Lesson from the Jim Tressel Affair: Follow the Tattoos

No, America, it's not time to start paying college football players

The latest scandal at Ohio State that forced the resignation of Buckeyes football coach Jim Tressel is a further rationale on why college players shouldn’t be paid.

Yes, I said it and I know what you’re thinking: But Mike, shouldn’t you have the opposite view? Wouldn’t paying student-athletes at major sports revenue-producing schools actually eliminate illegal payments on the side? And to that view, I laugh heartily.

Let’s be real with ourselves. Suppose you did pay athletes a stipend. First of all, there would be no way to do that fairly. The payment would be nominal. And how could you justify paying every athlete on an 85-man football team the same? Wouldn’t the kid who emerges as the first-team player, the superstar, want more than the kid who is listed third string on the depth chart?

But here is the real big issue. Why would a nominal fee prevent a spoiled, pampered bratty athlete from taking even more money from an outside source? Terrell Pryor is going to turn down the offer of an SUV from some Columbus, Ohio car dealer because he’s getting an extra two-grand a month for three months from the NCAA? Bullfeathers.

Here is a foolproof method for schools to keep up with whether their players are breaking NCAA extra benefit rules: follow the tattoos.

Yep, just follow the tattoos. Where are these kids getting the money for this lavish ink they display on a regular basis? Tattoos aren’t cheap. The ones I see on college athletes these days cost thousands of dollars. Where are kids getting the scratch for that? If I were a coach really interested in adhering to NCAA regulations and not getting involved in a scandal that would cost the Jim Tressels of the world their jobs, I would have a “No Fresh Tattoos” rule. I would photograph each student-athlete as a freshman and have my assistant coaches or my managers or my trainers keep abreast of the situation (see what I did there?). If any one of my kids desired a new tatt, I would demand a financial disclosure of how they intended to pay for it. If the information was shady, I would prohibit it and make clear to the kid that if he got the new tattoo, he would be off the team.

Now, Jim Tressel was a stone sneak. But put yourself in his position. Under Tressel, Ohio State has developed into a perennial national championship contender, with immense pressure year after year to live up to those standards. Any time the Buckeyes have a bad season, the coach usually takes the heat. So one day, Tressel finds out that many of his star players have been taking extra benefits. That they have been trading Buckeyes memorabilia for tattoos. They’ve been selling stuff for extra cash. Tressel knows that his fan base really doesn’t care that much about the cheating. They care mostly about the winning. He knows that if he turns in his players, the Buckeyes will have a bad season. His righteousness is never rewarded. So he tries to cover it up and hope that it just melts away. But day after day, there are new revelations. Because the media is rewarded for exposing Ohio State. And now he’s in a no-win situation. Today, Tressel is thinking he just should have taken the lesser of the two evils — turn in his program, maybe lose his star quarterback, have a couple of losing seasons, and put his job in jeopardy. But a cover-up is like an Australian wave. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger until it buries you in its substantial wake. Tressel got caught in it like Bodie from Point Break. And now he might never get another Division I coaching job.

So, let this be a lesson to all you prospective major college football coaches out there.

Follow the tattoos.

Random Thoughts

1. Got more feedback from last week’s blog on hating the New York Mets than any of the blogs I have written so far for The Philly Post. The majority of them were from angry Mets fans who screamed like children and tried to justify their existence by pointing out the lame, tired criticisms about Philadelphia and its fan base, or tried to criticize our lack of championships here. I got news for ya, Sparky, the Phillies have as many World Series titles as the Mets. Right now, your franchise is an embarrassment. Don’t blame me for writing a blog pointing that out. Blame your management for putting you into this awful situation.

2. What was Major League Baseball thinking trotting out those awful caps worn on Memorial Day all around the league? They looked like they were designed by the proscuitto slicer guy at Aldo’s Italian Deli for his shop’s slow pitch softball team.

3. LeBron James haters, this must be the worst time of your lives. The Heat are going to win the NBA title. You can’t stop it anymore. Maybe, finally, you can enjoy the talents of one of the greatest players of our time rather than get caught up in the petty reaction to James have a television show to announce his decision. Idiots.

4. Why do professional athletes insist on getting these ridiculous Mohawk hairdos? Vance Worley, I like you, but what’s the deal with the Mohawk? Let’s win a few games in the big leagues before you start going all character on us with the fancy goggles and the Mohawk.

5. I actually think we should take a closer look at home-plate collisions. Headfirst, shoulder first projectile sliding should be banned. But catchers shouldn’t be allowed to block the plate before they get the ball either. So, it’s simple. Umpires judgment. If the catcher blocks the plate before he gets the ball, runner automatically safe and he’s not punished for ramming the catcher. If the catcher blocks the plate legitimately, and the runner projectiles into him, the runner is out and also is thrown out of the game. We al OK with that?

6. There is no doubt that hotdogs are America’s number one food choice on Memorial Day. I went to a big grocery store at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day and there was not ONE package of hot dog rolls left on the shelves. Plenty of hamburger rolls. No hot dog rolls. I’m partial to the potato hot dog roll. But there weren’t even any of those cheap, store-brand, 99-cent jobs left either.