Does Jim Tressel deserve to remain the head football coach at the Ohio State University (OSU)? That’s the multi-million dollar question hanging over Columbus and Ohio Stadium and the dark cloud doesn’t look like it’s headed anywhere in the near future.
Facing NCAA sanctions and a potential firing, Tressel’s good boy image has been damaged beyond immediate repair.
But what does Tressel deserve, and what punishment will he ultimately receive? In my opinion, he should be fired and banned from coaching for several years. Tressel not only failed to report NCAA violations to his superiors at OSU and the NCAA, but he also made the foolish mistake of contacting one of the involved players’ mentor and an agent with the FBI instead. If you’ve got a player who broke the rules, forget your boss or the people in charge, go straight to the FBI.
While Tressel is one of the most visible coaches in college football, the situation involving his coaching status begs a question of Miami University athletics: what would happen if a coach at Miami were to make the same mistakes?
I would hope Miami would act swiftly and decisively to terminate the coach as an employee, regardless of coaching success or tenure. However, the temptation would be to give a successful coach a slap on the wrist so his or her team continues to win. Wins generate revenue that much is clear. And far too often, the dollar signs become more important than the truth.
There is a school of thought that coaches like Tressel, who take the fall for their university, program and players, who are the perfect coaches for college football and athletics in general. But is that really what high-profile athletic programs or small-time programs looking to build a strong reputation for the purposes of recruitment, fan base and alumni engagement should strive for? I should hope not.
Programs shouldn’t be looking for the coach who is the best at covering up scandals or the most willing to lay down in front of the tank that is the NCAA and their comprehensive bylaws. Programs should be looking for the coach who will produce the desired results in a manner that upholds the values of their university. If Ohio State wants to support a culture of dishonesty and “it’s not cheating if you don’t get caught” then fine. The Buckeyes have a large enough fan base that the people who will stop rooting for them will be a mere drop in the bucket.
The problem is too many schools are choosing to go down the Tressel path when it comes to their athletic programs. Cover-ups and the discovery of cover-up schemes are becoming more and more frequent. I don’t think more schools are changing their mission statements to say things like “it’s not cheating if we don’t know about it” or “wins are the most important thing to us” but clearly something has changed in the culture of college sports.
Miami’s mission statement includes nothing about winning and neither does the university’s values statement. I checked. I sincerely hope that Miami’s athletics department will never succumb to the hypnotic quality wins and dollar signs can have when it comes to coaches and athletes. After all, if you lie, cheat or steal when no one is looking, you still did it.