What The Jim Tressel Allegations Say About The NCAA And The Reporters That Cover It

NEW ORLEANS LA - JANUARY 04: Head coach Jim Tressel of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on before the Allstate Sugar Bowl against the Arkansas Razorbacks at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4 2011 in New Orleans Louisiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

New reports in the Ohio State scandal indicate that Jim Tressel may have known about NCAA rules violations long before the NCAA did. But why is Yahoo! Sports breaking this story, and not the NCAA? And what does that say about both organizations?

Ohio State football currently finds itself in a storm of controversy surrounding Terrelle Pryor, Jim Tressel, and illegal benefits that could end with Tressel's contract being voided, Ohio State's Big Ten title vacated, and the football program facing stiff penalties from the NCAA.

But if not for a couple of reporters at Yahoo! Sports, there's a decent chance that none of this would have ever come to light. It begs the question: What does the NCAA even do at this point?

In case you've forgotten, investigators from the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis descended on Columbus to grill Tressel on the Ohio State infractions back in December, ultimately finding that five players had consciously broken the rules and sold memorabilia to a local businessman. Then, presumably because Ohio State was already slated to play in a BCS bowl game, the NCAA decided to let those players play in the Sugar Bowl, with punishments taking effect the following season.

It was a bizarre decision, but at least it was consistent with the NCAA's longstanding hypocrisy. See, the NCAA cares deeply about policing improper benefits for student-athletes--just not when it might directly affect the benefits those athletes earn for the NCAA.

But now that Yahoo! Sports has uncovered evidence that Tressel knew about the infractions long before the NCAA found out (and played his players anyway), it's not just the NCAA's integrity that looks like a joke. At this point, their competence is its own punchline.

Like, the NCAA has a lot of strict rules, but, if it wasn't for the dogged reporting of a couple guys at Yahoo! and ESPN, would any of them be enforced? Would college football scandals even exist? The NCAA looked long and hard at Ohio State back in December as investigators descended on Columbus, but not until Yahoo! Sports did any due diligence did the real infractions come to light.

Think about it. The Cam Newton scandal was ignored by SEC officials until ESPN blew the lid off everything. With Turkish star Enes Kanter, Kentucky basketball would probably have a top five team right now if not for Pete Thamel's reporting at the New York Times. The massively corrupt North Carolina football program went completely undetected until Yahoo! Sports broke that story, too. It's not just this year, though.

Remember the Reggie Bush scandal at USC? All began with Yahoo! Sports. And looking at the big picture, it really makes you wonder. Is the NCAA just outsourcing its enforcement department to places like Yahoo!, ESPN, and the New York Times? If not, shouldn't they be pretty embarrassed by all this?

It seems a proud day for the reporting team at Yahoo! Sports, with someone like Dan Wetzel taking center stage as the whistle blower, but it's also a little sad. Back when the NCAA took Reggie Bush's Heisman Trophy, I noted the irony of Wetzel's role in everything.

How he could laugh off Bill Walton's admission of cheating under John Wooden at UCLA, ("Everything is a shade of gray. Everything is situational ethics") while crying for justice against USC ("any bit of situational justice would be a slap in the face of fair play and another in the NCAA's long history of double-standard enforcement"). But that's the problem with being an NCAA reporter in the first place.

The media are forced to choose between embracing the players and teams that make the games so great, or exposing them for breaking rules that make no sense. It's always been a thankless job, but lately, it seems even more pathetic. When the NCAA's not too greedy to suspend players that break their rules, looking at what happened with Ohio State, it seems like the investigators are too lazy to even police people properly.

In other words, it's not just that reporters have to cosign an organization steeped in hypocrisy, but these days, they're the only ones around to compensate for that organization's massive incompetence. And with Ohio State in the NCAA's crosshairs thanks almost entirely to Yahoo! Sports, the only thing funnier than the NCAA's ongoing hypocrisy is how bad they are at doing their jobs. You know, unless you think it's hilarious that a bunch of outstanding reporters are pretending that corruption in Columbus is somehow a bigger story than the corruption in Indianapolis.

But on that one, it seems like a lot of people still don't get the joke.

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