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Ohio State Football and Our Broken Justice System Have a Lot in Common

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Message Roger Shuler

Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

One of the most precipitous falls in the history of college athletics is unfolding now in Columbus, Ohio. Enough sleaze already has surfaced in the Ohio State University football program to force long-time coach Jim Tressel to resign. With reports of star players driving snazzy sports cars, the sludge is likely to get deeper in the land of the Buckeyes.

The most thorough overview of the Ohio State scandal can be found as the cover story in this week's Sports Illustrated. In a 10-page spread titled "How Deep It Went: An SI Investigation Reveals the Full Extent To Which Jim Tressel Lost Control Of The Buckeyes," reporters George Dohrmann and David Epstein reveal that the coach's lax relationship with the NCAA rule book goes back more than two decades.

Tressel won championships at Ohio State, and in his previous stop at Youngstown State, so administrators were happy to look the other way, ignoring clear signs that the coach's programs were built on a foundation of non-compliance with NCAA rules.

In that respect, and several others, the Ohio State football story reminds me of the U.S. justice system--another mammoth enterprise that chugs along, while those in authority ignore obvious signs of decay. In reading Sports Illustrated's splendid cover story--Dohrmann has become one of the best investigative reporters in journalism--I was struck by several themes that I've seen play out during my unpleasant, 10-year journey through the American court system.

Let's consider three themes that show up time and again--at Ohio State and in my story of battling a groundless lawsuit here in Shelby County, Alabama: (1) Phony use of religion; (2) Weak oversight; (3) Blaming the victims.

Phony use of religion--SI writes about Tressel's regular references to religion during his rise to the top of the college-football world, noting that he "wore his Christian values on his sweater vest." The coach had such a Boy-Scout image that he acquired the nickname "The Senator." Tressel often used the Bible as a prop for his coaching career, but SI uncovered signs of Tressel's slippery ethics going back to the mid 1980s, when he was an assistant coach at Ohio State:

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
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