Jim Tressel was forced to resign from his position as head football coach at Ohio State after 10 seasons, 106 wins, seven Big Ten titles, five BCS wins and a national championship.
Buckeye fans now have to ask themselves: Was it worth it?
For followers of the Arizona Wildcats, is there a level of penalty that would be worth the ultimate football dream, a trip to the Rose Bowl?
As Tressel’s tenure in Columbus came to a sudden and scandalous end there was certainly a feeling of betrayal among the OSU faithful, but it wasn’t unanimous. There is a portion of the Ohio State fan base outraged not at Tressel, but at those who uncovered the truth. They look at the domination of the Big Ten and the 9-1 record against Michigan and they’re able to overlook the trophies-for-tats transactions.
Let’s say everything about the Terrelle Pryor era is blown up but Maurice Clarett’s accusations remain ignored and the 2002 national championship stays intact. Is Joe Buckeye at peace with the trade? I say, deep down, the answer is yes. And, as a fan of a football program with no crystal footballs to return, I would have to agree with him.
Now, I’m making a big assumption. I’m assuming that Tressel’s crime was running a ship loose enough that this could go on without his knowledge and then lying to cover it up once he found out. If Tressel, however, was steering the ship over to the tattoo parlor it’s not worth any number of wins.
It’s the same with the Reggie Bush situation at USC. If the violations happened under Pete Carroll’s watch but without his consent I continue to be proud of my 2003 and 2004 AP championships if I’m Tommy Trojan. But if Carroll was the one introducing the wolves to the sheep then, as a fan, I want nothing to do with the period.
But I’m not naïve enough to expect a program to compete at an elite level without even a minor tussle with the NCAA rule book.
The best Arizona example is newly-crowned NBA champion, Jason Terry. An investigation after the 1998-’99 season determined Terry had been ineligible his senior year because he took money from agents. There were no reports of wrongdoings during Terry’s sophomore season so the UA’s national title was unaffected.
1 vacated tournament + 1 player’s individual honors revoked = 1 championship. Deal.
Where it gets tough is all the gray area in between. In the Cam Newton case the NCAA’s official position is the father violated the rules but the son did not. Newton was eligible for all 14 games of his Auburn career and the 2010 championship is legit. Assuming that ruling doesn’t change, would you accept the next Cam Newton at Arizona if it meant winning the conference?
Right now, I’d think about it, but pass. Stay true to the “Do it the right way” mantra and be patient. But I don’t blame any elder Cat fans who would be willing to sign on the dotted line.
What about a tarnished coach? Would you be open to hiring Pete Carroll or Jim Tressel a few years down the road if the UA is languishing in the Pac-12 South?
That one I’d consider for a long, long time.
It’s a sad testament to the state of college athletics that this is a valid conversation. When the dollars get big (and with the new TV deal the dollars in the Pac-12 are about to get bigger) the temptations get really big.
I applaud UA AD Greg Byrne’s proactive approach to compliance issues, even calling on fans to report violations. It is a noble goal to be the best at everything, including following the rules.
But don’t delay. The sooner Arizona football wins big the better off we – and our consciences – will be.
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