Within a year, nine different football players were suspended for at least a game for receiving impermissible benefits at Ohio State.
Say what you will about the severity of the violations — that’s a different discussion entirely — but the NCAA’s rulebook is what it is. When you boil it down to its simplest form, OSU athletes broke rules (two did it on more than one occasion) and now have to deal with the consequences of their actions.
“These are failures of individuals, not a systemic failure of compliance,” athletic director Gene Smith said following the one-game suspension of running back Boom Herron, receiver DeVier Posey and lineman Marcus Hall for accepting wages greater than hours worked at a summer job ”It’s not 30 (players).”
It doesn’t have to be. The job of Ohio State’s compliance department, as it is with all compliance departments, is to educate and monitor athletes, staff and situations to the best of its ability. The objective is to minimize the risk of a violation; if one occurs, compliance works to rectify it as soon as possible.
So, yes, the fact that Ohio State has had multiple sets of violations over the past year that included both of the aforementioned parties (plus an incident with a booster) shows there has been a systematic failure of compliance with the football program. Inexcusably, Smith and Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee don’t see it that way.
“We are the poster child for compliance, and whenever we discover a possible infraction, we resolve and report it to the NCAA, no matter how minor the violation,” Gee said. “That’s what we have done here.”
From what we know about the NCAA’s approval of Ohio State’s self-inflicted sanctions, it would appear former coach Jim Tressel was the only Ohio State employee who knew of impermissible benefits received by his players last year. If compliance doesn’t know of a violation, then they can’t do anything about it. So when Gee says Ohio State’s compliance department does its job when it discovers an infraction, there aren’t many reasons to believe that isn’t true.
But what baffles me to near speechlessness is the arrogance, the “it’s them, not us” tone when Smith speaks of the faults of individuals, or when Gee boasts his school’s compliance department as a model by which others should follow.
If you’ve ever seen Eddie Murphy‘s stand-up “Raw”, then you know the joke. The wife catches the cheating husband walking out of his mistress’ house, and upon confronting him, the husband says calmly, “wasn’t me.”
“But I saw you coming out…”
Except this isn’t a joke. This is a real problem and Ohio State’s brass needs to address it as such. This is not to pin Ohio State’s NCAA woes solely on the institution. In fact, and this is merely my opinion, violations like the ones at Ohio State almost certainly occur at every school at every level of college athletics. It takes a booster to come up with the cash and an athlete controls his or her own ability to take it, or refuse it; compliance can only explain what someone can and cannot do.
Whatever Ohio State is explaining, though, clearly isn’t breaching the surface. The athletes have disobeyed, a coach has disobeyed and a booster has disobeyed. To say Ohio State’s compliance department didn’t do its job isn’t truly accurate, but it has failed across the board, and both Smith and Gee need relay the message as such.
If OSU’s compliance is as great as Gee says it is then I pity every other compliance department in college athletics because it sure as hell isn’t all puppies and rainbows right now.
Still, Gee would have us believe that he is Chip Diller of “Animal House”, and that all is well.
“I think we are blessed to have an extraordinarily talented athletic director who has proven his mettle through an extraordinarily tough time,” Gee said.
If he thinks we’re that dumb, then there truly is a joke in all of this.
And it’s on him.
(Tip of the cap: Columbus Dispatch)