The Ohio State University and its Credibility Problem

From’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback column from this week comes a must-read for college football fans.  (Emphasis added):

O-H! N-O!

Ohio State’s Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor, cleared by the NCAA for the Sugar Bowl, later were forced to resign (Tressel) and suspended (Pryor) for violations the NCAA knew about prior to the Sugar Bowl. BCS games are among the biggest revenue events in collegiate athletics, so the NCAA waited until the money was in the bank.

Tressel admitted he was warned that OSU players were breaking NCAA rules, but said he did nothing because he “couldn’t think of who” to report this to. Ohio State has a six-person NCAA compliance office. It took me 45 seconds to get the names and phone numbers. Surely the associate athletic director for compliance sits within walking distance of Tressel’s office. With a straight face, Tressel claimed he didn’t know whom to tell about a compliance issue.

After the scandal broke, Ohio State announced it was voluntarily “vacating” all 2010 football victories. Yet open the new 2011 Buckeyes football media guide and the games are listed as wins.

As for OSU President Gordon Gee…[he] seemed to stand for the school’s integrity when he announced Tressel had resigned and would be fined $250,000. Later, Gee quietly changed Tressel’s resignation to a retirement, qualifying him for taxpayer-subsidized state benefits, waived the fine, and awarded Tressel about $50,000 in severance. So when the president of OSU makes a public announcement, he may or may not be telling the truth. That’s some example Ohio State is setting.

Defending the program as Tressel departed, Gee wrote, “Ohio State’s football team ranked first in academic performance among the nation’s top 25 teams.” Melinda Church of Gee’s office told me he was citing this NCAA Public Recognition Award: under Sport, click “Football FBS,” then “Display All.” But the award is not for “academic performance.” The award is for improvement as measured by the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate  [the “APR”] — that is, for raising a previous score. Gee changed academic “progress” to academic “performance.” Misrepresenting the content of a cited source is a big sin in academia — but apparently doesn’t bother the president of Ohio State….

The NCAA for its part is poised to make the APR system somewhat less lax — but only to the extent that colleges must graduate 50 percent of their athletes in order to qualify for football bowl games and basketball tournaments. That the NCAA’s ambitious goal is 50 percent graduation of athletes tells you how deeply fouled up the situation is.

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