Put the hammer down on Jim Tressel, and do it hard.
In the world of major college football, there are liars and there are cheaters. Tressel is the worst of both. His recent resignation is the easy way out, but it shouldn't be.
While his wrong-doing as head coach of The Ohio State University (OSU) football team is now public, his litany of violations started way before he ever set foot in Columbus.
According to a recent report by Sports Illustrated, Tressel's clean-cut image is about as fake as Snookie's tan.
During his tenure at Ohio's Youngstown State University, which began in 1988, Tressel claimed not to know that his star quarterback had been given a car and upwards of $10,000 from a school trustee. Court documents later revealed that the coach had actually arranged for the meeting between the two.
Tressel, a 52-year-old Ohio native, became a statewide sensation in Youngstown, where he led the football program to four national titles at the 1-AA level.
His track record at Ohio State also speaks for itself. Since taking over in 2002, he won a national title, maintained a near 83 percent winning percentage and, most importantly, went 9-1 against archrival Michigan.
Yet Tressel -- who projected a pristine image with his perfectly manicured sweater vest, his so-called "Christian values" and his book on ethics and leadership -- now departs the apex of coaching as the ultimate fraud.
The NCAA is often portrayed as the bad guy in these types of messes, and often times, rightfully so. But whether one believes that college athletes should be paid or not doesn't matter here, nor does the belief that they deserve extra benefits.
The beauty of the NCAA -- for all the hatred it receives -- is that it follows a very simple protocol: If a coach knows about a potential violation, he must report it. All of these years, from his days at Youngstown State to the glory of the Big Ten, Tressel never once did so. He knew rules were being broken, but repeatedly chose to look the other way.
The memorabilia-for-ink scandal in Columbus, where players gave signed gear to a local tattoo parlor for tats or cash, was just the latest example of Tressel encouraging illegal behavior.
Tressel said he first learned of the latest scandal in April 2010, despite the fact that it started in 2002. The public now knows that at least 28 players are known or alleged to have either traded or sold Buckeye memorabilia in violation of NCAA rules. Terrelle Pryor -- who was found to have been driving with a suspended drivers license in eight different cars -- is one of the biggest names to surface. But make no mistake: He wasn't alone.
For a con-artist like Tressel, the Maurice Clarett fiasco of 2003 was just another speed bump. Clarett said that Tressel arranged for him to use cars and get a summer "job." While the coach said he spent more time with his star running back than any other player, Tressel again claimed to know nothing of Clarett's wrongdoings.
The same goes with Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, who took $500 from a booster in 2004. Tressel lauded Smith for his moral values and the two were very close during Smith's time at OSU.
The real shame of this situation is that the current kids at Ohio State who actually played by the rules are likely to be penalized. While the NCAA has yet to lower the boom on this program, past examples such as the University of Miami, University of Washington and University of Southern California all hint towards severe punishment, and perhaps even the vaunted "death penalty" (see here: Southern Methodist University).
Committing infractions is one thing, but Tressel's latest violation is particularly flagrant for three reasons:
1). He failed to act when he found out about the tattoo scandal.
2). He signed a coach's standard saying he didn't know of such violations.
3). He wasn't forthcoming with school officials or the massive NCAA compliance office at OSU.
The truth of the matter is that the NCAA will never be able to stop coaches from looking the other way or from players taking money. It will never be able to fully legislate the nature of the beast it has built. College football has become a multi-billion dollar business where winning and winning now trumps all. Tressel just happened to get caught.
This is the sad reality of college sports.
Even though Tressel -- a radioactive force right now -- would likely bring his slew of penalties with him, it's realistic to assume that he will have a head coaching job again somewhere down the line. A school in need of a program boost will hire him because it thinks it can't compete for a major bowl game without him. So sparing three years for a top-tier recruiting class and later contending for national titles will be well worth it, in that university's opinion.
The bottom line however, is that Tressel -- still backed by 65 percent of Cleveland sports fans in a recent poll -- is both a cheat and a fraud. For years he used his squeaky clean image of Christian ethics and a sweater vest to trick everyone -- myself included -- into thinking that he was the choir boy of major college football.
No longer should we be subjected to such deceit and filth. Simply put, he should never be allowed to coach again.
Jim Tressel: Your time is up.