The Jim Tressel story at Ohio State is a sad but not uncommon story of unchecked power, ego-driven actions, a win-at-all-costs (WAAC) mentality, and lack of presidential control in intercollegiate athletics.

In the case of Tressel, you can add hypocrisy.  Here’s a guy who made a concerted effort to create an image of a moral icon, yet who’s actions have too often belied that carefully crafted image.  He authored books with the titles:  “The Winner’s Manual:  For the Game of Life” and “Life Promises for Success:  Promises From God on Achieving Your Best.”

In actuality, his “winner’s manual” could be summed up in one credo:  Do whatever it takes to win (and preserve your image).

This isn’t Tressel’s first slip-up.  Under Tressel’s watch, Ohio State has had to deal with NCAA problems surrounding its football program in the past.  Tressel also got into trouble with the NCAA while coaching at Youngstown State.

Ohio State’s president, Gordon Gee, provided an indication of the warped priorities on campus when the Tressel allegations first surfaced.  When asked if Tressel was in trouble, Gee said, “I’m just hopeful the coach doesn’t dismiss me,” said Gee.

While meant to be funny, Gee’s comment also points to the lack of presidential control at big-time college sports factories.  Until intercollegiate athletics are treated as part of the educational mission of the university — and athletes are treated like other students on campus — commercialization and professionalization abuses will continue.

A good place for Gordon Gee to start as he begins to clean-up his football program is the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics’ Statement of Principles.

Mr. Gee should pay especially close attention to principle number two:  “The responsibility and authority for the administration of the athletics department, including all basic policies, personnel and finances, are vested in the president.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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