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Ohio State Black Eye

Area sports luminaries Kopachy, Sebo, Scullion react to Buckeyes controversy

June 1, 2011
B.J. LISKO - Salem News Sports Editor (bjlisko@salemnews.net) , Salem News

When word of Jim Tressel's resignation began spreading on Memorial Day, even though many people suspected something like it might be coming, it was still a shock.

In the weeks leading up to Monday, report after report, article after article, column after column began appearing in practically every media outlet in the country.

According to multiple sources including The Columbus Dispatch and Sports Illustrated, Tressel was aware of infractions that he didn't report. Then later he lied about having any knowledge of it.

Now he's gone.

The seemingly endless details of players selling memorabilia and trading things for tattoos has been in almost every day's sports section since it was first rumored.

Word of Tressel's resignation spread faster than the potato salad at cookouts Monday. For Buckeye fans, this was huge.

It was almost as if Monday became "Where were you the day Tressel resigned?" Any true Ohio State fan would've remembered this announcement no matter what day it fell on, even though it appeared that the university rushed the Buckeyes coach out on a specific day that many feel Tressel would've never picked as the day to announce he was leaving.

The shock is still reverberating through the state, and Salem is no exception.

Salem head football coach Mike Kopachy said he was surprised in one regard.

"I thought he really would be able to persevere through this year," Kopachy said. "But when the media sets its eyes on something or is looking to put a chink in someone's armor, they're able to get what they want out of it. The heat just got too hot. He did the right thing in stepping down. He didn't want to keep being a distraction."

Kopachy said Ohio State's situation basically boils down to following the rules and the character of the people involved. He even cited an old quote that Tressel himself used in his book "The Winners Manual."

"Character is who you are when no one is watching," Kopachy said. "They've been told the rules, and a lot of them chose not to follow them. It could be a couple things - just disrespect, or it could be the money. You can tell a lot about the person if you choose to continue to break the rules."

But the question is why do players continue to do that at not only Ohio State but many other universities as well?

One theory is that it happens everywhere because of a fierce double standard between the NCAA, the schools and the student athletes themselves.

If the NCAA is big making money, and the school is making big money, why can't the players be making big money?

Kopachy said there's a lot of grey area in the situation, but doesn't see paying college players as a solution.

"You can't really pay them," he said. "The big money schools would be able to do it, but what would become of the MAC schools or the Tulsa or the Central Florida. Not everyone has that kind of budget. I don't know how to necessarily fix that situation, but I think in Ohio State's case they're not going to start giving out gold pants, and rings and memorabilia and those things until they've graduated."

From Kopachy's perspective, the players should be looking at it from an educational standpoint first.

"We get caught up in the sport part of it," he said. "These kids are getting something that's more valuable than quick cash, and that's a career and a degree. They're getting a free education, and that's what they should be focused on first."

Area philanthropist, Bowling Green University and Salem Quakers supporter Bob Sebo knows the NCAA rules, and if they're ever in question, he'll call the NCAA about it. He was saddened to see Tressel resign.

"Jim Tressel was more than a coach," he said. "He was a class person who cared for his players and did a lot to develop them to be better people. It's a shame that a man of his caliber would get taken down by a few young men that never got the message about doing the right thing."

Sebo has donated money and support to the Bowling Green program and knows how to do go about being a booster in the honest way.

He said anyone claiming to be a supporter makes sure to not cross the line.

"If you're a true supporter of a collegiate athletic program, you do what guys like I do," he said. "If there's anything questionable, every Division I school has a compliance department. In every instance I call them. You need to get those things checked out because if you don't you could end up in a public mess when you could've just made a phone call to a compliance officer."

Sebo said he's not totally sure about Tressel's guilt, and thinks it might be a case of the NCAA blowing things out of proportion.

"It's difficult - there's 120 young men to take account of," Sebo said. "Sometimes you're not exactly sure what each and every one of them are doing. Jim Tressel is a class act. I would almost bet that if there is a degree of guilt, it was certainly there because of his desire to try to do best for his players. I also have every reason to believe that it certainly was taken to a level of proportions where it is hard to believe. I would be surprised if he did intentionally do wrong. Because it's totally unlike the example that he sets."

Former Salem athletic standout and current Ohio State freshman Amy Scullion is seeing the reaction first hand at the university. Scullion also knows the ins and outs of the responsibilities of being a college athlete as a scholarship player on the Buckeyes women's basketball team.

"People here are depressed," she said. "I don't think people are blaming Tressel. There's a lot of anger towards the football players. All athletes know compliance rules, and they knew what they were doing was illegal."

Scullion said what makes college athletics special is players are supposed to still be playing for the love of the game. She reiterated Sebo's point about the compliance department at Ohio State for each athlete.

"Every athlete has their own compliance director," she said. "You can't accept anything a normal student wouldn't get. I personally feel that what's great about college athletics is that we don't get paid. But even that's not totally true. We go to school for free. Every athlete gets money for meals. If you're responsible with the money you get, you'll be fine."

Scullion said there's a big misconception currently regarding the school.

"It's frustrating for me that some players make it seem like Ohio State doesn't do enough for them," she said.

"Because I think Ohio State goes above and beyond."

E-mail B.J. Lisko at bjlisko@salemnews.net

 
 

 

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