By Steve Croyle
TOPIC: Steubenville rapist to play college ball
The Questionable Integrity of Jim Tressel
Buckeye fans still make excuses for Jim Tressel, even though he was fired for spinning a web of lies to the NCAA regarding his knowledge of players engaging in prohibited activities. He tried to claim that he was only protecting his players, but the truth of the matter is that he lied, repeatedly, to maintain the eligibility of a handful of players at the expense of the rest of the team. They only thing he tried to protect was his paycheck.
The Tattoo scandal wasn’t Tressel’s first brush with a rules violation. Just a few years earlier, Tressel’s fingerprints were all over a host of improper benefits steered toward Maurice Clarett, which echoed a similar scandal that took place under his watch at Youngstown State. Moreover, when a student assistant stepped forward alleging that she had actually written papers and taken tests for Clarett, the University claimed she was mentally unstable, and retaliating for being dismissed.
Tressel established a reputation shortly after becoming Ohio State’s head coach when he suspended QB Steve Bellisari for two games following a DUI arrest, but that precedent faded quickly as other players weren’t dealt with so severely. In some instances, there seemed to be machinations behind the scenes that divorced key players from ugly altercations, while lesser players were suspended and cut. Early in his career at Ohio State, Troy Smith’s name was connected to an incident where a female student was assaulted, but eventually that matter was quietly adjudicated with somebody else taking the blame. And maybe the story that came out after much delay was the truth. It’s just that information regarding Tressel’s team always seemed come in dribs and drabs with Tressel always miffed that anything was being questioned.
Now Tressel is back at Youngstown State, but today he is the President of the University. As boss of the football team, he hired Bo Pelini, a coach who enjoyed some success at Nebraska, but has some behavioral issues off the field. Pelini is an emotional bully, who will let his temper get the better of him.
Pelini, being a football-first kind of coach, had no problem welcoming infamous Steubenville rapist, Ma’Lik Richmond to the team as a walk-on. In fact, Pelini sought the former high school stud out, and convinced him to play again. Pelini claims he demanded that Richmond meet some conditions in order to be eligible to play on the team, but the nature of those conditions remains undisclosed. With practice underway, and Richmond listed on the team, a petition has been circulating to have him removed. The Youngstown State student who initiated the petition has no beef with Richmond taking classes, but believes that his status as a sex offender should preclude the privilege of playing football.
The Steubenville Rape case was horrific. Two Steubenville High School players, Trent Mays and Richmond, literally dragged a drunk 16 year-old around a weekend party gauntlet. The story drew international attention, and considerable outrage because the entire town of Steubenville seemed intent to bury the story. After enormous pressure, charges were filed against two Juveniles and they were sentenced to serve time in a juvenile facility. Despite being sentenced as a juvenile Richmond must maintain registration as a sex offender for 10 years.
That status alone is enough to justify prohibiting somebody from playing a sport, and given the magnitude of the crime, coupled with the dubious decision to try these teenagers as juveniles rather than adults it seems a moral obligation.
Whether or not you agree with the sentence, Richmond has paid his debt to society and deserves an opportunity to turn his life around. That means going to college, earning a degree, and finding a job that can mitigate his sex offender status. Hopefully he’s ready to be an upright citizen, but it doesn’t mean he gets to play football. His status as a sex offender would prevent him from working in a number of fields: healthcare, education, law enforcement. Sometimes second chances come with conditions, and it’s up to people who hold offices like “President of the University” to impose those conditions.
Jim Tressel should have reeled his coach in and nixed this Ma’Lik Richmond deal from the get go. It shouldn’t require a student-initiated petition. It’s just common sense. The last thing Ma’Lik Richmond needs as he tries to move on with his life is to be immersed in that pervasive culture of college football, where morality becomes ambiguous in the quest for victory. After all Jim Tressel has been through, he ought to know better, especially if he is going to have the audacity to be the head of a public university.
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