So Ohio State self imposed a penalty that required the football team to vacate all the wins they amassed during the 2010 season, including the Sugar Bowl. They must also forfeit their share of the 2010 Big Ten championship, and go on two years probation. Yet this still isn't enough in the court of public opinion, where even some Buckeye fans believe the university is trying to pull one over on the NCAA.
This is a big deal. In fact, this might be the most talked about scandal in collegiate sports ever, bigger than the SMU ordeal, and certainly of a greater magnitude than the point shaving scandal in collegiate basketball.
The question then becomes, why does the penalty Ohio State receive for their transgressions matter so much to the general public? The answer is simple: arrogance and success.
Disclaimer: Buckeye fans(especially those sympathetic to Jim Tressel's plight), you might want to skip this next section, because I am going to be painfully blunt. I will, however, for your benefit, italicize this section so you know what not to read.
Ohio State has to be one of the more arrogant programs in the country. It all started with former head coach Jim Tressel. The man that Buckeye nation lovingly referred to as 'The Vest' has a dark side, and it is ugly. Problem is, he did a very good job of hiding it. As a matter of fact, his no-nonsense press conferences, behind the scenes work for charity, and undying love for all things scarlet and gray only furthered the perception in Columbus, Ohio that he was an all-around good guy. I must confess, that I, myself, was swept up in this glorification of Tressel, to the point I had defended him ad nauseum. Looking back, I can't say that Tressel's defiance extended all the way back to 2003, as Sports Illustrated claims. I do believe, however, that during the last two seasons of his career that winning took precedence over everything else.
But make no mistake, Jim Tressel did not just make 'an error in judgment' when he failed to report major violations to the NCAA in April of 2010. He intentionally lied to them on not one, but on four separate occasions because he wanted to win ball games. Apologists can argue all day that he was 'protecting the confidentiality of the correspondence', but, at the end of the day, if you believe something to be that sensitive in nature, you don't forward it to anyone, even if that someone does happen to be a close confidant of your star quarterback.
Ohio State's arrogance did not end there, however. Former and current OSU players, including but not limited to Terrelle Pryor and Ray Small, also exhibited a sense of entitlement as well. Small pretty much admitted they knew what the rules were, but they didn't care.
Then there is the arrogance of the OSU administration. That they threw Jim Tressel under the bus is not surprising nor, given what we currently know of the situation, wrong(I am assuming that the NCAA only has evidence on the players involved in the tattoo parlor scandal, and they also have nothing to suggest university officials had prior knowledge of said scandal). Yet Gee and Smith mishandled Tressel's dismissal from the university is a testament to their arrogance also. Gee's arrogance, when he foolishly stated 'I hope coach Tressel doesn't fire me' is nothing new, as he put his foot in his mouth in 2010 when he arrogantly stated TCU couldn't compete in the Big Ten. TCU would not only finish the season undefeated(with a tougher strength of schedule than OSU, btw) but it also defeated Big Ten co-champion Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
Smith's arrogance is a little harder to decipher, but it is still there. When the news initially broke that Tressel had committed major violations, Smith publicly came to the support of Tressel, along with Gee. But, as public support for Tressel began to dwindle, Smith, like Gee, would withdraw his support for the embattled coach. Several weeks before they called for Tressel's resignation, Smith would admonish the coach for not seeming contrite enough about the whole situation. Most recently, Smith laid all the blame for OSU's trouble on the former head coach. Even if that is true, Smith was Tressel's boss, and you would think that he would accept at least a little responsiblity for his employee's actions.
It is this arrogance that has many fans and members of the media across the nation calling for the NCAA to bring the hammer down on the Buckeyes. Of course, if you ask them why they believe Ohio State should be forced to give up scholarships, be banned from postseason play, etc., they will tell you that the program lacked institutional control. Nevermind that, as of right now, there is no concrete evidence to support a charge(There is an ongoing investigation that several current and former athletes received preferential treatment when purchasing cars, and that OSU compliance officials knew about such malfeasance but ignored it. To date none of the allegations have been proven true, and several current players have been cleared of any wrongdoing). Which brings us back to the point that almost everyone hates how arrogant OSU is acting about this whole thing.
Then there is the success factor to consider. It doesn't matter what level it is, people love to see a sports dynasty fall. Especially if the team that is part of that dynasty is not their own. During the past 10 seasons Ohio State has won one national title, seven Big Ten Titles, and five BCS bowl games. It's not hard to see why other teams, especially rival schools such as Michigan and USC, would love to see the Buckeyes get hit hard by the NCAA. Not to mention fans of these same schools, as well as media members who grow tired of seeing OSU in the top 5 teams in the nation on an annual basis.
At the end of the day, OSU fans shouldn't lose any sleep over what punishment the NCAA might hand out. So the NCAA hands out a two year postseason ban and the loss of a few scholarships(not a given, though). It is still a safe bet that OSU will be among the top teams in the Leaders Division of the new Big Ten, and, should the Buckeyes perform well this season, recruiting probably won't be hit as hard as everyone projects. To be honest, fans of OSU today are a little spoiled. They think that anything less than a 10 win season is a failure. Well, I don't know about you, but I'd take a 9-3(or even 8-4) record accomplished the right way over a 10-2 or 11-1 season that is tainted any day.