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Ohio State doesn't much give a damn about your outrage

by | CBSSports.com Columnist

With so much shock and consternation over Ohio State's painfully orchestrated admission that head coach Jim Tressel told a few fibs about when he knew what he knew about TattooGate, it may be time for a reminder of the first fact of life in college sports.

You can't shame these people. Ever.

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Scream all you want. Screech "Hypocrite!" and "J'accuse!" until you're purple in the mouth. Bemoan the double standards so liberally applied with the largest audience you can gather.

It makes no never mind to them. They are not here to amuse your sense of righteous indignation, and are laughing uproariously at your moment of triumphant scorn, because they win anyway.

They always win. They always have, and they always will, as long as they have enough money to cover everything they ever wanted.

You know, like Ohio State.

The show Tressel and school president Gordon Gee put on was transparently preposterous, and they knew it would be. The Yahoo cops had them, and they knew somebody could get them eventually.

But they didn't care because they didn't have to. They're making payroll, and they made it big last year. They'll make it big next year. They'll make it big every year, because in Ohio, TOSU means more than nearly anything else. The Horseshoe will be filled because it is a sacred rite in that state, and the money will pour in because it never doesn't.

All that happened Tuesday was that the school lost a bit of its smug. They'll get that back in no time, the same way that every other school caught, and every school about to be caught, does.

It's because college sports runs on two things: Money, and the right to say to your neighbor wearing the different color sweater, "See? Your guys are cheaters too."

This, you know. But maybe you don't, because outrage is free, and it flowed copiously Tuesday. Tressel, who sprang from the womb swaddled in rectitude, was made to look foolish, but wasn't made to look poorer, or unemployed, or even uncomfortable. His employer was standing next to him defending him with the fervor of Spencer Tracy defending Dick York in Inherit The Wind.

Tressel was home free, kids, and no amount of finger-pointing could change that.

Which gives us today's civics lesson, namely, How To Beat The Rap When You've Been Caught Red-handed.

Method One is to deny everything, even when the prosecutor is holding your bowling bag with the severed head still inside. Say it when they show the tape of you using the band saw. Say it when you give the news interview singing, "I cut his head off! I cut his head off!"

Method Two is the one Ohio State chose, which is, "So what's your point?"

This fact is not intended to denigrate the work of Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel at Yahoo! They did the dig, they got the ore, and they showed it to us all. Victory is theirs.

But when presented with the nugget that essentially undermines everything the school says it stands for, Tressel said, "I don't think less of myself at this moment."

Why should he? He's bank, and he knows it.

And Gee, the man who once disbanded Vanderbilt's athletic department because it wasn't in keeping with what the role of athletics should be at a university, said when asked if he ever thought about firing Tressel, "No, are you kidding me? Let me be very clear. I'm just hoping the coach doesn't dismiss me."

E. Gordon Gee knows better than to mess with the golden goose that is football at Ohio State. (AP)  
E. Gordon Gee knows better than to mess with the golden goose that is football at Ohio State. (AP)  
And that's the power of the truth when confronted by the truth about power. Ohio State no longer cares that you realize that it's just another amoral jock foundry. Hell, it's a wonder Gee didn't just raise his middle finger at the audience and say, "Here you go. Fire this."

He did metaphorically, of course, and so did Tressel, and athletic director Gene Smith just sort of sat there like a noddy dog on the back of a window. I mean, what was he going to say, "I disagree entirely with the statements of the two people who could vaporize me with a glance?"

Should Tressel have been fired? We'll leave that for others, since it's a pointless argument given the punishment he did get -- two days off with pay, and he doesn't have to watch Akron or Toledo. Yes it does seem hilarious that he got 40 percent of the punishment for hiding a secret for four months as his players did for playing Tats In Trade, but what else is money for but to have a bus at the ready beneath which to hurl others?

We just want to let you all know that Ohio State doesn't much give a damn about your outrage, which puts it on an even plane with every other university that turns a profit every year. They don't care, either. They have neutralized scorn with the only effective rejoinder to that scorn.

"Yeah, you're right, and we're not going to do anything meaningful about it, so bite me."

Frankly, it looks like a hell of a T-shirt -- I'm thinking in red and gray, and all sizes from infant to dirigible. The school will make millions, I tell you. Millions.

And in doing so, fulfill its true mission as an educational institution -- to keep the kids in Accounts Receivable working hard every day.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com


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