Posted: May 31, 2011 6:50 p.m.

NCAA big money a recipe for scandal

I'm sure most of you figured I’d write about the Jim Tressel, Ohio State scandal and you're right. I do so for two reasons. First, as the husband of a devoted fan of the scarlet and grey, it’s my duty. The other is because I actually pose a question for us all to ponder. Is it possible for a college coach at a high-profile program to rule with an iron fist?

There was a time where coaches with huge egos could intimidate players into behaving. Woody Hayes did it at Ohio State all those years before Tressel. Bear Bryant did it at Alabama. Bobby Knight earned the nickname The General for his draconian style while the head coach of Indiana’s basketball team from 1971-2000. In other words, it was once possible. But that time has come and gone. With college coaches scouring the globe for talent, and with the amount of exposure college programs get on TV and the Internet, the game Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Bryant and Knight played in their time bears no resemblance to the recruiting practices coaches employ today.

I had a discussion with a local coach about this subject and I asked him the same thing.

My stance was, if you have a zero-tolerance policy, student athletes would fall in line. In other words, if Georgia head football coach Mark Richt kicked off players who got in trouble, fewer kids would get in trouble.

He countered with, if you had a zero-tolerance policy, you’d have to kick them all off the team.

That got me thinking. He’s right.

If Richt was to boot every player who gets in trouble, Georgia would never win a game.

Nobody would want to go to Georgia. Recruits would chose a program with less strict rules and coaches would welcome them. Because the reality is, the NCAA is just a snapshot of society as a whole. The lack of integrity is a societal problem. At least when Hayes and Bryant roamed the sidelines (two guys who had character problems themselves), the athletes had more respect for the game and their colleges. That’s gone. These kids don’t care about the University of Georgia or Ohio State University. Most of them are there to play football or basketball, that’s it.

The way Tressel, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and school president Gordon Gee handled this was what ultimately led to Tressel’s resignation. Details have yet to be unveiled. Did Tressel cheat on the field? No. Did he illegally recruit? No. He tried to dust what his kids did under the rug. He thought it would go away but it never does.

Arrogance got him in trouble. Tressel did a lot of good for Ohio State and Columbus. He won a lot of games. He taught his players to play with respect and he taught them to respect the school. But he made bad decisions.

The NCAA, the institution as a whole, is a mess. It’s only going to get worse. You’re making billions of dollars off amateur athletes. What do you think is going to happen? As long as that’s the case, the NCAA will always have problems. At least with professional sports, you pay athletes. You have dumb athletes who beat their wives and get caught up in night club shootings and dog fighting rings. But you don’t have all the rule breaking that often revolves around cash.

Integrity still lives, it’s just often overshadowed by greed and stupidity. I doubt we’ll ever see a day where athlete’s troubles are limited to whether they play clean or dirty. That's easy to police. But until society changes, we won’t see college or pro sports for that matter cleaned up. The Ohio State scandal is a wakeup call. If something like this can happen to one of the top football programs in the country, it can happen anywhere.

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