In the wake of Jim Tressel's resignation amid numerous allegations against the Ohio State football program, it should come as no surprise that fans and bloviators alike are asking how to eradicate the scourge of college athletes accepting impermissible benefits. Let's take a closer look at two such ideas.
Try not to get splashed by all the pissing in the wind.
1) Build More Jails
We'll start with His Holiness.
Never one to pass up a chance to get all self-righteous, ex-Florida coach Urban Meyer put out a textbook "get tough on crime" sound bite. Per the newest addition to the ESPN broadcasting booth, the solution is to pump up the penalties for violators – both coaches and players.
This may play well with the elderly in Meyer's congregation, but how is it going to stop players from getting hooked up?
Consider Tatgate. If you're a decorated Buckeye with your eyes on the NFL, would stiffer sanctions really deter you? Say you get caught peddling your Big Ten championship ring, triggering an automatic one-year suspension. You drop out of school and start prepping for the draft – worked out pretty well for Robert Quinn.
Where does that leave the coach? He can't stop his guys from selling their stuff. He's facing stiffer penalties for offenses that he still can't control. How does that curtail impermissible benefits?
2) The Texas Way
Meanwhile, on burnt-orange blog Recruitocosm, an unknown soldier who walked on at Texas in the early 2000s offered up a little insight as to how real men do compliance, taking readers behind the curtain of institutional control in Austin. The implication: Since Mack Brown was hired, the Longhorns haven't had any scandals on the order of Rhett Bomar's no-show job or OSU's free tattoos, so Texas' compliance program must be pretty friggin' awesome. Ergo, everyone else should take notes.
The author details Texas players wading through oceans of paperwork related to cars, housing and jobs. Mack and the UT compliance staff also issue plenty of stern warnings. And, apparently, getting a parking ticket is a really big deal there.
For argument's sake, let's say what the author is describing is the most rigorous compliance program in major college football. How is all that red tape going to stop kids from taking free stuff or trading memorabilia for tattoos and cash?
I guess schools could mandate daily body checks for new ink or random searches to make sure everyone still has his gold pants. But then what happens when the next Cam Newton sells his futon to the next Bobby Lowder for $10,000? How about when a stack of cash shows up in the next Rhett Bomar's mailbox?
You can throw all the forms you want at athletes. You can bump up penalties to a point that would make Stalin proud. You can force coaches to get as involved in their players' lives as is humanly possible.
None of that changes the fact that you're asking a bunch of college kids to do something that history has proven to be antithetical to the human condition.
Jim Tressel, his players and Ohio State don't deserve any absolution. They violated the terms they agreed to play by. Whether or not you believe the rules are bogus, the people involved do deserve the punishment they will receive from the NCAA.
But the reality is that asking players to honor a commitment to play by the NCAA's rules is all programs really have to lean on. Everything else is window dressing.
Best of luck.