Much ado has been made on the blogosphere WRT the OSU investigation, and the penalties that were released this week. Most notably are the people in a tizzy about the ONE year bowl ban imposed by the NCAA. When reading OSU blogs, and even the B1G blog on ESPN, the common theme coming out of Columbus was that there would be no post season ban. A scholarship reduction was expected, and the show cause against Jim Tressel was the believed outcome. The line has been firmly drawn in the sand (by OSU fans in my opinion) as to how egregious these findings are. In short, if you are a OSU fan, they were too harsh. If you are a UM fan they hardly registered a slap on the hand (USC fans tend to lean towards this side as well for obvious reasons.), and the rest of the college football world thinks its about right. The way I see it it is about right. There was some rule breaking going on in Columbus. Many people, coaches, students, and players, knew about it and did nothing. It took a federal investigation into a drug distributor to bring it to light, and even then there was an attempt to cover it up. I will try not to go winding down the rabbit hole on this, but come on Vest, it was a federal investigation, did you really think you could hide this from everyone???
A good friend of mine is a student at OSU, and is even involved in the athletic program there. He has first hand knowledge not only of the situation, but has met and talked with the Vest at least a time or two. He has the same background as me, and has and continues to stand by the Vest through all of this. Admirable. His point is that the Vest did what any good leader would do and take the fall for his boys. And now the NCAA has punished the school beyond what the offender has done. I agree that Tressel, when faced with a lose lose scenario, did what he should have done, and fell on the sword. His "resignation" enabled OSU to build their case that this was not a recurring problem, it was contained to one bad apple, and therefore, with the apple gone OSU could be expunged. The fallacy to this argument is the events that preceded it all. Leadership doesn't start at the point that extreme action has to be taken. As leaders we always try to protect the boys. To a fault at some times. With nothing else to compare this to (I am not a head football coach at a major university) I am left with comparing this to the countless inventories that are due every month. If there is a discrepancy on one of the inventories, the report must be made immediately. The ass chewing and even possible punishment handed out is much less severe than if you fail to report it and hope it all goes away. Bad news does not get better with time. There is a lot more to effective leadership than just "protecting your boys." How were the boys protected when he let them play in a game he KNEW they should not be playing in? How was he protecting his boys when he lied to the NCAA about the same thing? How is he able to protect his boys now that he is no longer coaching the team? No, the Vest had an obligation, not to HIMSELF, but to his BOYS, to report his knowledge of the incidents as soon as he learned of them. Is it unpopular to do this? Of course. He would without a doubt have gotten an evil eye or two from the players and fans. As a leader he has to be able to deal with that, and do what is right for his team. Hiding it only compounded the problems and in turn he ruined the chance any of those kids had at a decent year, and by proxy draft stock and so on.
Look at Terrell Pryor. His legacy at that school and across the nation is one of a selfish child. If the Vest does the right thing in the beginning TP sits a game or two, plays his senior season, and concludes his career quite possibly on a high note with no bad PR in his way to a top round draft pick and a potentially great career in the NFL (as a TE, but that's another post).
I don't see how to defend the Vest's position on this. He claims fear for his players safety. By my estimation, he was not the best person to know that. In fact, to best PROTECT his boys, he should have involved whomever he needed to to ensure that they were safe. No, as sad as it is, he lied not to protect his boys, but to protect the image he had conjured up for himself and the school he represented. That is a failure of leadership in my book. I am sure that he has influenced far more young men for good than the other way around. As is always the case, 1000 good things are wiped away by ONE single bad decision, and no one knows that any better than the Vest right now.
As for how severe the punishment was, well I think the end state here is that there were several players breaking the rules, and the head coach knew about it and did not report it. That it was only a small dollar amount probably saved OSU on this one. The rabbit hole of how ridiculous the rules are on this will be explored another time, but suffice it to say that I do not agree. My contention during all of this is that the shear number of players involved and the continued onslaught of reports that came out of it insinuated a lack of control. But that is why I am not levying the punishment. I know nothing of what ACTUALLY happened. Given what is in the official reports though, I would say things are copacetic. OSU will hardly be phased by this. The post season ban for next year hurts as I see them as a competitive force in the, ahem, Leaders division. I also see UM as the, ahem, Legends favorite, and as such will NEVER pick OSU over UM in ANY situation, regardless of how hopeless it is. So I do not see Pasadena in their future next year. Is it fairly annoying? Yes, but totally recoverable. Meyer is already recruiting the heck out of the midwest, and by all accounts should continue to do so. The loss of scholies is not brutal. THREE in one season for THREE seasons is hardly a death blow. It might cause some depth issues down the road, but if dealt with correctly, should not effect the overall strength of the team.
In closing, to the Buckeye fans, I leave you with this. Persevere through the nonsense that is the NCAA. Try not to wrap yourselves too tight around the penalties. I know it is tough that the school is punished for the wrongs of a few, but such is life. The future is bright there. UM/OSU will continue to be The Game. In TWO years the fans will hardly remember the names of the ones who sold gear.