What the Ohio Debacle Taught Us About the Human Condition

Submitted by MGoPietrowski on October 13th, 2011 at 11:20 AM


Human beings to do not like being rebuked. I’m not talking about sitting around, blabbering on and on about matters of opinion. If you and your friends are arguing about who was supposed to win the game this weekend, then rebuke, no matter how wrong you think your friend, roommate, or barstool neighbor is, should not enter into the equation. However, sometimes a human being or an organization does something wrong; flat out, unanimously guilty, infinitely, inescapably, wrong.

Over the course of the summer, beginning with mumbled rumors in spring, we got to see an arch-rival, the hated Ohio State Buckeyes implode on a most incredibly entertaining level. Now, my point in this diary is not to discuss what the NCAA will do, or not do, not to shed light on Gee and Smith, not even to debate whether what they did was wrong. All of this has been covered. I’d like to look at the Ohio fan base response and ask, why?

We all have several stories of buckeye pals (if you’re willing to put them at “pal” status) who have responded to their beloved team’s recent moral short comings in outstandingly irrational ways. Hands down, the most frustrating conversation I’ve ever gotten into over the matter, which inspired this little written piece, occurred last Friday, at a local sports bar.

I was choking down buffalo wing after buffalo wing, chasing them with tall Coors originals, when I got into a conversation with the gentleman sitting next to me. You know how this goes:

Me: Yeah, I’ve been a Michigan fan since I was born.

My Neighbor: Oh, well that sucks.


It turns out that the dude in the Tap-Out hat, with the beard that was longer at the goatee portion than his cheeks, with the gigantic metal bulb earrings was an Ohio State fan. I immediately went for the jugular, (rude, I know) and asked him if the Bucks were going to make a bowl game this year. As I’m sure you already know, things turned ugly…fast. What the conversation boiled down to was a debate of the violations that had been reported against that school down south. After I listed off only half of them (I hadn’t made it to the Pryor fiasco, yet) he stopped me and said, “You know, the way I see it, is that everybody does that stuff.” All I could hear in my mind were the words “You know, everybody murders people”, but I kept smiling and nodding. I asked him why hadn’t everybody been caught, or at least been the subject of a major scandal that snagged more ESPN headlines than the New York Yankees post-season departure. His response?

“That stuff doesn’t matter.”

I’ll make this clear, if any of you and I are ever in a conversation in which you tell me that not only the law, court decisions and well-backed investigative journalism, let alone pure founded logic “doesn’t matter”, our chat will probably end there, too.

I finished my wings, drank my beer, and spent the rest of the weekend wondering.

In reality, friends, human beings will do everything within their power to simply, not be wrong. Most Ohio fans didn’t even attend the school, or play for the team, but they still hold fast, denying any wrong doing, or referencing other unfounded cases of corruption in (not just) college sports. As a living being in a human body, we can force ourselves to accept our circumstances: being lied to, losing our job, being accused of a crime…but not being wrong.

And this is why, until the day I die, until the day my future children’s children die, the Ohio administration and fan base will always respond to accusations of corruption during that ten year stretch of domination thanks to Clarett, Smith and Pryor, with the following statement:

“You know it happens everywhere.”

When clearly, it doesn’t. 



October 13th, 2011 at 11:42 AM ^

with Ohio State fans, and inevitably their arguments deteriorate to either "Well it happens everywhere" or "We're still gunna beat you, because Michigan sucks!".

To the first, my response is always the same; "Until you can prove that it does, that statement is invalid. You can't excuse it because you think it happens everywhere. It very well may happen everywhere, but if you don't know that it's not a valid point."

The latter of these arguments is far simpler to refute, "We're 6-0 man, what's your record?" that usually shuts them up.


October 13th, 2011 at 11:50 AM ^

The truth is that every fanbase (yes even tsio) has very intelligent, motivated members.  Members who HATE rival schools.  If this was really going on--at this scale--at other schools, I would like to think people will know.  People wouldn't let these things go.  To be fair, I think there is a massive amount of covering things up, bending the rules, and just not having enough proof for the NCAA to care...but the extent to which tsio has made mistakes over the past decade is something special.


