Imagine with me for a moment a hypothetical situation.
Imagine a college coach who has had immense success.
Numerous leagues titles.
Preseason No. 1 teams.
So successful, he's been to countless national championships and even came home with some titles to boot.
When recruits list their top schools, that school almost is always in their top five choices.
Imagine how that coach has written books about his championship teams and his success: a winner's manual, if you will, on life and coaching.
The coach is clearly considered an expert in their profession.
Then, out of the blue, this coach is found to have covered up some improprieties by some of the players.
The coach lies to the school and the NCAA about it and subsequently resigns as a result.
And now imagine that person is Mike Krzyzewski.
Or Pat Summit.
Or Joe Paterno.
Hard to imagine isn't it?
Not so long ago, Jim Tressel had that same image.
Do I think Jim Tressel is a good guy? Yes.
Do I think he meant all the words in his books? Yes.
Do I think he made some really poor decisions due to a desire to win another national championship? Absolutely.
And now he's unemployed because of it.
In his book "The Winner's Manual: For the Game of Life," Tressel wrote that discipline is what you do when no one else is looking.
He clearly broke that rule of his (along with NCAA ones about reporting rule violations) and paid the consequences with his career: one of the top five jobs in college football.
Who hasn't been in that boat? Who hasn't made decisions that cost them dearly later?
When I first married in 1998, I made vows on an altar that I would spend the rest of my life with the woman across from me. I didn't hold to those vows and I've subsequently paid the consequences with a divorce, broken relationships and a son who lives four states away.
Like a marriage, when you don't monitor the problems in your program, things fall apart.
I posted the Sports Illustrated story to my Facebook page Monday night for a variety of reasons, the least of which was Tressel getting fired. It was more because the story was very thorough, detailing far more allegations than originally reported, and showed a side of college athletics that comes up every so often and we're quick to sweep it back under the rug: player benefits and how we, as a society, have only aided this problem.
One of my best friends argued he didn't see anything wrong with what the players did.
"I get that it's the rules, but come on," he replied to my post. "So a kid traded a practice jersey or old pair of cleats for a tattoo. I think it's crazy. Sure, if the kids accepted cash because of their status with the team, that's one thing. Think of what college kids do to put gas in their car or scrounge up some coin for a date night."
But most of those college kids aren't on a full ride to pay for college. I despise this "woe is me" attitude that every college football or basketball athlete is poor and underprivileged. Are some of them? Absolutely. But are all? No.
What my friend doesn't realize is that person doesn't have those cleats or a jersey without being a player. They don't have the special treatment without being a player. When I read the SI article, half the additional players mentioned as also allegedly having received improper benefits aren't starters or significant contributors yet.
We as a society put these athletes on a pedestal. We in the media are guilty of it as well. We tell them how great they are. We've created this sense of entitlement. Twenty years ago, you didn't have press conferences announcing where you were going to college. Now, seemingly every three-star prospect is holding a press conference in his high school gym to announce which college he's going to attend.
I think back to everyone's favorite Ohio State freshman: Maurice Clarett, who was upset when Ohio State wouldn't pay for his plane ticket home before the national championship game so he could pay his respects to a friend who had died. An understandable cause, but a rule is a rule. But you also got the sense Clarett felt he deserved that plane ticket because of who he was.
Fast forward to a current star: Terrelle Pryor, who may very well have played his last down as a Buckeye. In the SI story, a former employee of Fine Line Ink, where the six suspended players are accused of using their status and goods to get discounted or free services, said he once asked Pryor how he was able to get so much gear from the equipment room.
"I get whatever I want," Pryor allegedly said to him, according to the story.
How many other athletes are driving around that sense of entitlement?
This isn't just an Ohio State problem. It's a national problem, and one that throwing money at won't make go away.
I've heard the argument of how colleges are making money off the players. I hate to tell you: Most employers are making money off their employees. If they're not, they're not likely in business any more.
It's simple: income in, product or service out.
Athletics are entertainment at their core. Sure, ample life lessons are learned along the way, but for the most part, people tune into college football and basketball for entertainment. They want to take a vested interest in their team. They want to see dazzling plays. Fans want to be entertained.
The payment for that entertainment by the entertainers: free college.
Just four percent of Division I college football players go on to play professionally, and in basketball, it's less than one percent. And when those athletes leave, they won't have what most of us had when we left college: student loans.
The argument to pay athletes has as many holes in it as Pryor's list of cars. One, courtesy of Title IX, is it would require payments to all athletes of all sports, not just revenue-generating sports such as men's basketball and football. In sports that don't fall into that category, such as softball, track, soccer and wrestling, most kids don't get a full ride like the big boys. It's a product of their budget. My cousin is a member of Eastern Michigan University's crew team. She'll be a senior this fall and despite being on the team for three years, this will be the first year she might get a full athletic scholarship.
So where do you get the money to pay your athletes some kind of stipend? Raise ticket prices? At Ohio State, football tickets already run around $72 a game. How about cut some sports? Ohio State has 36 varsity sports to pick from. That's a lot of money to dole out. Maybe increase advertisements in the venues? You could have the Preparation H end zone and Advil goal posts and the Pepsi 50 yard line.
And even if you do give athletes, say, $1,000 a year, do you think the problem goes away? Do you think a kid turns down the chance to drive around campus in a sweet car or get a free tattoo for piece of jewelry that means nothing to them right now just because they get a little spending money?
The truth is we give our football and basketball athletes enough: adulation, special treatment and a free ride through college.
And we give the coaches who have to coach - and in some cases, police them - plenty, too. In the case of Tressel, he was given $3.5 million to coach football, raise men and, when needed, play chief of police.
That's why Tressel was getting paid the big bucks.
And because he couldn't control his big Bucks when they got out of line, or be the disciplinarian and report it when they did, he lost his job.
The solution isn't paying athletes.
It's paying attention.