Frank Doyle thinks Jim Tressel, who has resigned as head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team, is a man more sinned against than sinning.
Alanis Morrisette was on the phone just now. Isn’t it ironic, she wanted to know, that Jim Tressel, with his glasses and his little sweater vests and his neat, glee-club haircut, gets shown the door over a scandal involving a tattoo parlour?
Players getting free piano lessons? That sound like the Tresselator up to his old tricks. Players doing extra Bible study? Jim Tressel or Professor Moriarty, either/or. But tattoos? Jim Tressel is out of a job because players have been getting free ink? There’s something not quite right about that picture.
The NCAA’s position is that it’s not about the ink, but about Tressel’s not telling them all he knew. Yeah, right. You always think that you’ve become immune to the hypocrisy that fuels the NCAA, but you keep getting burned again. This must be what it’s like to go out with Lindsey Lohan. You keep thinking things will be different, and it’s just the same dumb stuff all over again.
Remember George O’Leary losing his job at Notre Dame? Rick Neuheisel at Washington? The NCAA insists on perpetuating this myth that Eisenhower’s America exists in the 21st century, where football coaches wearing trilby hats and buzz cuts call around to Chester and say hey son, don’t you just love to toss that ol’ pigskin? And Chester says why gee, sir, I sure do. And then we all go off to the diner together for soda pop, apple pie and ice cream.
Break me a give. The Pony Express at SMU wasn’t the exception. It was, and is, the rule. The pretence goes on all the time and as soon as anyone gets unlucky, like Jim Tressel got unlucky, he gets thrown to the wolves and made an example of, while the football factories search the country for the next Maurice Clarett or Marcus Dupree. And once the Claretts and Duprees and the rest burn out and can’t deal with being surrounded by all the different vermin that live off them and their talent, the vermin just move on to someone else.
Jim Tressel got fired – oh, I’m sorry, Jim Tressel voluntarily resigned – over a matter of perception. How the world sees Ohio State and how Ohio State sees itself. Come fall, Tressel be as distant a memory at OSU as Woody Hayes. Football carries on, past the different personalities and scandals.
But watching his career over the years it’s very hard to think of Tressel as anybody other than a straight shooter and good and tolerant man. The NCAA ought to examine its conscience over how it polices its sports. If it has a conscience in the first place.