Wiedmer: Ohio State still asking for trouble

Wiedmer: Ohio State still asking for trouble

July 12th, 2011 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Noted Princeton football fan Albert Einstein once described the definition of insanity as: "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

(Note: Some websites also credit Einstein with using those same words to define stupidity. For this column alone, feel free to mix and match the two.)

Either way, leave it to The Ohio State University - its athletic department apparently overflowing with insanity, stupidity and misplaced arrogance - to provide perfect proof of Einstein's previously unknown Theory of NCAA Probation.

At least that's the best explanation possible for the Buckeyes brass offering to vacate the 2010 football team's 11 regular-season wins and Sugar Bowl triumph as sufficient penalty for playing several ineligible players throughout last season, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

Forfeit games? That's your best act of contrition? Who'd these guys go to for legal advice? Pacman Jones? The prosecution team in the Casey Anthony murder trial?

OSU already was going to have to wipe out last season the second it stepped in front of the Committee on Infractions, which just happens to be one month from today. OSU "voluntarily" forfeiting last season would be like Charlie Sheen telling a judge he voluntarily was seeing a substance abuse counselor.

The Arrogant U. might as well have used Pryor's tattoo artist to ink that specific penalty on its furrowed forehead, because that action is 1,000 percent certain to take place. Any school anywhere that knowingly plays ineligible athletes automatically forfeits the games they participated in.

But the mindset behind that lame self-penalty - and to be fair, let's not forget the Buckeyes' extra offer of two years probation - is basically what we've seen from OSU since this scandal began late last autumn with news that Pryor and several teammates had traded autographs and Buckeyes memorabilia for tattoos and cash.

The first sign of insanity came when OSU, Big Ten commish Jim Delany - who just happens to be the highest paid conference czar in the land at $1.6 million per year - and the Sugar Bowl successfully lobbied to have Pryor and Co. skip the first five games of the 2011 season in exchange for playing in the bowl against Arkansas.

To be fair, the Buckeyes almost got away with that until it was discovered that then-coach Jim Tressel had known about Pryor and Co.'s NCAA violations since April 2010, or five months before the 2010 season began.

OSU has steadfastly maintained that it didn't know about this bit of information until after the bowl game, and Tressel - since fired (or retired, the school says now, but more on that in a minute) - has held firm to that story.

Still, if The Arrogant U. had been more thorough in its pre-bowl investigation, it would look far less stupid and insane today.

But that was just the beginning of the insanity/stupidity course of action, for even after Tressel admitted to misleading both his employer and the NCAA bloodhounds, OSU again took the least action possible. It suspended him for two games and fined him $250,000. (At least that's what OSU said at the time, but more on that later, too.)

Asked at that March news conference if he'd ever considered firing Tressel, The Arrogant U. president Gordon Gee darkly joked, "Are you kidding me? I hope he doesn't fire me."

Yet shortly after that, the public unhappy with that decision, Tressel voluntarily increased the suspension to five games, same as Pryor and Co. were expected to serve.

Again, however, the Buckeyes miscalculated. Bad stuff kept leaking out. Stuff about what Tressel knew and when he knew it. Stuff about borrowed cars Pryor was driving on a suspended license. Stuff about more than four or five players.

Finally, OSU did what it should have done to Tressel months earlier. It fired him, just as Tennessee should have fired basketball coach Bruce Pearl long before it did.

Yet that's not the end of the Buckeyes' stupidity/insanity. Just this past weekend, OSU even backtracked on Tressel's firing. In announcing it would voluntarily forfeit the games the NCAA would have forced it to forfeit later on, it also said that Tressel retired rather than "resigning" and that he no longer would owe the school the $250,000 fine.

Pure insanity. Pure stupidity. Pure arrogance. It's almost as if The Ohio State University wants to march into its meeting with the Committee on Infractions to the Pat Benatar classic, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," because the Buckeyes are unwilling or incapable of doing much more than putting themselves in a two-minute timeout.

The good news is that the NCAA - still smarting over its dimwitted complicity in the Sugar Bowl fraud - is likely to make the Buckeyes pay big for the insanely stupid way they've handled this whole sordid affair.

But the most insane part of all of this may not take place until Aug. 31, 2013, when Gee's former employer, Vanderbilt, may well be the heavy favorite to knock off The Probation U. on its own field. The only good news for Buckeyes backers is that it's a one-game contract, so OSU won't be allowed to repeat that mistake over and over again.