By hiring Urban Meyer to coach its football team for $4 million a year, Ohio State University has sent a powerful message to the college sports world, higher education, and the nation as a whole: After a year of unprecedented scandal in college athletics, the show will go on - bigger, brasher, and gaudier than ever!
2011 has been an annus horribilis in big-time college sports. As we reel over the sordid situation at Penn State - as well as the one at Syracuse - it's hard to remember that this year of scandal began in Columbus, Ohio.
Several OSU football players were found to have sold some of their memorabilia for tattoos and cash. More significantly, head coach Jim Tressel - who demonstrated his supposed moral rectitude by wearing professorial sweater vests and publishing a self-help book filled with chirpy Christian bromides - covered the whole thing up, lying about it repeatedly. He was fired only after university administrators fumbled the whole affair badly.
That bit of tawdriness disappeared from national headlines pretty quickly when a bigger scandal was exposed at the University of Miami - the current home of former Temple coach Al Golden - involving more players and more money. But, hey, what else would we expect from Miami? When OSU played the school earlier this season, one wag called it the "Ineligibowl."
This past summer, Rutgers announced that its athletic programs were bleeding red ink - more than $20 million worth. Like most state universities, Rutgers is facing a severe budget crunch; my colleagues in the history department there saw their office phones removed to save money. But despite his supposed fiscal toughness, Gov. Christie said he saw no problem with the school's costly pursuit of sports glory.