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College football’s Corruption Bowl

Jim Tressel’s tenure Ohio State was tainted by scandals involving Terrelle Pryor (pictured) Troy Smith Maurice Clarett. | AP

Jim Tressel’s tenure at Ohio State was tainted by scandals involving Terrelle Pryor (pictured), Troy Smith and Maurice Clarett. | AP

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Updated: September 22, 2011 12:32AM



I got my Heisman Journal in the mail not long ago.

I always look forward to receiving the annual magazine-sized ode to the trophy and the best college football player in the land. I’ve been a Heisman voter for years, and I’ve got a stack of the journals lined up on my office book shelf, like comforting poetry.

So I started thumbing through the glossy 105-page journal, stopping casually to read about Jay Berwanger (1935), the first Heisman winner, and Clint Frank (1937), the founder of a huge advertising agency, and Johnny Lujack (1947), the former Bear, and Pete Dawkins (1958), the Army football captain, Rhodes scholar, brigadier general, U.S. senator, hedge-fund gazillionaire and polio victim.

I moved on to Ernie Davis (1961), the first African American to win, and Jim Plunkett (1970), a quarterback from whom I once intercepted a pass, and ferocious Earl Campbell (1977) and Vincent ‘‘Bo’’ Jackson (1985), who ran a 6.18 60-yard sprint for the Auburn track team, and Charlie Ward (1993), a good NBA player, and Ricky Williams (1998), a good marijuana smoker, and Tim Tebow (2007), a good runner, right up to current honoree Cam Newton (2010).

Each player left me with poignant memories or reflections.

But something seemed missing.

Where was the 2005 winner?

Interesting. The journal went from Matt Leinart (2004) to Troy Smith (2006), from one page to the next. Very crafty. You barely noticed the absence.

I pulled out my 2005 journal.

There was a multipage spread on 2005 winner Reggie Bush, USC running back, political-science major, nickname ‘‘The President.’’

The nickname, said the article, ‘‘has something to do with the last name of the current occupant of the White House. In fact, when the 2004 national championship USC squad visited the White House, last season’s Heisman finalist took a bit of good-natured kidding from President Bush, more or less one president to another.’’

Right.

And now Reggie Bush has been disappeared from the Heisman archives, as if he never won the big door-stopper.

Moreover, that aforementioned 2004 championship team has likewise been disappeared, relieved of its title by the Bowl Championship Series, for cheating.

Cheating, competing

In fact, that’s about all USC does is cheat. Remember recent basketball coach Tim Floyd and O.J. Mayo, etc.? Remember, aw, there’s too much.

Cheating is why a lot of the best NCAA teams win. Then, after they’re caught, they’re hand-slapped, they wring their hands in moral anguish, and they start cheating again.

But when crowns and championships have to be given back? That poses a problem that even the dumbest, least ethical couch-potato fan has to deal with.

No, Lardo, your team didn’t actually beat anybody at all. Because it cheated.

I know Michigan fans are going wild with joy over the exposure and punishment of the deep corruption in the Ohio State football program and the sacrificing of Jim Tressel and his embarrassingly virtuous red vest on the altar of sin.

But the Wolverines, who lost every game Tressel ever coached against them, have nothing to gloat about. That is, unless they’re proud of the school-backed Rich Rodriguez corruption and numerous NCAA violations going all the way back to the ‘‘Fab Five.’’ Which, by the way, was a corrupt bunch with a corrupt coach, with officially disappeared titles.

So it just goes on and on in this ‘‘arms race’’ (NCAA’s own words) that no one can stop.

Try this: ‘‘[X] has accused football coach Jim Tressel of setting him up with cars, said boosters provided him with no-show jobs and that Ohio State professors gave breaks to football players.’’

Is that recent stuff from Ray Small, Terrelle Pryor?

Nope, that’s from a news report in 2004. The accuser? Despised former Buckeyes star running back Maurice Clarett, who helped Tressel and the Buckeye Nation win the 2002 national championship.

Now you think the kid was telling the truth?

Do you remember that Ohio State Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith (he wasn’t disappeared!) was suspended from the 2004 Alamo Bowl for accepting benefits from boosters?

Remember the one-year post-season ban on OSU’s men’s basketball team and corruption under coach Jim O’Brien? Did I mention that?

Hypocrisy rules

Look, one of these days I’ll regale you with college corruption tales from the 1970s and 1980s, and you’ll think this stuff is light pastry.

It’s just that it will never end until the hypocrisy of calling players amateurs ends.

We may have to write record books in disappearing ink. We’ll hand out trophies attached to rubber bands.

How much of it can you take, folks?

At Ohio State, they apparently can take it forever.

Clown-faced university president Gordon Gee, who forever will be remembered as the bow-tied guy who hoped Tressel ‘‘doesn’t fire me ,’’ seems mainly interested in getting a new coach for the juggernaut. (I have always wondered: Does that tie squirt water?)

Notre Dame?

Don’t laugh.

Remember Declan Sullivan? Remember how your coach stiffed those trusting kids at Cincinnati, how you fired Charlie Weis and Ty Willingham and paid them millions and millions to slip away?

Let’s let OSU alum and blowhard Bob Knight, who still defends the fired Tressel, have the last word:

‘‘I understand what’s happened, and there was a rule that was violated. But it was an idiotic rule.’’

Hey, Knight, in an idiot’s world, all rules are idiotic.



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