The saga surrounding Jim Tressel, Terrelle Pryor, and the Ohio State University (“OSU”) brings to mind several important points. Often times, coaches on college campuses look at NCAA compliance officers as the police and NCAA compliance in general as a burden. Most NCAA compliance officers cringe at the thought of being called the police, but the stigma remains. NCAA compliance is the necessary evil to balance the playing field, thus coaches are required to be cognizant of the rules and abide by them.
With all of the technology and media coverage, it is extremely difficult to hide an NCAA infraction for long. There is always a disgruntled former student-athlete, booster, or employee that will spill the beans when asked. Really, there are two ways for a coach to lose his/her job. Of course, a coach is asked to be successful on the playing field, but it is NCAA infractions that will take down the best of all coaches. Six months ago, most would say Jim Tressel was one of the most highly regarded coaches, if not the most, currently involved in intercollegiate athletics. However, he broke the cardinal rule. The integrity of the institution (and program) has to come before a single member of a team.
The scandal at OSU is nothing new. Every school around the country has a student-athlete who receives preferential treatment because he/she participates on a team. Compare OSU’s scandal to the University of Oklahoma’s major infractions case involving starting quarterback, Rhett Bomar. Bomar accepted money for work he did not perform. Coach Stoops and Coach Tressel were probably equally known for their integrity and are loved by a mass of supporters. I do not recall anyone calling for Coach Stoops’ job. Why? The answer is simple; he dismissed Bomar without hesitation. Student-athletes are educated on the rules and know right from wrong. No amount of education or monitoring will stop some student-athletes from violating rules. However, coaches have to be above the fray and set a positive example. If coaches fail to abide by the rules, the cost will be a hard earned reputation and an eight figure contract. When in doubt, a coach must ask the compliance staff for help and remove himself/herself from the investigation. If a coach fails to do so, the next call should be to legal counsel to start working on a buyout. It is not worth it.