The problem with compartmentalizing ethics

I get what he’s trying to do here with this post about Tressel

Simply put, Jim Tressel’s track record on recruiting, roster management, and oversigning has been impeccable, no one can challenge that, and we are not going to throw the baby out with the bath water.  What Tressel did has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of oversigning and therefore nothing will change here with regards to how we feel about how he manages his roster and what he does to avoid the abuses of oversigning.

That said, it is fully understood that the debate on oversigning is often times a debate about ethics.  It is also fully understood that to engage in a conversation about ethics in one area and yet ignore or defer comment on unethical behavior in another area can be deemed as irresponsible and misconstrued as having an agenda.  That is not the case here.  This site is about having a linear discussion about oversigning in order to have it eliminated.  We will gladly take whatever criticism comes with this narrowed approach, but at the same time we hope that our readers understand that the most effective way to address the oversigning issue is to stay on point.

… but ultimately it’s not convincing.  It’s like arguing that a man who is an axe murderer is a good family man.  Maybe so, but who cares?

The problem here isn’t with arguing passionately against oversigning.  It’s with choosing a coach who’s been caught with his hand in the cookie jar as your ethical poster boy.  At this point, who knows what motivates Tressel’s behavior?  All of which justifies pointing out that nobody in the Big Ten benefits more from the conference’s rule on oversigning than Ohio State.


Filed under Big Ten Football, Recruiting

55 responses to “The problem with compartmentalizing ethics

  1. TennesseeDawg

    Tressel was in trouble for almost the exact same kind of cover-up while at Youngstown St. right before he accepted the OSU job so he’s more like a serial killer that was a good family man.

  2. JW

    He is like a big time Mega Preacher, all a big show for the masses, keep the donations coming to 1-800-jim-tosu. Just do not look behind closed doors because you might not like what you see!

  3. Bob

    Lame response.

    But while lame, it doesn’t change the fact that rampant oversigning like that in the SEC West and our friends in Columbia is still BS. I have heard all the “excuses” for it and that is what they are…excuses. Make a firm number and stick to it. Exceptions for early NFL guys but otherwise none. If you go after borderline kids that is fine. But it is a reward and punishment scenario. They produce and that is great. They flunk out and that is your problem.

    • Dog in Fla

      But what about the non-linear adverse effect that would have on those in the people-helping business where it’s been proven that firm numbers are not the prime concern.

      • Hogbody Spradlin

        Say What?

        • Dog in Fla

          Houston Nutt prefers the linear algebraic approach because firm numbers on oversigning do not help him bring the wood because he is in the people-helping business: Houston helping himself. He called that play. He got it from Horton Hears a Who.

  4. The implication here is that he’s acting this way because it’s in his best interest as Ohio State fan, not because of ethical concerns that transcend school loyalty. You also seem to think that because Tressel has been unethical, Ohio State fans cannot criticize ethics elsewhere.

    Are you familiar with Brian Cook’s stance on oversigning? Or Slow States’s position? Or Black Heart Gold Pants’ position? Maybe you’d prefer a South Florida blog’s position- I could link you to that, if you wanted. If you’re looking for a SEC blog critical of oversigning, how about Sea of Blue, or Team Speed Kills? Perhaps you’d like newspaper writers, like Scarbinsky at the Birmingham News. Maybe you’re all about the national writers, in which case Andy Staples and Stewart Mandel at Sports Illustrated would be more to your liking.

    Unfortunately, it’s in all of those peoples’ best interests to end oversigning, and they just don’t have the nuance you have.

    [Note: I want to be clear about my identity. I have been posting as “Mike Sanders”, and will continue posting as “semicorrect”.]

    • Seriously, which part of “The problem here isn’t with arguing passionately against oversigning.” didn’t you get?

      I’m not implying anything. I’m flat out saying that using Jim Tressel as an ethical paragon in any context is counterproductive. If Joshua wants his arguments taken at face value, he needs to walk away from Tressel and find a better example. It’s not like there aren’t other coaches out there doing things the right way.

      • I know you said “the problem here isn’t with arguing passionately against oversigning.” It’s disingenuous at best when you, a Georgia fan and blogger, wrote that oversigning opponents lost when the Tressel news came out because “live by the Big Ten as ethical poster boy, die by the Big Ten as ethical poster boy.” You have written 7-8 posts about Ohio State/Tressel/Gee in the last couple of days and praised the nuance of people who manage numbers okay but are against new oversigning legislation. What you mean is very different from what you’re saying.

