Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Why Can't the Buckeyes Figure Out the Rules?

What is it about the Buckeyes and the NCAA? It seems that they can't get through a season without at least one dust-up involving members of the football team and the NCAA rule book. Saturday's benefit dinner for the families of Antonio Pittman, Chris Wells, Lawrence Wilson and De'Angelo Haslam is the latest incident to suggest that there's an ongoing problem with Ohio State's compliance progam.

Of course, before we come down too hard on the Buckeyes for this latest faux pas, let's remember that the spectacle of some of the nation's top college football players running away from their own benefit dinner like they were at a crack house that was about to be raided is something that could only happen in the hypocritical madhouse created by the NCAA's rule book.

When it comes to the money made from big time college athletics, the NCAA's guiding principle is that everybody gets to feed at the trough except the guys who make it possible. As far as the NCAA is concerned, it's okay for Ohio State, the Big Ten, and the television networks to make hundreds of millions off of what these players do on a Saturday afternoon, but when it comes to an $8 a plate fund raiser for the financially hard-pressed families of Buckeye players, well, it's time to investigate this scandalous conduct.

By the way, just how many #10 Ohio State jerseys do you think were sold this Christmas? I don't know about you guys, but my youngest son received two as gifts. Now, of course, he only wanted that jersey because it was Troy Smith's number, but in the crazy world of the NCAA, Troy Smith gets bupkis for those jersey sales. Why? Well, it would taint the pristine amateurism of college sports to let Troy get compensated for his success and popularity. It's okay for everybody else to make money off of him, just not Troy himself.

And they wonder why these kids take money from boosters?

Anyway, enough about that. Regardless of how stupid and immoral the NCAA's rules are, Ohio State has to abide by them. That's why I can't imagine how something like this could happen in the first place. How can an event like this get so far along without somebody wondering whether it raised any compliance issues? If Chris Wells' mom didn't have the presence of mind to call Ohio State assistant coach Jim Bollman last Saturday, how much do you want to bet that the NCAA would figure out a way to deprive the Buckeyes of both of their tailbacks for the BCS Championship Game?

Ohio State has been able to blame some of its previous compliance troubles on out-of-control boosters and kids who made bad decisions. This is different. This event suggests that players and parents aren't sufficiently educated about NCAA rules, and that compliance procedures are lacking at Ohio State. Sure, they talk the talk down in Columbus, but a dropped ball like this shows that they still haven't figured out how to walk the walk.

It seems to me that Athletic Director Gene Smith and Coach Jim Tressel are the guys who should take the heat for this latest misstep. My guess is that Ohio State will dodge the bullet on this one, and walk away with a slap on the wrist, if anything. But it ought to be a wake up call to the Athletic Department. You guys better fix what's wrong with your compliance program before the NCAA's brown shirts fix you.

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