October 13th, 2011 at 11:51 AM ^

throwing pearls before swine.  Logic, intelligence, and arguments are a waste of time.  Leave them in their uneducated ignorance and smile knowlingly and remember that Bo and Hoke want you to just Believe!



October 13th, 2011 at 11:52 AM ^

I know two OSU fans fairly well, one is a guy who's attitude is "Well maybe you should cheat too, since you guys have sucked these past years," and another who shruggs and says "I just want it to be over." Neither of them have made any indication that they deserve it, instead they are a victim. Thankfully none has mentioned that "everyone does it," which I'm sorry but that never worked when I was 5, why should it work now?


October 13th, 2011 at 12:10 PM ^

One of the wonderful, and frustrating, aspects of college football is that it connects with something very deep inside of us--the need to be a part of something big; the need to connect with others like us. The wonderful side of that is that no matter where I am, if I meet another Michigan grad or fan, I know we'll have something in common. I feel a part of something wonderful--a history and tradition second to none. The frustrating part is that it can also lead to an us-vs-them, defensive and ugly mind-set. While it is perhaps most blatantly epidomized by Ohio and Little Bro, even UM fans can at times fall into its snare. There is no good way to undo what is small-mindedness, other than to point it out and call others to have a higher view. Your Ohio "friend" will likely never get it, because in the end, there is no set of actions Ohio could take that he couldn't rationalize. Sacrificing virgins? Everyone does it, besides, we all know there are no virgins at Ohio. Clubbing baby seals? Hey--they had it coming. Sometimes best to just finish the wings and the 12 oz's and move along.


October 13th, 2011 at 12:28 PM ^

The other argument I get from my Ohio-born buddy is that "the system's broken, man. The schools & BCS are making bajillions off these poor hapless souls, blah, blah, blah." This, of course, ignores the fact that all NCAA schools have agreed to abide by the same rules, and until those rules change they are the law of college football.

It's like getting pulled over for speeding on the highway and telling the cop, "the speed limit's going to be 90 in the future, man. I'm not wrong here."


October 13th, 2011 at 7:36 PM ^

It's old because it's accurate.

I graduated from Michigan, but I lived in Columbus and married a Buckeye.  Most of the OSU students are about par with Michigan fans -- passionate, trolly, even nasty at times.  But they felt betrayed by Tressel, digusted by the program's corruption and shrug and say, "Yeah, we're gonna suck for a while."  Much like how Michigan fans reacted to RichRod derp.  Them kids ain't dumb.

Leave the city and the surrounding towns are full of unkempt obese rednecks driving trucks decorated with Confederate flags, truck nuts. . . and OSU swag.  And they show up for every game, and are the reason why OSU's fanbase has a NATIONWIDE infamous reputation for being nasty to the point of dangerous.  Seriously.  Of course I'm generalizing, but I'm not exaggerating.  Exception is largely the NW suburbs because Honda's out that way; a lot of engineers live there and frankly a lot aren't from OSU at all.  Otherwise, the above conversation is one that you can have in any town outside greater Columbus.


October 13th, 2011 at 12:48 PM ^

I don't really care if OSU fans feel bad about what is happening to their school's football program, or whether they are in denial about it. 


I don't care if they never realize they're wrong.


What I care about is that we know we were right.  Everything that OSU accomplished in the last decade has been invalidated and is meaningless.  That pain is gone. 


October 13th, 2011 at 6:49 PM ^

I care if they feel bad. Indeed, I *want* them to feel bad. I want them to suffer with every loss. I love that everything they accomplished doesn't mean anything to anyone with half a brain and that Tressel (St. Jim Tressel) had to take the axe. 

That's vindictive thinking and I have a lot more of that to go around.