        • Wow. Let me unpack this a bit.

          It’s disingenuous at best when you, a Georgia fan and blogger, wrote that oversigning opponents lost when the Tressel news came out because “live by the Big Ten as ethical poster boy, die by the Big Ten as ethical poster boy.”

          Actually, I think that’s consistent with this post. If you want to tell me how ethical Jim Delany is, be my guest. I’m looking at a commissioner, a school and a coach that lobbied the NCAA to cut Ohio State a special break for the Sugar Bowl, a move that I didn’t find particularly ethical before the news on Tressel’s violation of 10.1 came down the turnpike. If you guys want to argue that their hearts are pure in one area and that’s all that matters, that’s your choice. Just don’t be surprised when many of us don’t go along with that. To the extent that this debate is about winning hearts and minds, I don’t see how that is a successful strategy.

          You have… praised the nuance of people who manage numbers okay but are against new oversigning legislation.

          Nice spin on your part. My “praise”, such as it is, is for coaches who have been honest with their recruits and enrollees. I don’t really care what their positions on new oversigning legislation might be. For that matter, I’m not going to have a particular problem if new oversigning legislation is passed, although I would certainly prefer that it address the kids’ interests rather than the schools’ interests as to competitive advantage. The cynic in me expects the opposite, though.

          • It’s time for me to backpedal a little. While writing the post, I put the bit about being a Georgia blogger in the wrong place. What I meant to write was “It’s disingenuous at best when you, a Georgia fan and blogger, have written 7-8 posts about Ohio State/Tressel/Gee in the last couple of days,” and that changes my meaning significantly. I mean to question the amount of content you have written about Ohio State, not the relationship between being a Georgia fan and criticizing the Big Ten’s ethics, and I’m sorry to have made that wrongful accusation.

            If you want to tell me how ethical Jim Delany is, be my guest. I’m looking at a commissioner… that lobbied the NCAA to cut Ohio State a special break for the Sugar Bowl

            No, he didn’t. [] At this point, Tressel, Smith, and Gee are deserving of lots and lots of criticism for this fiasco, but Delany and Big Ten headquarters aren’t involved. To reference something you wrote earlier: I prefer the Big Ten’s approach to this case, waiting to hand out punishment until the NCAA finishes investigating and dishes out punishment, to the SEC’s approach to the Bruce Pearl case, where they handed out their own punishment before the NCAA investigation was done.

            If you guys want to argue that their hearts are pure in one area and that’s all that matters, that’s your choice. Just don’t be surprised when many of us don’t go along with that. To the extent that this debate is about winning hearts and minds, I don’t see how that is a successful strategy.

            You have a good point here, that relying on the pureness of one’s heart, pointing at your own moral superiority as a rationale, is a poor strategy for winning people over to one’s side. That’s the pitfall I have been trying to avoid, and what Joshua is trying to avoid in his post.

            I don’t want to make this post too long; there will be a second part.

            • Apologies for the Delany bashing. Every other news source I saw at the time said he was involved.

              I agree with you about Joshua’s intentions. I just don’t think his strategy works.

            • By the way, the reason I’ve written so much about Tressel in the past few days isn’t because of oversigning. It’s because I’m deeply offended, as a Georgia fan and blogger, about how Georgia’s and Ohio State’s 2010 seasons played out in the wake of key players running afoul of NCAA amateurism regs. Does that honestly surprise you?

              • Not at all. In fact, even after making fun of all the OUTRAGE columns from hacks, Brian Cook cited one of your posts in an article on why Jim Tressel should be fired. Even without being on the receiving end of a double standard, I’m ashamed of the way this season played out.

              • Texas_Dawg

                And yet you aren’t “deeply offended” about how recent SEC team seasons have played out, despite their having been the products of rampant oversigning.

                Why not?

          • Using the data-claim-warrant structure of argument, the anti-oversigning argument goes as such; there are higher attrition rates and lower graduation rates at schools that practice oversigning (data), therefore oversigning is unethical (claim), because attrition and failing to graduate are harmful to student-athletes and programs should not harm student athletes (warrant). Meanwhile that claim gets used as the warrant of another argument; Tressel is against oversigning (data), therefore Tresssel is ethical (claim), because oversigning is unethical. If you come up with a rebuttal to this (Tressel lied to the NCAA, therefore he is unethical, because lying is unethical), it undermines his ethics, not the oversigning argument. It will only do so if the claim, and warrant are out of place; Tressel is against oversigning (data), therefore oversigning is unethical (claim), because Tressel is ethical (warrant).

