Buckeye mishaps fall back on university

Exclusive transcript from Ohio State’s response to the current NCAA investigation:

“The issue here isn’t whether we broke a few rules or took a few liberties — we did (wink) — but the NCAA can’t hold a whole football program responsible for the behavior of a few sick, perverted individuals. If it does, then shouldn’t we blame the whole system? And if the whole system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg. Isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do what you want to us, but we won’t sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America! … Gentlemen!”

Ohio State just doesn’t get it.

It all started with the embarrassment of a press conference after the story broke that Jim Tressel was covering up evidence that Buckeyes players were selling or trading away any piece of memorabilia that wasn’t nailed down, highlighted by the disastrous, “I hope (Tressel) doesn’t fire me” comment from Ohio State’s pretend president E. Gordon Gee.

It continued with the laughably rah-rah performance by Luke Fickell — who, with Urban Meyer lurking, is the Buckeyes version of Ron Zook — claiming he was too “focused on the task at hand” to notice the bombs going off around the program.

And now this.

Ohio State is vacating all its wins from the 2010 season, which is the ultimate non-punishment, punishment — NO … ONE … CARES — while putting itself, quite literally, on double-secret probation, meaning that if there’s one more slip-up, one more mistake, then this fraternity of theirs has had it with the NCAA.

And the school actually thinks it just did something to pay for its sins.

It’s the equivalent of a spoiled child getting caught for trying to set fire to the house, then suggesting he should be punished by erasing the “Good Job!” he received on his macaroni and pipe cleaner art project. Ohio State is doing everything possible to make nice-nice with the NCAA, but it’s not doing anything to actually punish itself and it’s certainly not doing anything to change the program to ensure that there aren’t more problems in the future.

Athletic director Gene Smith said, with a straight face, that vacating wins is significant because it affects the seven-game win streak over Michigan — like Rich Rodriguez just got the best of the Buckeyes. He also basically suggested that players on the current team might feel ashamed because the Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas isn’t in the record books anymore. (Ironically, if that win doesn’t count, then the players should be free to sell and trade away the trinkets and items they received from the game.)

The bigger problem, though, is that Smith and everyone at Ohio State is putting this in terms of wins and losses. This isn’t about the football team, this isn’t about Michigan and it isn’t about the record book. This is about THE Ohio State University.

Forget about hitting a delete key or putting in an asterisk next to the 2010 season, THE Ohio State University needs to be bending over backwards to show the world it’s an institution of higher learning and not a football program that has students and classrooms in place to provide a fan base. It needs to show it really and truly thinks the culture of Ohio State football needs to go in a new direction, and it has to show it’s changing because it wants to, not because it’s being forced to.

Smith is talking about wanting to shake things up when it comes to cars the players drive, but why? If there isn’t any problem with the car dealerships under investigation, and if OSU didn’t see fit to punish itself for anything when it came to the allegations, then why does anything have to change? This goes far, far, far beyond how the Buckeyes football players live their lives as college students, as Smith intimated. This goes to how a monster of a football program has to be changed up and how the culture has to be different so this type of thing can’t bring more shame to the school.

Don’t Ohio State administrators, the ones who actually care about the academic reputation, want to do something big? Shouldn’t Ohio State have the people in place who demand nothing short of perfection with the way the athletic department is run? Taking away a few wins and saying you’ll try to do better isn’t going to make one lick of difference. This was a chance for THE Ohio State University — not the athletic department, but the school itself — to make a stand and show it really and truly wants to be above reproach. But instead it tried to do everything possible to keep the machine rolling while pretending to care about making things better.

How about starting from scratch?

How about sacking everyone and anyone who came within 10 feet of this scandal?

How about trying to figure out where the fire is burning behind all the smoke and not making excuses every time it seems like something else is amiss?

How about doing the legwork yourself, and not letting the media tell you when you did something wrong?

How about trying to figure out how a football coach can become so powerful that he could be bigger than the school itself?

No, THE Ohio State University, this is not Jim Tressel’s fault. This is not Terrelle Pryor’s fault. This is THE Ohio State University’s fault. The football program’s become totally out of control because the pressure’s become too great and the expectations have become too high for any sort of real change to occur. And while it’s fine to have a great football team, is it worth everything it apparently takes to have one at Ohio State? And that’s where the NCAA comes in.

Other programs, particularly USC, will have a very interested eye on what the NCAA does after Ohio State’s mid-August meeting in Indianapolis. USC actually did try to change things up and it really did make the effort to be better — starting with the hiring of Pat Haden as the athletic director — and it amounted to a fat load of jack squat when it came to the appeal process. And now, Ohio State insults the system, the NCAA and the scandal with these non-punishing self-punishments. And if it gets away with it, and if there aren’t any more things added on, then USC — and others — will rightly have a major beef.

It’s time for THE Ohio State University to figure out what it wants to be. After what it’s trying to pass off as penalties, it’s obvious the school has no real interest to do anything other than let the storm pass before going on with business as usual.