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Commentary: Ohio State football program becoming nothing more than litter box for ‘cats’

Andy Gottesman / Lantern photographer

“This osu tattoo stuff is silly. Cats been getting hookups on tatts since back in ’01.”

Antonio Pittman and George Washington have more in common than their zero NFL touchdowns. Apparently, it’s not just the United States’ first president who can’t tell a lie.

The former Ohio State running back leaked a bit of insider insight on his Twitter on Dec. 23, the day the NCAA announced suspensions of six Buckeye football players for selling memorabilia and receiving improper benefits.

Whether Pittman’s claim is true, he seems to have foreshadowed one thing: Tattoo-gate was the tip of an iceberg large enough to make Jack and Rose quiver.

“Cats” have apparently “been getting hookups” on cars in Columbus for quite some time, too. But don’t go telling the millions in Buckeye Nation that it’s “silly.” It’s more startling than silly, more frightening than foolish, more jarring than juvenile.

The OSU football program is entering uncharted territory.

First came discounted tattoos.

Then came thousands of dollars worth of sold memorabilia.

Then came the revelation that coach Jim Tressel knew about the situation but opted to keep quiet.

Then came The Columbus Dispatch report that the OSU compliance department was looking into 40–50 transactions between two car dealerships and Buckeye athletes and their families.

Then came news that OSU football players were receiving free stamps at the post office.

Then came news that players were receiving Monopoly stickers from McDonald’s without having to buy any Big Macs.

OK, I made up the last two. I’m just preparing.

Still, this is no longer just a black eye on the program. Both eyes are swollen shut, and there’s no way of seeing what will happen next.

When the NCAA delivers its knockout punch, it likely will take OSU years to get back on its feet.

It’s like tugging on the string that pulls down the ladder leading to the attic, only when you pull, years worth of storage falls in your face that you didn’t think was there.

The untouched boxes sat and accumulated more and more dust over the years.

You didn’t pay close enough attention. Now, ridding of that dust will take even longer than it did for it to pile up higher than Mount Everest.

It’ll take a monsoon to rinse the dust off compliance director Doug Archie, athletic director Gene Smith, even university President E. Gordon Gee.

Thing is, NCAA compliance shouldn’t be relegated to the attic in the first place.

For an athletic department sporting the nation’s most varsity teams and one of the largest budgets, for a football program rooted in the sport’s uppermost echelon of history and success, compliance must be the dining room, where nothing gets touched without permission. No one lays a finger on the expensive china without a university official overseeing the encounter.

It’ll take much more than Tressel attending a five-day compliance seminar in early June to eradicate the problems running rampant throughout the program.

“We’re very fortunate that we do not have a systemic problem in our program.”

Smith said that the same day Pittman suggested otherwise.

Clearly, ignorance is no longer bliss at OSU. Ignorance placed Tressel in murky water. Now it’s making Smith and the rest of the athletic department look naive.

OSU is working its way toward the NCAA’s “death sentence,” in which it deems an athletic department to have a “lack of institutional control.” OSU avoided that charge in the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations sent to Gee on April 21.

But that was before the car reports and before whatever inevitable infraction is unearthed next.

Archie’s days appear to be numbered. Tressel’s days appear to be numbered. Even Smith’s clock could be ticking toward zero.

It’d be “silly” to rule anything out at this point. “Cats” haven’t been caught red-handed like this before.

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