Benoit Balls

October 13th, 2011 at 1:08 PM ^

through my own personal interactions with people here in Columbus is that actual OSU alums are at the point where they are mortified and exasperated, whereas the "Brahs" who think "that stuff doesnt matter" are the ones who did not attend OSU, nor do they have any affiliation with the scool outside of their fandom. Maybe that's just because the OSU alums I know are all fairly sane and logical people (this is a sliding scale, we are talking about OSU alums) and most of the tribal tattooed, affliction tee wearing juiceheads I see out in public who are quick with their snide remarks about my Michigan hat aren't even alumni. This I know because in the course of interacting with them I always make sure to ask "So when did you graduate" and the most frequent response is "Oh, I went to ____" but I grew up in Columbus and have always loved OSU" (notice, they "went" somewhere, still havent mentioned a graduation date)


October 13th, 2011 at 1:20 PM ^

I have found the same thing - that friends and acquaintances that are OSU alums are pretty salty, and are glad they canned Tressel.  Most are also to the point that they don't understand how players continue to be stupid enough to do shady things, and are wondering who (if anybody) is minding the store.  I have quite a few tell me that they are already resigned to the fact that they will be taking a backseat to Michigan this upcoming decade.

On the other hand, its the uneducated ding dongs who continue to say that it happens everywhere, and that Tressel was a great man, and that Mike Vrabel will be that best DC EVAR.  It's those folks that make me throw up in my mouth a little bit after about 16 seconds of listening to them.


October 13th, 2011 at 1:37 PM ^

Well, I feel like maybe I should chime in here and defend myself and the fanbase I represent.

First of all, I did not attend OSU. I grew up in Ohio, everyone in my family that went to college, went to OSU. I have family members that played sports there, including football. That is how and why I became an OSU fan. I was a fan through the Cooper years. I learned about Woody and Bo from my grandfather and my uncle who knew both men. I am not a fair weather fan. I wear my scarlet and grey even after a loss. I always find it surprising that people think you must attend a university to cheer for them and their sports teams. I have never called anyone a Walmart Wolverine in my life, as I don't see how that is an insult. I did not attend OSU not because I couldn't, I didn't even apply. I didn't attend OSU because I moved to Michigan, got a scholarship and had MEAP money that was worth more at a Michigan school, and out-of-state tuition, etc. etc.

Anyway... to say it happens everywhere is not a defense to why you (we, they) did it, so I've never used that as a defense. Do I think several programs probably have rules violations going on that are undetected? Of course. Does that necessarially mean they are cheating? No. Breaking the rules doesn't always give you a competitive advantage. In OSU's case, I don't see how getting free/cheap tattoos makes them play better. I do see how a coach playing them dispite the fact that he knew they were ineligible would. Do I think selling awards you won and own should be against the rules? No. Is it? Yes. So they did break rules. I admit that. I have no excuses for them (they were kids, they needed money and can't work because football is so demanding, whatever). They did something they should not have done.

Important in this whole mess is the LOIC/FTM stuff. Which OSU hasn't been hit with. Yet at least. And I believe that is because the majority of this, (really 90+% of it) has been self-reported. OSU's AD, once they knew of or discovered violations, acted shiftly and appropriately to suspend and punish the offenders, ban the boosters, and correct the behaviors/educate the teams, coaches, players. I personally think OSU, and Gene Smith, have acted exactly as they should be expected to act.

We broke rules. We are being punished. What more is there to say? 

I think your fan base can be accused of similar slippery slope, strawman fallacy arguments like, "Well of course they beat us because they've been cheating for 10yrs" and "Tressel's rotten to the core and finally got what he deserved"

So yeah. That's my $.02


October 13th, 2011 at 2:22 PM ^

So, what you are saying is you've had enough family attend OSU to actually realize it is an institution of higher learning and not a pro sports franchise?  I can buy that, but it is not a "slippery slope" or even a stretch to surmise the players have been taking improper benefits for the past decade... Clarrett, Smith, Pryor, Posey...  the beat goes on.


