There is no gloating to be done by Ohio State fans today. Alabama might be in trouble for having players involved with a memorabilia scandal and now the University of Miami potentially in big trouble with a rogue Ponzi scheming booster, but these two situations – and any others that might arise – don’t absolve anyone or anything at Ohio State. Sure, it might add some perspective to the things Ohio State and its players were involved with, but it will hopefully be good for everyone in the end. Ohio State fans (this one included) largely sounded like babies when they said, “Oh come on! You know everyone is doing exactly the same stuff. The NCAA is a broken system.” That’s the pain of being the first domino to fall.
Some will want to point at everyone else and say how much worse someone else’s violations were, but that ignores the larger point. The NCAA has a system where the goals and benefits are so apparently misaligned that rule-breaking has become the norm, not the exception. You can blame the players. You can blame the boosters. You can blame the NCAA and the schools. At the end of it all, if this many big programs can’t figure out how to create an environment where players aren’t doing the wrong things, then it is the whole system.
Many Ohio State fans were trying to say that very thing when tattoo-gate broke and as Jim Tressel was holding press conferences and ultimately stepping down. I am sure some Alabama fans and Miami fans were thinking it was a cop out for Ohio State fans to point the finger at the system only when they were under the spotlight.
Come to think of it, I bet Ohio State fans said the same thing about USC fans when they were going through the Reggie Bush / Heisman affair. I know I was. I was trying to delineate between recruiting violations and violations of players seeking out extra benefits after signing with a program. While I still think there is a difference between the violations, I am ready to admit that trying to pretend like this isn’t all indicative of problems in the same overall ecosystem is problematic.
I don’t have any solutions. There are many people who claim to have them. Mark Cuban has proposed alternatives to the BCS, so I know there are people with far more resources who have already spent far more time thinking about it than I have. I guess I just hope that as more and more programs are “exposed” we end up with some perspective on the realities of college sports and admit the truth about what is going on. The only way to come to some kind of solution or conclusion is to first admit there is a pervasive problem as opposed to isolated incidents.