Friday, May 25, 2012

THERE NEEDS TO BE CHANGES IN GENE SMITH'S APPROACH AT OSU

Gene Smith, right.
TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell
Last week, the Ohio State athletics department self-reported nearly 50 NCAA violations, ranging from Buckeyes head football coach Urban Meyer telling a recruit "good luck" prior to a game, to a member of the women's rifle team winning less than $100 in a shooting competition.

Of course, the news of the violations shook Buckeye Nation like a community that had just been ravaged by an F-5 tornado. Nerves are a bit on edge.

On Wednesday, OSU director of athletics Gene Smith was quoted in a story printed by the the university's student newspaper that 12 of the violations were pending and that they "may turn out to be secondary. Or may not."

Smith would backtrack on that statement, issuing another one to the media on Thursday morning ...

"Contrary to reports attributed to me, Ohio State Athletics is not facing any major NCAA violations," Smith stated. "There are several secondary violations being processed by our compliance office. These are similar to those released last week. Again, these are secondary in nature and consistent with our culture of self-reporting even the most minor and inadvertent violations.

"Again, to be clear, the Ohio State football program, its coaches and staff are not facing any violations."

What causes this writer concern — and I'm sure many fans of the program, as well — is that we've heard this all before. Smith stated time and time again over the past year and a half that things would be fine, and that they are cooperating with the NCAA, only to find out that more rules had been or were being violated.

When there were reports surfacing that former head football coach Jim Tressel's job at the university may be in danger due to withholding information of player violations, Smith said ... "Anywhere we end up, Jim Tressel is our football coach. Jim Tressel is a coach of young men and we are behind him 100-percent."

Smith uttered those words at a press conference on March 8, 2011. Tressel would be forced to resign two months later.

The Ohio State AD seems to always underestimate the severity of issues, resigning himself to the "Everything is going to be all right, don't worry about nothing" mentality, instead of "Ladies and Gentlemen, we have to get our acts together or else" approach.

Especially when it comes to the football team, a group that has already been put on post-season ban for 2012.

However, on Friday, Smith once again went with his "A-Okay" stance ...

"It's nothing that troubles me," Smith told the Associated Press. "It's normal operating business. It's nothing that troubles me. I've seen all the cases; we know all the cases. You look at them, and they're inadvertent mistakes."

But Ohio State isn't at a luxury to make "inadvertent mistakes." The program is on probation. Think about that for a moment ...

If a normal person commits a misdemeanor, usually they get off with a warning or a small fine. But if a convicted felon out on parole gets busted for the same crime, he may go back to prison for a longer sentence.

In the NCAA's eyes, Ohio State are considered felons.

I believe Smith has done some great things during his tenure at Ohio State. However, this passive attitude needs to change. The culture on his watch has to change.

Or else changes need to made in his office, starting with the boss.

— You can follow Lee Hudnell on Twitter @LeeHudnell_TBT