October 13th, 2011 at 3:15 PM ^

Pryor and Posey are the same year, same problem. Clarett and Smith were again, caught and punished accordingly. And the rules violations at OSU that we for at most $1500. We're not at Reggie Bush $600k manor rental, Miami hooker abortion, or even $180k for my services levels here. We get the bad publicity because a) we have been king of the mountain for 10yrs, so we had a huge target on our backs b) Tressel had a squeeky clean image so it was extra juicy tabloid material for him to get smeared. So ESPN ups their page views by over-reporting and sensationalizing everything, suing us, sending OTL to our campus, etc.


October 13th, 2011 at 3:31 PM ^

Yes, you've been better than us for 10 years.  We were better than you for 10 years before that.  To answer comment a) getting blown out in NC games does not put you on top of the mountain and b) Tressel had created his own squeeky clean image and that makes his transgressions worse in my book.  Plus, are you familiar with his past at YSU?  Just accept the fact that . . .

I think Hoke has changed the tide on the rivalry. Hell people in Ohio are starting to believe him. Never in a million years I would have thought that. Selling Michigan jerseys is a good start.

Edit:  For the record, most people in my family that went to college went to Ohio (my brother is a Michigan grad thank God).  My grandpa retired from Ohio's print shop.  One reason I'm a Michigan fan is because everybody expects you to root for Ohio around here.  Case in point, I saw my uncles that live in Florida over the weekend.  I see them once every 5 to 10 years.  When football came up, I got "oh, I forgot you're a traitior" from one of them.  He laughed but he wasn't really joking. 


October 13th, 2011 at 3:48 PM ^

Yeah I moved from Ohio to just outside Ann Arbor my freshmen year of HS. My little brother is a UofM fan. I got crap from all my family for moving to the state of Michigan. They all think I'm a traitor for attending a school with the word Michigan in it's title. But I flew an OSU flag outside my house, I live in Spartyland now and have OSU all over my mailbox, house, yard, inside there's an entire OSU room. It's rough being in enemy territory. But only if you can't hold your own ground and aren't really a true fan. Gotta stick with your team through the good and the bad or else you aren't really a fan.


October 13th, 2011 at 2:25 PM ^

"In OSU's case, I don't see how getting free/cheap tattoos makes them play better."

That depends on who knows what and how widespread it is.

Here's the thing.  College football is the last bastion of communism in the World's Freest Market.  Every player---every single one---is "paid" exactly the same, from the four year starting quarterback who Leads Your Team to Greatness to the guy who sweats out the practice squad and doesn't see the field unless some Rudy-like miracle happens to happen. 

And the pay is: One scholarship (length subject to chagne in the SEC).

Yet, acquiring the services of the Lead Your Team to Greatness types is pretty darn important to, you know, acheiving Greatness.

So, in this universe, little things can tip the scales.  If Big State U is better at producing NFL long snappers than anyone else, then the best long snapper in the country is going to be awfully interested in Big State U.  Likewise, if Another State U more or less routinely has its players picking up a couple bucks here, a few hundred there---you know, the infamous "pizza money"---then all other things being equal, Another State U starts to look awful tempting...if the recruits hear about it.

And, you have to admit, it would be easy to imagine a recruit hearing about jobs you don't have to work....charity events that include cash envelopes....what those golden pants are worth on ebay....and even a way to get a few extra tattoos.  Maybe not all of them, but the stories are likely to be told.  For an 18 year old kid, that's not the chump change it might be to us.

But, realistically, it's not the tattoos.  It's what happened after that.  The entire NCAA house of cards is built on one thing, and one thing only: institutions policing themselves.  Without that, the NCAA has nothing.  And, from where I sit, Ohio State plays this game better than anyone.  They are masters at finding secondary violations, reporting them promptly, and wagging fingers.  It seems as though that would get them in trouble, but it doesn't.  The NCAA *loves* it when schools do that.  Because, hey, a football team is going to have a few kids who make mistakes from time to time, and the important part is whether or not a school stays on top of it and corrects those mistakes as fast as possible.

