Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cowards Die Many Times before Their Deaths

Not to over-dramatize the situation, but Jim Patrick Tressel died yesterday.  Perhaps not in the final, never to breathe again, sense of "died" but he died all the same.

With the Notice of Allegations levied against Ohio State, a piece of Tressel's mortality, and that of the Ohio State football program, were fatally exposed.  Vulnerabilities that had remained inaccessible for the better part of a decade are now sprouting with renewed life like a fungus on Aquaman's bathmat.

This is not the reopening of a wound inflicted by Maurice Clarett or Troy Smith; this cut is deeper.  Ex-players are decrying the program, a schism is spreading across a fan base that is slowly devouring itself, even bastions of the local media are in an uproar against their own son.  To Michigan fans who have endured much the same sentence for a far lighter sin, it is a brand of poetic justice that could have been crafted by some divine comedian.

Cowards die many times before their deaths,
The valiant never taste of death but once.
-William Shakespeare
Whether or not the NCAA administers the death penalty to Ohio State (spoiler: not a chance), OSU died a coward's death yesterday that was set in motion more than year ago with warnings that at least two of his players were receiving improper benefits.  It was identical to the coward's death suffered when Tressel lied about his prior knowledge and deployed those ineligible players.

What is the toll of a coward's death?  On paper likely a fine, some vacated wins; perhaps discounted scholarships or a fleeting bowl ban.  Many are speculating that Tressel will not survive the 10.1(d) allegation that he "knowingly provided false information to the NCAA" which has marked the end of nearly every coach ever called upon to respond to it.  Regardless of the official censure, the investigation and infighting and uncertainty and turmoil carry another, more opaque penalty that Michigan fans know all too well.  While the discord within the Michigan ranks may have had its aggravating factors, other byproducts--such as negative recruiting against a coach whose employment expectations are less than certain--will not be muted.

One shortcut through the madness is readily available, a mithridate that will begin healing long before the disease has run its course.  Although Tressel's resignation could be inevitable, timed now it may even be considered an act of valiance.  Ohio State might yet regain whatever nobility it once possessed, but it seems fundamentally incompatible that Jim Patrick Tressel will be there when it happens.

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