A year ago at this time, Tennessee fans were growing weary of watching ESPN’s coverage of their basketball team. That’s because every broadcast turned into a rehash of the Bruce Pearl situation — his NCAA violations, the timeline of events, UT’s decision to stand by him.
Eventually, the Tennessee administration saw the writing on the wall, ousted Pearl and told the NCAA, “He did it!”
So when the Ohio State/Jim Tressel scandal broke last spring, many Vol fans took to the comment boxes on this site to ask, “Why aren’t ESPN and the NCAA giving OSU as hard a time as they gave our Vols?”
“Why isn’t Tressel out of a job?”
Our answer at the time? Be patient.
Indeed, the Tressel/Buckeye blow-up was ESPN’s go-to story all offseason. Like Tennessee, Ohio State eventually nuked Tressel and said, “He did it!”
But that was OSU’s battle with the media. Today the NCAA got their pound of flesh.
In all NCAA cases, the school getting smacked always believes it’s being unjustly penalized. And everyone else believes that school is getting a hand slap from a velvet glove.
Tennessee fans should not be making any such claims about Ohio State today. Here’s why:
* The NCAA handed Pearl a three-year “show cause” penalty.
The NCAA handed Tressel a five-year “show cause” penalty.
* The NCAA did not give the Tennessee program a postseason ban.
The NCAA did give Ohio State a one-year bowl ban for next season (in spite of OSU AD Gene Smith publicly stating that he would be shocked and angered by such a ban).
* The NCAA did accept Tennessee’s self-imposed sanctions.
The NCAA did not accept Ohio State’s self-imposed sanctions and instead chose to nearly double their lost scholarships (from five to nine over a three-year period) and to increase their probationary period from two years to three.
Today’s ruling shows us two things. First, that the NCAA isn’t afraid to smack around a big-time program. Sure, many national columnists will claim otherwise in the hours and days ahead because they know what kind of red meat their readers are hungry for… and can you ever remember a columnist not calling for someone to get rougher penalties and punishments? (We are the Puritans of our age.) But in reality, the oft-repeated idea of the NCAA looking out for big schools has been a myth for 20 years. Alabama fans know what I’m talking about. Ditto Southern Cal fans. The NCAA is no longer going to hit Cleveland State with probation if Kentucky cheats, as Jerry Tarkanian once joked.
Second, the NCAA has shown again — as it did in Pearl’s case — that it has begun to go after coaches who cheat and lie with as much or more ferocity than it does the schools that employ those coaches. Not even national the columnists desperate for pageviews can say the NCAA didn’t hit Pearl and Tressel with plenty of gusto. Perhaps after decades of watching schools cheat, get caught and then cheat again, the NCAA has realized that the coaches — especially those who lie and cover-up — are the ones to spank. If there’s a fear of unemployment, that might just change a coach’s ways.
All spring and summer we knew and we wrote that Ohio State and Tressel would get theirs. Today they did. And they got it a lot worse than Tennessee did, despite the fact that many Big Orange faithful had expected just the opposite.