Wednesday, March 9, 2011

LET'S GET A GRIP ... TRESSEL DOESN'T NEED TO BE TARRED AND FEATHERED

Jim Tressel, left
The Buckeye Times/D. Dunkle
COLUMBUS — When I arrived at the Jack Nicklaus Museum in Columbus on Tuesday night, I could've sworn I was sitting at a presidential impeachment hearing — not a press conference about a college football coach.

Cameras were stretched across the back of the room, reporters jammed into the limited seating area with laptops a blazing, every eye in the place glued to the entrance waiting for a man to face the firing squad.

I thought to myself, "Really? Are we all here because a football coach violated a provision of an NCAA bylaw? Seriously? C'mon, please tell me he got down with some female intern in his office or held a kegger at his place with underage college students? Something, please."

No, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel was being publicly reprimanded for withholding an e-mail sent to him by an attorney about some of his players whose memorabilia was seized at a home in Columbus — owned by a local tattoo shop owner named Eddie Rife — that was raided by the Federal Government.

Sure, it sounds pretty serious with those big scary words like "federal government," "raided" and "seized," but the fact is, the players involvement in this case was not against the law — well, the law of the land anyways. Poor judgement? Sure. Criminal? No!

Putting myself in Tressel's shoes for a moment, I can't honestly say I would've done anything differently. He approached this thing in-house. He made said players aware of what was going down and wanted to protect them as much as possible. To me, anyways, that's not a bad approach. From my knowledge, the players have been on the straight and narrow ever since.

A lot of us see these players as numbers, but you have to remember that they are still young people who Tressel knows very intimately, as if they were his children.

"At the time this occurred, I thought I was doing the right thing," Tressel said Tuesday night. "I will grow from this experience."

I for one don't feel that every single violation needs to be reported. Nobody cheated, nobody was involved in criminal activity. They sold their own possessions. Whoopity-do!

Isn't it funny that it's totally legal for the NCAA/universities to sell Terrelle Pryor's jersey, but he isn't permitted? And spare me the whole, "Oh, these guys disgraced their teams by selling such cherished memorabilia." Hey, they were the ones that sweat and bled for it, who are we to tell them what to do with items they received for their hard work?

Heck, if somebody wanted to offer me $1,500 for my Associated Press award for "Best Sports Columnist," it would be wrapped up and shipped off faster than you could say "UPS."

Some may say that I'm being an Ohio State apologist, letting them get away with murder. That couldn't be further from the truth.

Yes, Tressel did violate an NCAA bylaw, as well as a clause in his contract — and yes, he should be punished.

But let's all get a grip here, shall we? Tressel isn't a bad man now because he withheld info from the NCAA. He isn't a cheater, either. He isn't some wolf in sheep's clothing, as many fans and writers are trying to portrait him. He didn't pay his players to play, and none of them stole a laptop or anything of that nature. He doesn't need to be fired, and he doesn't need to be suspended for five games or an entire season.

"That man is the reason so many young men have had the chance to leave bad neighborhoods and broken homes and make something of themselves," former Ohio State linebacker Brian Rolle said of Tressel on Tuesday night.

It's easy for us in the media who are mostly white — and making a pretty good income — to look down our noses at what Tressel has done protecting these athletes, who are mostly black and living in poverty. Rolle hit it right on the head.

Yeah, I think two games and $250,000 is more than enough.

The man made a mistake — a minor one if you ask me. But then again, I'm one of the very few who realize that college football is just a game.

It really isn't that serious, people. Especially not serious enough for a public tar and feathering of a damn good man.