Couch Slouch: Stanford and Ohio State take pains to make sure athletic revenues aren’t hurting

March 13, 2011

Item 1: Stanford athletes had an “easy-class list” to advise them how to fill out their quarterly course loads.

Item 2: Ohio State football Coach Jim Tressel failed to notify school officials when he found out some of his players had sold memorabilia in exchange for cash and tattoos.

What do Stanford and Ohio State have in common?

They are both institutions of higher earning that will do anything in their power not to upset the apple cart of athletic revenues.

On the one hand, we expect better of Stanford; on the other hand, we expect nothing less of Ohio State, a football factory whose president has all the academic standards of a bundt cake.

Stanford officials discontinued its easy-course list, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, after reporters began asking about it. It went like this: Reporters said, “We want to see the list.” Stanford said, “We no longer have the list.”

Among the “Courses of Interest” Stanford athletes were pushed toward: Social Dances of North America, Beginning Improvising and Interpersonal Relations.

Heck, if Beginning Improvising were offered when I was in school, I could’ve been a grad assistant when I was 8 years old. And Interpersonal Relations? My friend Vinnie used to teach a version of that class every Friday at the Varsity Grill; he called it “Picking Up Women in Bars Without a Job.”

Sure, Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck threw 32 touchdown passes while maintaining a 3.5 GPA last season, but his football stats were goosed by playing Sacramento State and his academic stats were goosed by taking Introduction to Car Washing.

(When I went to the University of Maryland as a mistakenly aspiring sportswriter, there were dozens of well-known “gut courses.” I took one of them — Sociology of the Soap Opera. The first day I walked in, I noticed fourth-fifths of the men’s basketball team starting five was in attendance. I stopped going to practice to get quotes; I just caught up to them once a month when they came to class.)

(Of course, things are different now in College Park — higher academic standards, plus we’ve had the No. 1 competitive eating team in the nation 13 consecutive weeks!)

Up in Columbus, Ohio, Tressel walks on poisoned water. By NCAA standards, Tressel is a crook many times over. Also by NCAA standards, he is celebrated many times over.

At Youngstown State, his star quarterback from 1988 to ’91, Ray Isaac, accepted improper inducements. At Ohio State, star running back Maurice Clarett received money from boosters in 2002 and Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith also received benefits from boosters in 2006. And, now, Tressel’s star quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, and four other players were selling memorabilia to a local tattoo-parlor owner.

If, say, you rob a string of convenience stores up and down the East Coast, eventually they put you behind bars. But if you run a high-profile, big-time football program rife with multiple violations, eventually they put you in the BCS championship game.

These just weren’t malfeasances on Tressel’s watch, these were malfeasances he lied about, repeatedly.

When he got an e-mail last April detailing his players’ actions, Tressel responded immediately, “I will get on it ASAP.”

Of course, when Tressel says ASAP, he means NEVER.

Tressel covered up the NCAA violations, then lied about it several times.

It’s hard to blame players — looking for an extra buck or two — for selling jerseys and championship rings; they each will serve a five-game suspension. Meanwhile, Tressel — who feigned ignorance when the violations were publicly revealed — will serve just a two-game suspension.

The players are young enough not to know better. The coach is old enough to know he’s generally above the law of college athletics.

By the way, I can’t even imagine what the “easy class list” at Ohio State consists of.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Hey, I’m the guy from Rutgers who played poker with you in L.A. last month. You were going to tell me why you hate Duke so much but you never did. (Paul Brandt; Haddon Heights, N.J.)

A. You know, I keep thinking one of these scandals will touch Duke, but, then again, I’m told there are no easy classes in Durham, plus they couldn’t possibly be cheating to go 3-9 in football every year.

Q. Tiki Barber says he’s coming back to the NFL — is he inspirational or delusional? (J.T. Stiles; Chicago)

A. I’m just hoping he doesn’t un-retire from broadcasting in five years.

Q. Horse of the year Zenyatta is pregnant. Any idea who the father is? (Kevin Barnes; Parma, Ohio)

A. I believe there is a Charlie Sheen press conference scheduled for this afternoon.

Q. I’m financially challenged and not real bright. I’d like to have a buck-and-a-quarter without having to really write anything of consequence — you know, like you do. (Dan Moore; Twin Lakes, Wis.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley, and call my therapist to see if we can double up on the sessions.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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