03/16/11 — Stevens: NCAA, Big Ten miss opportunity

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Stevens: NCAA, Big Ten miss opportunity

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on March 16, 2011 1:47 PM

In an era where egos override morals, and wins and losses outweigh right and wrong, the NCAA continues to send mixed signals while handing out penalties that don't always fit the crime.

Last week, Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel was suspended for the first two games of the 2011 season and fined $250,000 for violating NCAA rules. Tressel failed to notify the school about Buckeyes' players who were involved in a federal drug-trafficking case and the sale of memorabilia.

Tressel received an e-mail last April telling him that two of his players were involved in these activities that violate NCAA rules. Tressel responded: "I will get on it ASAP."

But he never mentioned it to Ohio State's compliance department or his athletics director for more than nine months.

Last December, the NCAA suspended quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four teammates for the first five games on the 2011 season for selling jerseys, championship rings and trophies to a local tattoo parlor owner. The suspensions came just 16 days after the U.S. attorney told the school of a federal investigation that included players.

Pryor and his four accused teammates were allowed to play in Ohio State's victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl in early January.

Tressel's contract clearly states that he must immediately report any information which pertains to violations of NCAA, Big Ten or Ohio State bylaws and rules.

In May of 2009, The Columbus Dispatch reported that since 2000, Ohio State had reported to the NCAA more than 375 violations -- the most of any of the 69 Football Bowl Subdivision schools that provided documents to the newspaper through public-records requests. Most of the infractions were minor and resulted in little or no punishment.

When asked at a press conference last week if he had considered firing Tressel, Ohio State President Gordon Gee responded with his tail between his legs and said, "No, are you kidding?" "Let me be very clear. I'm just hoping the coach doesn't dismiss me."

The NCAA and Big Ten Conference Commissioner Jim Delany missed a tremendous opportunity to penalize Tressel and his program while sending a clear message to not only the Big Ten but the country.

In November, Tennessee men's basketball coach Bruce Pearl was suspended by the Southeastern Conference for eight conference games for recruiting violations. Tennessee basketball isn't the cash cow for the SEC that Ohio State football is to the Big Ten.

Nor, are Pearl and the Volunteers as important to the conference financially as quarterback Cam Newton and Auburn were to the SEC last fall. Newton was never disciplined despite his father's involvement in a pay-for-play scandal. The Heisman Trophy winner led the Tigers to a national championship.

North Carolina was without 13 football players in last season's opener against LSU as the NCAA investigated improper connections to an agent as well as academic violations involving a tutor. The NCAA has yet to hand down its final rulings in the case.

In mid-February, new NCAA president Mark Emmert stressed the importance of transparency and better understanding by the media and public about how the NCAA deals with rules infractions and enforcement. Just five months into his tenure, it's time for Emmert to begin making his actions speak as loudly as his words.

Right now, the NCAA is sending a resounding message when it comes to wrestling with decisions between what's right and what breeds success: Just win baby.