by | Senior Writer

Ohio State proves Big Ten not ethically superior to SEC


As of this moment all of my friends from the Big Ten are on notice. And you know who you are. You are the ones who call and write constantly about the (expletive) Southeastern Conference and claim with such confidence that the only reason the SEC has been so successful (five straight national championships and counting) is that its schools are ethically challenged and have their priorities misplaced.

You are the ones who talk about the Big Ten schools in hushed, reverent tones and use terms such as "greater academic mission." Your schools are not football factories like ours in the great, unwashed South. Your schools would never cut ethical corners like we do down here, where you believe our motto is: "If you ain't cheatin' you ain't trying." You look down your collective noses at us.

Give me a freaking break.

I don't want to hear any more lectures on ethics or morals or accountability from that part of the world -- not if Jim Tressel returns as Ohio State's football coach this season.

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If a Southern football coach did what Tressel did, which was to engage in an orchestrated coverup of potential NCAA violations, the calls for his firing would have been immediate and would have come from sea to shining sea, especially from the Big Ten. And they would be right.

The NCAA laid out the case in damning detail on Monday. It was there for everyone to read. Tressel had knowledge of potentially serious NCAA violations last December. He didn't pass the information on to the proper people at Ohio State and tried to manage it himself. He signed an official NCAA document -- a certification-of-compliance form -- that said he had no knowledge of rules violations. You can sugarcoat and rationalize it all you want my friends. But in the real world where we have to live that is lying to the NCAA.

Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant was shut down for most of a season by the NCAA for being less than truthful about his relationship with Deion Sanders. And aren't we supposed to be holding the adults to a higher standard?

Let me tell you how this is going to play out because we saw it up close and personal with the Tennessee basketball case and Bruce Pearl. Tennessee thought it had exercised some damage control last September when it took Pearl off the road for recruiting and docked his pay $1.5 million over five years. SEC commissioner Mike Slive suspended Pearl for Tennessee's first eight conference games of the 2010-11 season. But every time Tennessee played on television, which was most of the time, that laundry list of violations was slapped up on the screen for the whole world to see. And when Pearl returned to the bench after his suspension, the pressure was turned up even greater. Instead of dealing with the problem on the front end, Tennessee ultimately had to fire Pearl in an effort to minimize the upcoming damage from the NCAA. It had no choice. The story was never going to go away.

The same will be true here. Now that the NCAA has released the laundry list of charges and has pointed the finger squarely at Tressel, nobody outside of Columbus, Ohio, is going to be talking about Ohio State football in 2011. There is no need to be talking about who is going to play left tackle or who is going to replace Terrelle Pryor at quarterback in the first five games where he, too, will sit for his status as a member of the Tat Five. As every week passes the pressure will get turned up and the institutional integrity of THE Ohio State University will be brought into question. And it will only get worse if Tressel does return to the field after his five-game suspension.

Here is what's not going to happen. Athletic director Gene Smith and President E. Gordon Gee are not going to have another press conference. Good Lord, the last one was bad enough when Gee allowed the words "I'm just hoping that the coach doesn't dismiss me" to come out of his mouth. They are not going to fire Jim Tressel.

Tressel has a decision to make. He can ride out the storm and return after his five-game suspension. Then he can ride out the next storm -- which will be bigger -- and try to get to the end of the season. He is powerful enough to do both things. But it won't be pretty and there will be significant damage to the university he says he loves so dearly. Or he could take an honest look at the landscape and do the honorable thing and resign. It's a tough call but it's the right call.

Until that day comes, I don't want to hear anything else about the ethical superiority of The Big Ten. As we say in the South: Bubba, that ship has sailed.

Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.

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