Jim Tressel and the Wise Monkeys: When Players Try to Get Paid, Who Should Be Blamed?

[UPDATE No. 1: Bumped back to the top of the page with an announcement: we have asked D-Sing to become an author for the site, and this was his first of what we hope will become many weekly looks at today's major issues in college football.  Everybody welcome D-Sing to the Rock M masthead!!  Let us know if you want the official polo or the watch.]

[UPDATE No. 2: There is no polo or watch.]

My son turns four just after the first game of this coming season. Unless some weird recessive genes kick in, he probably won't be playing Division 1 FBS football when it's time for him to go to college. (And unless some other things about the game change, he won't be playing football at all. But that's another topic.)

If he does somehow manage to become a football star, though, my wife and I will have to be very careful in the vetting process. We'd want him to go someplace where he can be successful, a place where he'd enjoy the campus life (but not too much), a place where he can get a good education in a field he wants to study. And selfishly, it would need to be somewhere his mother and I would enjoy visiting a few time a year.

I'd want him to play for a good coaching staff. I want his position coach to be someone we really connect with and that he connects with as well; a coach that we'd trust our son with.

I'd want his head coach to be someone we could connect with as well; he should also be someone we would feel comfortable entrusting our son with.

Oh, and that coach should also be brilliant during game days and have a little of the three wise monkeys in him the rest of the week.

Yeah, the three wise monkeys. Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru. "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."

I mean, what program doesn't want a head coach that sees nothing going on that's wrong, hears no malfeasance and doesn't say a word about wrongdoing because, well, there's nothing wrong.

Isn't that how this is supposed to work? Aren't head coaches supposed to be kept out of the loop when players are driving fancy cars or showing up with a lot of tattoos when you know that said players isn't from a background that can afford new cars or (literally) thousands of dollars of tattoos.

I have one tattoo. It's not small, and it's on my right bicep. I live in a not that cheap part of the country, and my simple tattoo cost $100. Even allowing for things to be cheaper in Columbus, Ohio than they are in Las Vegas, there's no way that somebody on the Ohio State coaching staff shouldn't have caught on to the fact that their players—many of whom are from disadvantaged or highly disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds—suddenly had half or full sleeves of ink.

It's not like they were saving up refund checks from their scholarships.

Yes, Ohio State is an easy target because they are in the news right now. But look around at any of the FBS programs. Don't tell me that athletes aren't trading on their name recognition. Given the way that the system is setup for some of them now, it's the only thing that they have to use.

Does that make it right? No. Even if the rules that are in place are crappy, that doesn't mean you have the right to go around breaking them and flaunt the fact that you're breaking the rules.

But for a coach to act like the three wise monkeys, or even worse, act shocked that there is gambling going on in here, is even more worrisome to me. Does all of the detail work that goes into film study and game planning, the work of hiring a staff and working on recruiting, helping to gladhand alumni and do media appearances...does all of that detail work and micromanagement leave one blind to the fact that players are accepting graft from a variety of sources?

The question, I guess, is this: Who should ultimately be held responsible when players get in trouble for selling memorabilia and merchandise? Does it strictly depend on who is doing it? Or, if it's been going on for almost a decade and the coach(es) either actively or inactively turned a blind eye to what was going on, do people higher up the chain need to be held accountable?

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