Jim Tressel, John Kasich Speak From the Fires of Columbus

The nation’s eyes were on Columbus, Ohio March 8th, 2011 for more than one reason, but shared a common sickness.Here is a clip from Governor Kasich’s State of the State speech and the reaction from those that don’t agree with S.B.5. Of note is the teacher upset that she is about to lose her retirement.

One thing that we must wonder is where did those people riding the system with such wonderful benefits think the money was coming from? With all their education didn’t they do the math? Did they think the system could grow and grow and grow without the revenue running out at some point?

The answer is, no, they didn’t. Because such realities are ugly truths that school administrations and other tax payer funded organizations seek at every opportunity not to consider.

For Police and Firefighters, they use a perceived “danger” to justify their extraordinary costs. “We run to danger when others run away.” It takes an argument away from logic and places it in emotion, so the people who fund the whole business don’t think about the reality, because most people want to run away from danger and will gladly throw any amount of money at a situation to “feel” safe.

But in schools, the way they disguise their perils is through sports. Sports are a wonderful unifying factor that virtually everyone can sympathize with and it keeps people entertained and from prying too deeply into the secrets that are pushed under the carpet.

This is why when it was discovered that Jim Tressel, head coach of the OSU Football Program had covered up improprieties at Ohio State University that many on the inside were well aware of, or had plausible deniability, but on the outside Ohio State is marketed as a beacon of academic and athletic excellence. So to appease the growing anger at having been caught attempting to cover up improper behavior from players on the football team, the school imposed a two game suspension and fined Tressel $250,000 of his $3.5 million annual salary.

For details of those improprieties listen to this exchange between Bill Cunningham and Lance McAlister of 700 WLW.

Ohio State hopes that the NCAA will be appeased and not implement further punishment to the football program. After all, Ohio State is one of the largest universities in the country. Its football team is nationally recognized and in the end, this is wonderful advertisement for the school that sells a tremendous amount of merchandise to former alumni and potential students. It’s big business.

To understand that business a bit I refer to the great film, The Program staring James Caan which came out in 1993. Caan reminds me a lot of Jim Tressel in that film so if you want to understand the situation of college football, and how it is used to sell the university system to millions of fans, have a look at this clip.

Improprieties are routinely overlooked because it’s a competitive world especially in sports, and the difference between winning and losing for a university is millions of dollars. But why? Because if the public perception can be built around a “program” and the public feels their money is going to produce a winner, people have shown time and time again that they are willing to look the other way to have victory.

Much of the film The Program, James Caan’s character is putting out fires from his players that are constantly getting in trouble. But as Caan said in a review board considering suspension of the star quarterback, “70,000 people don’t come out on a Saturday to see other students do math! They come out to see a star!”

Ohio State and it’s fans will seek quickly to put this whole issue behind them, and on opening day it will be forgotten, except for Tressel’s absence and the suspension of the other suspended players, because everyone wants to look the other way, because the fans, students, administration, even the sports world want to discuss a winner.

How does all this apply to John Kasich’s speech, which occurred just hours before the Tressel press conference? Well, because tax payers are finally out of money to throw at police and firefighters that run into danger while the rest of us run away. Many of us, me included, are saying “I’ll be happy to run into danger if it will save me some money.” Danger doesn’t impress me as something to avoid.

And the whole teaching profession has hidden carefully behind the marketing machine of sports. Even small schools have sports programs that communities will seek to attend on an autumn Friday evening. The dirty little secret is that when people look back on their education days, they usually remember the things they did, the games they played and the events they did with their friends as opposed to what they learned on a Thursday in February during history class. Most of the teachers in student’s lives come and go as a montage of faces. Occasionally a teacher here and there jumps out as exceptional, but for the most part the education process is viewed as something to be endured, not embraced and because of that little fact, the education finance system has placed band-aid after band-aid on the situation. Administrators attempt to whisk improper sex cases and other improprieties between students and teachers under the carpet behind public relations consultants and friendly newspapers in the trade-off for sports information. After all, sports pages occupy whole sections of newspapers and reporters need content to fill those pages. And for some households, the sports page offers entertainment that their own child may actually be a part of, and that’s exciting.

Discussion of the blurred lines between education and sports must occur in order to discuss the revenue needs of those institutions. This is something that will come under increasing scrutiny, especially when it comes to School Choice as a spotlight on academics will become the focus with less attention applied to sports programs.

The battles that our society normally regulated to football players on a football field are now migrating into finance and politics, because the real fight has been discovered to be there, not in an entertainment venue between the hash marks. The world is changing because of that shift and those that cling to the old model will find their eyes filled with tears because in this game there will be winners and losers, just like in football. And we can no longer hide those tears with the cheers of football, and the sins that are committed all in the name of winning, because that ethical approach has bankrupted us both financially and morally.

Just look at Jim Tressel, the poster boy of both finance and ethics at Ohio State University to understand what Kasich is trying to protect Ohio from.

Rich Hoffman