But, the one thing you CANNOT do, under any circumstances, is intentionally hide a violation.  That threatens the very existence of the NCAA's whole idea of amateurism.  Do that, and Bad Things happen to your program, and in a hurry.

To OSU's credit, they are playing even this game masterfully.  "Hey, it's just one guy, a rogue coach.   Happened to be the head coach, but we've cleaned that mess up and are ready to move forward."

You know what?  The NCAA might just buy it.


October 13th, 2011 at 2:35 PM ^

You have summed up the problem with "all they did was sell their stuff, what's the big deal" better than I ever could.  This should also end the debate of giving players a bigger stipend.  I work in an "industry" where people get paid the same no matter how much they produce and everybody knows what everybody else makes.  In this situation, there is always somebody looking to beat the system and get a little extra.  Unless the NCAA finds a way to address the issue of star athletes "getting theirs", I think the best days of college athletics are behind us.  With all the recruiting hype, all star games and press conferences (which I love, don't get me wrong), I don't see the problem getting better any time soon.


October 13th, 2011 at 2:42 PM ^

See, when you say they are "playing a game" because they are "claiming" it's only one coach, you are implying that the cover up goes farther, without any proof that it does. No one has alledged that other coaches have covered anything up. No one has alleged or proved that the AD knew anything about this. As soon as we knew, we turned over to the NCAA the emails, the reciepts, the titles to cars, the paystubs, everything. Isn't that "game" what you're supposed to do? 

You seem to think we are getting punished enough, and that there's more. Isn't that the same thing as when an OSU fan says "it happens everywhere" as his defense? Aren't both unfounded generalizations?


October 13th, 2011 at 2:59 PM ^

Ohio has had at least one student athlete get busted for improper benefits and then, after getting punished, turn around and get paid for not working. In response, we're told that there isn't a lack of institutional control. They are individuals who "went off the reservation." Someone flunked PR 101. First thing you do, admit there's a problem, promise to fix it, and actually fix it, not publicly support someone still under investigation ("I hope he doesn't fire me") and presume that nothing will be found.

Ohio isn't alone in its problems, and others have made the same mistakes, but let's not pretend that there hasn't been a problem bigger than the administration was willing to admit.


October 13th, 2011 at 3:30 PM ^

See, you keep doing it! You say it goes further than just a couple of guys because those couple of guys did more than one thing? How does that prove that it goes further? It actually proves it doesn't and that it is what OSU says, just a couple of rogue guys!

And yes, Gee has said some stupid things. He's a PR nightmare. But some of what he says, however untimely, isn't untrue. Tressel firing him was a stupid joke that shouldn't have been made, it wasn't funny. Us being a  poster child for compliance is true though, obviously in PR worlds you don't brag and get cocky when you're going through a media feeding frenzy. But really, OSU does do NCAA compliance the way the NCAA would want compliance done, because we caught and punish. Obviously it would be great to not have any violations committed. But to some extent, that can only be minimized, not completely eliminated. Hell, the mighty Wolverines had violations! Does that mean your team cheats and should all be called cheaters and all 100+yrs of history should be tarnished with a cheating reputation? No. But that's reputation. Prespections aren't realities, not always at least. Some people may think RR is a cheater for life and cheats everywhere. "Oh, he had problems at WVU too! Look at him, he is a big cheater!"


October 13th, 2011 at 3:35 PM ^

All I know is that at some point the numbers are going to add up to something that has to be more than just a few rogue players, which I think has been rocketed past already.  And if I were a Native American, I'd be offended by Gene Smith's use of the term "reservation" to refer to the realm of buckeyeville.


October 13th, 2011 at 4:27 PM ^

"See, when you say they are "playing a game" because they are "claiming" it's only one coach, you are implying that the cover up goes farther, without any proof that it does."

That's not it at all.  In most circumstances, if the head coach intentionally hides a violation, that school is SCREWED.  I mean, completely and totally hosed.  That's true even if no one else, anywhere, knows anything.  Heck USC got nailed for *one* verifiable fact about *one* assistant coach that was a lot less serious than Tressell's misdeeds.