            Why have I gone through such a tedious paragraph? For one thing, I’m a boring writer. But also because your criticism of his post was off point. He took lots and lots of flack for being an Ohio State fan before anything relating to the tattoo case had been uncovered. If he wanted any pro-oversigning commenters on his site to take him seriously, he couldn’t ignore it, and he had to respond. In my view, he’s always followed the proper model for the generic anti-oversigning argument.

            • Argh. Something else I forgot to mention: My support of the Big Ten’s oversigning rules isn’t because the Big Ten is necessarily ethical; you can’t just plug in “the Big Ten” for “Tressel”. It’s because it’s been an effective way to curb oversigning and over-offering, and resulting in a more honest recruiting process. If the SEC or NCAA want to adopt new oversigning regulations, the Big Ten’s regulations are low-risk.

              • I don’t see why Joshua needs to use Tressel or any coach, for that matter, as a standard-bearer in the first place. Can’t the argument be made without that? Coaches are inherently self-interested animals, and this argument is about curtailing coaches’ self-interest in favor of that of the student athlete. In that sense, I’d say that it should be irrelevant what the coaches think.

                Richt is the only one who I honestly believe doesn’t oversign out of ethical concern, anyways.

                • Texas_Dawg

                  Richt is the only one who I honestly believe doesn’t oversign out of ethical concern, anyways.

                  There are other coaches that are ethical. Richt isn’t the only one.

                  • OK, I take it back. Only coach in the SEC who does it out of ethical motivation. I guess that only pits him against Urban Meyer, a coach who IMO has little ethical credibility. I’m sure guys like Paterno, etc., do it for reasons of ethics.

            • Again – and as I indicated in my post – I understand what he was trying to do. You’re not telling me anything new here. I simply don’t find his explanation convincing.

              How hard would it be to condemn Tressel’s ethics and move on to another coach with no baggage as a positive example of avoiding oversigning?

              • It would be easy. And what if it turns out that Mark Richt or Joe Paterno or [ethical coach] have been guilty of the same thing Tressel has? Pinning your hopes on a different coach because he’s an all-around ethical person is no different than pinning them on Tressel.

                If all you have to say is “eh, I’m not convinced”, then why even bother at all?

                • Dog in Fla

                  We have had Richt under close observation and clinical study for a decade. Most observers have determined that he is a serial confessor to even secondary violations and would be worried about him for his own sake if he ever committed a big-time violation. He cannot not even pull off acting like an evil guy. He tried that several years ago and is still being smited for it.

                  With Joe, we are pretty sure that if he ever did anything wrong, he would have no recollection whatsoever of it . While he may have done something wrong in his seven decade coaching career, even we can’t even remember what it was. He does have some good stories about Operation Linebacker during the Spanish American War, playing the role of Larry David’s dad on Curb Your Enthusiasm and mistaking Urban Meyer for Larry Sanders in Joe’s most recent bowl game though.

        • ScoutDawg

          I think the problem is that you insist to put Your spin on Bluto’s comments. BEING Georgia fans, a school that does NOT oversign, makes your disingenious argument, well, disingenious.

          • Macallanlover

            I agree, UGA fans are as outraged as any Big 10+2. In fact, much more so,,,,,,we have to line up and play them for the most prestigous title in CFB several time EVERY year. To lump all SEC schools together on oversigning is a much bigger leap than tying Tressel & OSU to a lack of ethics issue. Clearly tatgate, Claret, Gee, and Tressel are in a smallish pod.

        • Ubiquitous GA Alum

          So I’m guess you don’t adhere to the same philosophy as the blogger when he says, “We will gladly take whatever criticism comes with this narrowed approach.”?

        • I should add that you ought to compare Joshua’s post with what Texas Dawg, who’s just as strongly opposed to oversigning, had to say about Tressel in the comments here.

          It’s not hard to reject Tressel and still take a firm stance against oversigning.

          • Texas_Dawg

            Joshua didn’t talk about the current Tressel situation. He simply pointed out that it has nothing to do with oversigning and that whatever Tressel’s other’s sins, his behavior regarding recruiting and oversigning has been ethical.

