RichRod defends Jim Tressel

Former Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez recently appeared on Colin Cowherd’s ESPN radio show and wound up defending Ohio State coach Jim Tressel in the wake of “Tattoogate.”

From the Detroit News:

Cowherd told Rodriguez he no longer trusts Tressel; Rodriguez responded by defending Ohio State’s coach.

“If you run a program at Ohio State or at Michigan or something like that, so much of what you do is public,” Rodriguez said. “There’s not all this crazy cheating and things like that going on that people think. There are some guys out there that bend the rules a little bit or they get around the rules and try to get a competitive advantage. I don’t think that was the case in this at all. There were five guys who sold items who shouldn’t have sold it. And they were wrong for doing it. Did that give Ohio State a competitive advantage? I don’t think so.”

Rodriguez continued: “There’s coaches out there that are trying to get a competitive advantage the wrong way, a handful, and they seem to get away with it. And there are other coaches that are really trying as hard as they can, doing everything in good faith, and they seem to get nailed. I think that’s the thing that frustrates coaches, like, ‘Geez look at what these guys did, and they’re winning and they did all that.’

“How do we fix that?”

Rodriguez’s overall point is correct. The NCAA has a much, much bigger problem on its hands than what Tressel did. He broke rules, made a poor decision and deserved to be punished. But he’s not in the same stratosphere as the coaches who are flat out cheating when it comes to signing recruits. I think it’s safe to say that there are a lot of coaches out there doing a lot worse.

But even though I agree with some of what he said, I think RichRod is missing the bigger picture when he talks about how there are coaches out there that “bend the rules a little bit or they get around the rules and try to get a competitive advantage.”

Rules are in place so that everyone has a fair playing field. The fact that some coaches have done far worse than what Tressel did isn’t the point: If you break rules, you should be punished. Granted, there are different degrees of punishment but nobody should be “bending the rules a little bit” or “getting around the rules” to try to get a competitive advantage. Play within the rules and then you won’t wind up embarrassing your program like Tressel did.

Now, if the NCAA decides to crack a stronger whip and terminates Tressel’s contract, then that’s a whole different can of worms. But until then, it would be nice if college coaches made wiser decisions when it came to running their programs and then something like “Tattoogate” wouldn’t be an issue.

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