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Commentary: Ohio State football program shooting itself in the foot

The Ohio State football program is quickly becoming a joke, and it’s not just those in the state up north laughing. It’s the rest of the college football world.

During spring practices of years past, the media met with players of a different position each day after practice. It allowed us to give Buckeye Nation a look at position battles and players eyeing breakout seasons.

This year, the media are relegated to a half-hour of practice once or twice a week, with the athletic department conducting most of the player interviews, distributing the propaganda in video form on its website.

In other words, the media get shortchanged because of the ongoing NCAA investigation.

The football program screws up; the media get punished.

And when the media lose access, the fans lose access.

Coach Jim Tressel isn’t allowed to talk about the ongoing investigation. Surely, some reporters would push the envelope at each interview.

But to avoid having to repeat the phrase, “I can’t discuss an ongoing investigation,” or, “No comment,” on occasion, the athletic department opted to strip the media of their privilege to cover OSU football.

So, the media are left to take their minimal moments of observation and turn them into analysis to whet the preseason appetite of hundreds of thousands of Buckeyes fans.

The same analysis, supplemented by player and coach interviews and hours of practice observation in years past, now must be patched together by scripted “interviews” and a weekly scrimmage viewing.

Ah, but it’s near impossible for the athletic department to keep everyone quiet.

Especially while Terrelle Pryor still suits up in Scarlet and Gray.

“It’s funny if y’all actually knew the story. I didn’t receive free tattoos. I took money which I’m dealing w my wrongdoings,” Pryor posted on his Twitter account, @TPeezy2, Thursday morning.

Of course, the tweet was deleted later in the day. If it hasn’t already, the athletic department ought to employ a person to monitor the social media use of the quarterback with the quick Twitter trigger.

We already know Pryor’s role in Tattoo-gate. His tweet adds little value to the NCAA scandal, just more fuel to the fire that OSU is struggling to extinguish.

The NCAA ordered Pryor to pay back $2,500 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring, a 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award and his 2008 gold pants trinket. Pryor and offensive lineman Mike Adams were the only two of the six suspended Buckeyes who weren’t found to have received “discounted services.”

So, it’d be “funny” if we “actually knew the story”?

Funny?

I doubt many OSU fans erupted in laughter when the NCAA dropped the hammer on the Buckeye program on Dec. 23.

Perhaps Jerry Seinfeld or Charlie Sheen should’ve delivered the news that day instead of athletic director Gene Smith.

I’m sure a few punch lines would’ve smoothed things over really quickly.

My, oh my, Mr. Pryor. When will you learn that biting your tongue is often the wisest route to take?

Where is the leadership within the program?

It clearly doesn’t come from the top-quarterback recruit from his class now entering his senior season (or what will be left of it following his suspension).

It clearly doesn’t come from the coach who withheld critical information pertaining to an NCAA investigation, for reasons still hazy.

It certainly doesn’t come from the president of the university, who turned an apologetic press conference on March 8 into a shameful mockery by proclaiming, “I hope (Tressel) doesn’t fire me.”

OSU President E. Gordon Gee said he regrets making that statement, just as he regretted calling out then-undefeated TCU and Boise State for playing the “Little Sisters of the Poor” last November.

I don’t see “mime” in the future job description for Gee or Pryor.

The only person who kept his mouth shut — Tressel — is the only person who shouldn’t have.

The best medicine for the program this spring would’ve been to carry on business as usual, which would allow media and fans to move on and shift their attention to football.

Instead, by closing its doors to the outside world, the program keeps the focus on the pending investigation and the many unanswered questions regarding Tressel’s future and how the team will cope during his and Pryor’s suspensions.

There’s not much to laugh about in Columbus these days, although the cackling in Ann Arbor is probably deafening.

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