            Anyway, what semicorrect notes above is true. You go nuts whenever you see something you dislike from the Big 10 or its schools. But when these very poorly academically-rated SEC West (and South Carolina) schools that are so much more greatly screwing over UGA do their thing, your posts are loaded with gray and question marks.

            “S-E-C! S-E-C!” is a sad, insidious disease.

            • These types of comments are just ridiculous and you know it. It’s your way of downing somebody simply because they don’t agree with in a manner that satisfies you and frankly, it just comes across as petty. When you degenerate into these absolutism type arguments, you come off like George W. Bush during his first term spewing the bullshit of “you’re with us or against us”.

              /really not trying to make this a political conversation, but this is an apt analogy

              Most all of us agree with you that the elements of oversigning that involve the exploitation and well being of the student-athlete is wrong, just like most agreed that terroristic acts against a civilian population are wrong. What most of us disagree with (and are trying to have the conversation that you seem to think makes everyone immoral and unethical) is how we go about solving the problem. If we were to be purely black and white about terrorism (as you are painfully so about oversigning), the only two solutions are the nuclear option or strict diplomacy. In reality (which apparently everybody but you lives in ) there is much gray and the true solution to terrorism lies somewhere between the two solutions I pointed out above.

              As the Senator has stated before, you are just an “asshole with a schtick” and you know exactly what you are doing. You are not helping your cause for oversigning by insulting anyone that is truly interested in discourse about the subject and you come across as nothing but a typical message board troll. I’d argue if you changed your tactics of getting your message across (i.e. don’t insult and belittle people that dare to discuss the issue in a manner other than black and white), you’d probably convert a few people over to your cause. However, you know this already and I suspect you have no intentions to change your tactics.

              • Audit, this is exactly what I don’t understand about TD’s approach. It’s actually counterproductive to building consensus around the oversigning issue, just like sticking with Tressel is for If you want an audience for you ideas, TD, you might start by not roundly insulting everyone who is on the fence. That might help you get them to come over to your side.

                The political analogy Audit makes is very apt, and IMO it has nothing to do with whether your a Dem or a Repub. It has everything to do with the sorry excuse for the way politics happens in this country. People on both sides just talk at each other without rationally considering what the other side is actually saying. Polarization is not civil discourse, but, unfortunately, the country probably hasn’t been this polarized since the Civil War. That should tell you something.

            • fuelk2

              I wish I could give your comments a medical hardship.

    • GreenDawg

      I think the thing I take from this is that Tressel is in fact not an ethical man. He has shown he will bend the rules wherever he can, flatout lie, and find any loophole he can get at. To me that signals that if he could oversign, he would, because oversigning is a loophole. The Big Ten rules just flat out do not allow him to do so. So praise the Big Ten rule all you want, but as far as Tressel, he’d do it if he could. I think that’s the gist of what Bluto is inferring, but don’t hold me(or him) to that.

      So the only coaches that we can be sure are actually “ethical” on this issue are the coaches in conferences that allow oversigning, and yet they do not do so. Although with all the stuff coming out lately I’m not sure there is even an “ethical” corner of CFB left.

      • MinnesotaDawg

        Of course he’s ethical…haven’t you seen his tie, sweater vest, and glasses?! Seriously, the sports media is more than willing to give you the label and every benefit of the doubt, if you got the look and talk the talk. Tressel is a phoney, and just because he hasn’t gotten caught red-handed before doesn’t mean he’s been playing above board.

        Considering the near constant stink of pay-for-play, academic fraud, and other unseemly conduct (remember Tressel’s player choking that Wisconsin QB with impunity) at OSU and at Youngstown State when he was there, Tressel’s bogus good image is contrary to reality.

    • Hogbody Spradlin

      Semi, I think you read too much implication into the post. The guy at the link was trying to keep his arguments against oversigning alive. The Senator is saying ok fine, but don’t hold up Jim Tressel an an ethical example. Compartmentalized ethics aren’t.

      • Smith is here

        oversigning is not needed if you can keep all your players [tatted, merch dealing , grey goose swilling and otherwise] eligible regardless/irregardless/irrespective {?} of what’s been reported.

        Such is life in the provinces while the NCAA holds a magnifying glass on SEC ants.

  5. mwo

    Corch Irvin Meyers said Tressel’s punishment was too severe. He said he should have been suspended for the first half only.