So, "playing the game" does not mean "hiding more stuff".  Granted, I expect that more people did know, but let's assume for the moment that there will never be proof of it.  Instead, "playing the game" is the *NCAA* game: get in front of it, admit it openly, blame it on a few bad actors, and hope that's enough of a mea culpa for everyone in Indianapolis to save face about the fact that the fox guards the henhouse and move on.

USC's problem was that right up to the time that Hayden replaced Garrett, Garrett would tell anyone who would listen that it was "just jealousy" that motivated the NCAA's investigation into Reggie Bush et. al.  You.  Can't.  Do.  That.

So far, OSU's biggest problem is that Gee actually said, out loud, "I hope Coach doesn't fire me."  If that'd been the script still today, OSU would be in the hottest of hot water.  But, Coach is gone, the administration can look stern about it, and that's what the NCAA digs.


October 13th, 2011 at 2:54 PM ^

This is an important point, so I'm going to call it out --

Important in this whole mess is the LOIC/FTM stuff. Which OSU hasn't been hit with. Yet at least. And I believe that is because the majority of this, (really 90+% of it) has been self-reported.

One shouldn't try to prove they don't "lack institutional control" because they self-report a ton of violations.  The proof would be not having violations in the first place.

Of course, my opinion (and, for that matter, Ramzy and a number of other OSU bloggers(!) as well) and the NCAA's actions are not frequently aligned.


October 13th, 2011 at 3:19 PM ^

Isn't that institutional control? Catching and punishing offenders? Do you expect Gene Smith to follow every one of OSU's 650+ student atheletes around all day every day? You cannot prevent them from doing anything wrong. You try, you educate, you monitor, you check and double check.

Institutional control can't mean that we literally have to institutionalize them, lock them up only letting them out to practice, attend class and feed.


October 13th, 2011 at 3:47 PM ^

Not even close.  And if you consider the massive number of violations -- I'm sorry, you call them self-reported violations, as if the description makes a difference -- to be an indication of how things are going well, it's going to be difficult to reach common ground.

One last try: An institution in control has several responsibilities:

  1. Explain what the rules are to their wards and make sure they understand them;
  2. Monitor their wards to make sure they follow those rules;
  3. Report any violations of the rules; and
  4. Make sure those violations don't happen again

OSU seems to have #3 down pat; I'm not so sure of 1 or 2, and it's patently obvious that 4 isn't even being considered.


October 13th, 2011 at 3:51 PM ^

Well you do #4 by punishment. I would say firing our head coach made sure he wasn't going to cover up any more violations. I would say suspending Devier Posey or 10 games of his senior year for what amounted to $1500 of total benefits was punishment enough. Pryor was shown the door and banned for 5yrs. Bobby D was banned. Dennis Talbot has been banned. That seems like making sure they don't happen again to me. 


October 13th, 2011 at 4:30 PM ^

...he would tell everyone who would listen (and even those who wouldn't) that "It sure was a shame we had to let Coach go, but you just can't keep someone aroudn who does that."

They are getting to that message, but you are right, it has not been done unambiguously.  And, from the point of view of getting the NCAA's blessing, that's a Bad Thing.


October 13th, 2011 at 1:50 PM ^

Your point about the state of Ohio fans is proven every time I listen to Dimitrious Stanley on the local radio.  He is complaining today about how Ohio's good name is being dragged through the mud while Miami, yes that Miami, and Auburn get of scott free.  He must be forgetting that more and more and more stories keep coming out about Ohio and players keep doing stupid things.  In more completely biased news, Ohio will be without another starter against Illinois on Saturday for a dissorderly conduct arrest.  My take on their "fans" is that you just can't go into a battle of wits against the unarmed.


October 13th, 2011 at 2:01 PM ^

Read the title and thought this was going to have some kind of interesting point about humanity, and then it was just a generalization about OSU fans.  A very accurate, generalization, granted, but still...!