Intercollegiate athletics has long been closer to semipro than amateur, but in light of recent developments, it’s time to remove the “semi.”
Example No. 1: Last December, the NCA announced that Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four of his teammates would be suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for accepting improper benefits and selling team memorabilia.
It wasn’t until January that we learned that Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel had known about these violations at the time they happened. His excuse that he didn’t want to hinder the investigation is one of the lamest of all time.
This should have been a fireable offense, but Ohio State fined Tressel $250,000 — seven percent of his $3.5 million annual salary — and suspended him for the first two games, against “powerhouses” Toledo and Akron. Asked if he’d considered firing Tressel, university president Gordon Gee laughed and said, “Are you kidding? ... I just hope he doesn’t dismiss me.”
Tells you all you want to know about Ohio State’s priorities.
(Meanwhile, closer to home, both the NCAA and Pac-10 are investigating a tie between Oregon and a recruiting firm. Maybe we’ll find out how the Ducks are getting so many outstanding players.)
Example No. 2: Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl was suspended by the Southeastern Conference for the first eight games of the 2010-11 season for lying to NCAA investigators — but he was not fired immediately, either.
After the Vols lost in the NCAA Tournament this past week, there were reports Pearl might be fired, and he finally was Monday. So, now, we know what the Vols’ athletic director regards as a fireable offense. Obviously, lying to NCAA investigators was not.
College basketball is more of a mess than college football. The first reason is that one player can make much more of a difference in basketball. Case in point: Derrick Williams. After originally committing to USC, Williams was allowed out of his commitment (a decision with which I agree) when coach Tim Floyd was fired. He transferred to Arizona and was the Pac-10 Player of the Year. Now, the Wildcats are in the Sweet 16. There’s little doubt the Trojans would be there instead if Williams had stayed.
The other reason for many of the problems in college basketball is a rule the NBA enacted to stop players from entering the draft before they were 19 years old.
The rule has increased the power of agents, who sign up high school players illegally and then “spot” them around the country, and it’s disrupted college programs. The one-and-gone players have become all too common.
It would be better for the NBA to rescind its rule and establish one like major league baseball’s: A player can turn pro out of high school, but if he goes to a four-year college instead, he’s not eligible to turn pro until after his third year.
Meanwhile, in both football and basketball, schools need to toughen up and fire coaches who break the rules. Athletes get punished — Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant was suspended for the rest of the season last fall when he lied about talking and working out with Deion Sanders. Coaches should have to face the music, too.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.