In more upsetting news from The Columbus Dispatch released Saturday, The Ohio State University Complaince Office is now investigating car sales at two different Columbus area dealerships through one man, Aaron Kniffin. More than 50 athletes and their relatives purchased vehicles from Kniffin at two car dealerships, and OSU is now looking into accusations of discounted vehicles further.
As a Buckeye, my first thought and reaction is, “My word! What next?”. As if we haven’t been through enough since December as a university, this news brings even more negative publicity to the athletics department. My second thought as a disgusted Buckeye is “This has GOT to stop!”
If you are going to try and tell me that OSU is some beacon of what’s wrong with college football and some kind of sludge factory compared to other programs, you’re not going to succeed, and I think that point of view is small-minded. The problem is Tressel made an enormous mistake and now any and everything else that may not have been 100% on the up and up is going to be scoured over with a fine tooth comb. Is that right or wrong? I don’t know. What I do know is that it goes on everywhere. That’s not me trying to play the blame game; that’s me spelling out the facts and saying that if Ohio State is going to get punished even further for these purchases, then we need to go investigate every single other car dealership within 25 miles of a major college university. Otherwise, you’re just water-boarding a university that can’t take much more of it at the moment.
My main problem is the NCAA process of reviewing and punishment is an utter sham. The whole institution is, really. If you cannot police these things when they happen, what does that say about you as a controlling body? Sure, you strip wins and bowl victories, but does that REALLY do much damage? The Ohio State Buckeyes’ basketball team went to the Final Four in 1999. Last time I checked, there wasn’t a banner indicating it hanging up in Value City Arena, but I know what I saw at age 10 with the likes of Michael Redd, Scoonie Penn, Ken Johnson, and the rest, and no Jim O’Brien screw up is going to change that.
The bottom line is I don’t want my school to be known as a place of corruption, excess greed, and backhanded deals. I want it to be known for the academic and athletic excellence as well as the great people that populate the campus. You’ll never ever hear me say I’m ashamed to be a Buckeye, but if you ask me how I feel right now, I’m disappointed in what the school has allowed to happen. That, more than anything, is what upsets me. Pardon me for the arrogance, but “THIS IS OHIO STATE, DANGIT!” We shouldn’t have to go to these low levels of doing business. And the same thing can be said for USC, Oregon, Auburn, Boise State, and the like. These are all fine, big time institutions, and if everyone sold their recruits on the universities and athletic programs, we wouldn’t have these problems, where kids are coming in, expecting car deals or discounted clothing or tattoos or money.
Back to the latest accusation, car sales are such a subjective thing, especially used car sales. I know from experience, because I’ve never bought a new car in my young life. The Dispatch said that nearly half of the cars were sold for under Kelly Blue Book or NADA value. Oh, you mean just like a good portion of the used cars across the nation to Joe Six-Pack are? Without looking at a car for scratches, bumps, interior quality, etc., you cannot say whether those athletes and their families got an unfair deal on a car. Even more difficult is trying to determine if the purchasers got a special deal that they would not get otherwise. Maybe if I went into that same car dealership and looked at the same car, maybe I would get the same deal? No one can know.
The trouble comes into play with the large volume of Buckeye-related people buying from one salesman at two different dealerships and Thaddeus Gibson’s $0 purchase of an automobile. I’m pretty sure that has bad news written all over it. Hopefully, it’s for the dealership, but OSU has not been so lucky of late. Even if there aren’t any violations, it certainly doesn’t LOOK good. Mistakes are made on vehicle titles, and I hope Gibson’s case is one of those. Obviously, who in their right mind puts the purchase price at $o? Gibson said he paid for the car and is still paying for it, and I hope that’s the truth.
Personally, I have some ethical questions about the Dispatch in this. It’s no secret that they’ve been busy lately doing their part in uncovering and revealing to the public the details of Ohio State’s violations, which is certainly fine. It’s good business for them after all, and they do have a job to do in reporting what they know about the Ohio State athletic programs. What I feel crosses the line is these investigative reports where they are trying to unearth things on their own which haven’t been brought to light by Ohio State themselves or the NCAA. Where is the line between reporting the news and creating the news? I don’t know the answer to that one either. I just don’t know if it casts the best light on them either.
For now, it’s the waiting game for Buckeye fans to see if these accusations bring further punishment to the program this summer and beyond.
Kirk Lammers grew up on the Marblehead Peninsula and is a graduate of THE Ohio State University. He now lives in Northeast Ohio, and you can find him at the ballpark, at the Q, or far too often on Twitter (@WFNYKirk)."