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And Another Thing

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And in other scandals ....

Maybe the Blob just has scandal fatigue. Or maybe it's still reeling from the Jerry Sandusky thing and the Bernie Fine thing -- scandals with apparent real human cost, against which the spectacle of a college football player selling his own memorabilia for tats and getting paid by a shady booster to keep seaweed out of the football stadium (not really, but something akin to that) pales in comparison.

In any case, the news that the NCAA has banned Ohio State from a bowl game for one year and stripped it of three scholarships leaves me mostly shrugging my shoulders.

I don't think it's all that devastating a blow, somehow. I don't think having to stay home for one bowl season will keep Urban Meyer from landing a single kid he really wants. And I think the NCAA's standard way of punishing departed transgressors -- in this case, Jim Tressel -- is, as usual, weak sauce that evokes as much mirth as anything else.

Really, a five-year "show-cause" edict, which essentially means Tressel is banned from coaching on the NCAA level for that period?

Big deal. Tressel's already moved on to the NFL, landing a job with the Colts. So this is a little like someone going to work for J.P. Morgan Chase because he's been banned from working for the Bailey Savings & Loan.

Oooh. That's showin' him.

Maybe I could work up more enthusiasm for all of this if I thought it was going to change anything, but of course it won't. As I've said many times before, the NCAA isn't in the business of policing college athletics so much as it's in the business of looking after its business, which has become so enormous it has largely overwhelmed the academic mission of its member institutions.

So it will slap wrists and impose its bowl bans (but never for long, unless it's a less lucrative draw than an Ohio State or USC), and meanwhile reserve its cruelest and most arbitrary punishments for the student-athletes it professes to serve.

For instance: On the same day the NCAA handed down its not-too-hard, not-too-soft judgment on OSU, a young man named Todd O'Brien continued to languish at Alabama-Birmingham.

O'Brien, a 7-foot basketball player, finished his undergrad studies at St. Joseph's last year, after which he enrolled at UAB to do his graduate work because UAB had a program which better suited his needs than St. Joe did. Since he also had one more year of eligibility, he's entitled to play under an NCAA rule that allows players who have graduated to transfer and play their final season without sitting out a year.

The problem: O'Brien's former coach at St. Joe's, Phil Martelli, and the St. Joe athletic department are holding his eligibility hostage, preventing him from playing for UAB despite the fact UAB doesn't even play St. Joe this year. No explanation has been given, although apparently Martelli just doesn't think much of the kid.

Needless to say, this is unconscionable. It's also something the NCAA could easily remedy by making it mandatory in these situations for the school the student-athlete is transferring from to release his eligibility.

In so doing, the NCAA would actually be acting as an advocate for the student-athlete. Which is what it claims to be and should be.

It's also why you probably shouldn't hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

Ben Smith's blog.

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