Monday, May 30, 2011

What Does Jim Tressel Have To Do With Swimming?

Jim Tressel resigned from his position of Head Coach, Ohio State Football this morning. You might wonder what the hell this has to do with swimming. Sit tight while I explain.

If you haven't been following, Tressel had been dogged by the ongoing NCAA investigation into his program. Prior to last year's bowl game, it was revealed that several players had been suspended for bartering their football swag for tattoos. Tressel, for his part, had impeded the NCAA's investigation and lied to cover his players.

Next week, I am required, as I am every year, to take a mandatory NCAA rules exam. Passage of the exam allows me to recruit off campus. When you're a swim coach, many of the rules strike you as completely crazy. In my first job, I complained about it to my boss. But the reason the NCAA has elaborate and sometimes ludicrous rules are coaches like Jim Tressel and the big football and basketball programs.

Among the proposals that are in line for next year are to allow phone calls to high school juniors (it is allowed among many sports outside swimming). We are moving towards an NCAA landscape where kids will be pushed to commit earlier and earlier. There are rumblings that unlimited text messages and phone calls are in our future. The reason is simple: this stuff is just too hard to regulate.

Of course, every now and then the NCAA catches someone like Tressel and can go after him full bore. After the allegations broke I was encouraged to have a talk with my swimmers and make sure none of them were giving their t-shirts away for free pizza. I would be amazed if they could get anything for their team swag but the risk was there nonetheless.

The entire system is trying far too hard to be something that it's not. Although it might mean immediate death for a lot of swim programs, I actually think that giving more money to football and basketball athletes (see the Big 10's "Living Expenses" proposal) makes way more sense than what we have.. College administrators might have a lot more trouble declaring their football and basketball programs as "revenue" sports if they actually had to pay the players what they bring into the school.

Instead we have a system where I will have to deal with increasingly elaborate rules because Jim Tressel lied about his players breaking NCAA rules, while a hundred other programs probably break the same rules. And the NCAA will continue to be effective. Still following? Me neither.

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