  6. NCAA and TRESSEL needs to get some real rotten eggs on their faces to know who they really are.

  7. URBAMA bin lying (former UF coach) would really instead have banned that lawyer from ever sending any email for life.

  8. The issue here, to me, is about establishing an audience. There are lots of people out there who believe oversigning crusaders are self-interested and have an agenda. You can count me as one of the many there. I believe the NCAA and SEC should deal with oversigning, but I want the regulations to protect the student athlete rather than “competitive advantage,” and my impression is that for a lot of people, this is about the latter, particularly as it relates to protecting his / her school’s best interests on the football field. This is a long way of saying that I’m generally happy with the argument but that I’m not always so happy with the people making it and worry that those people might not get it right when they revise the rules. I also worry that it’s going to be hard to build consensus on this issue if no one is willing to dispense with self-interest.’s article, here, is to me a prime example of what I’m worried about. I don’t really see how you can tout Tressel as ethical paragon unless you’re more concerned about this from the particular angle of Big Ten / OSU competitive advantage than from the more fundamental issues involved, and regardless, it’s sure as hell not a good way to establish consensus among the parties involved. I mean, how can you even say that Tressel doesn’t oversign because he is ethically against it? The guy has proven that he’s willing to break rules to retain an advantage, so his word here is garbage. If he needed to oversign to be competitive, I’m sure he’d want to. Being at OSU, though, he doesn’t have to.

    To some degree, I think the whole idea of using certain coaches as flag bearers for this issue is part of the larger problem of seeing it only as a pissing contest between schools. The issue can be argued without that.

    • To some degree, I think the whole idea of using certain coaches as flag bearers for this issue is part of the larger problem of seeing it only as a pissing contest between schools. The issue can be argued without that.


      • Texas_Dawg

        While we’re bingoing Gamecock Man comments while strongly disagreeing with arguments, let’s also note that Gamecock Man has repeatedly downplayed the unethical nature of oversigning, has repeatedly sought to spin away the bad behavior of his oversigning program (has he e-mailed his school’s officials to demand they stop oversigning?), and has repeatedly done all he can to obfuscate his school’s bad behavior by questioning the motives of those condemning its oversigning.

        On the other hand, has repeatedly condemned a practice that UGA officials strongly condemn as well.

        • I don’t think that I’m downplaying oversigning, unless you think I’m downplaying it by saying that I don’t think Spurrier should be fired for it, and if that’s it, you’re probably alone there based on how that thread went. I do question the motives of many oversigning critics, but I don’t consider that downplaying the issue; in fact, I think that’s really key to making a good case against oversigning. As I’ve said many times, I believe new regulations need to have the student athlete’s welfare in mind, and if the people making the new rules are only concerned about competitive advantage, then the rules they come up with may not be focused on protecting the student athlete’s welfare. In that sense, I see questioning motives as being an important part of the equation here. It’s necessary to make sure we demand the best rules of those who come up with them.

          Frankly, you’re one of the reasons I question the motives of oversigning critics. Your heart seems to be in the right place, but I don’t think you’re willing to acknowledge that I’m serious about this issue because I’m a South Carolina grad. In that sense, I think you’re not willing to look past what at the end of the day is a petty, provincial rivalry when there are bigger issues at stake. In that sense, you’re part of the problem as I see it. We’ll never reach consensus on this issue unless we’re all willing to lay rivalry aside for the time being. That’s necessary for building an audience for this issue.

        • Dog in Fla

          Has Michael Adams spoken out against oversigning to the degree that Bernie Machen did?

          I know Richt spoke out against it but that was only after McGarity spoke out against it.

    • Texas_Dawg

      I believe the NCAA and SEC should deal with oversigning

      Would you support the NCAA and SEC adopting the Big 10’s rules against oversigning?

  9. Texas_Dawg

    The problem here isn’t with arguing passionately against oversigning. It’s with choosing a coach who’s been caught with his hand in the cookie jar as your ethical poster boy.

    So… what does anything with the Tressel story change about the oversigning argument?

  10. Cojones

    Are yall all through? Feel better? Solve anything?

    Reading these inputs isn’t putting me in either ethical valley. Just pass the damned rule you all are blogging for. Leave your moot court strategy at home.

    I must say that I look forward to the simplistic, unglorified arguments of the Senator, but am also fond of the truth and logic that gamecock man espouses. These boys have something to say. They make it less of a tempest-in-a-teapot .

    Question, folks. How do you word a reg that will make things morally right for the player? If you could do that then I suggest that you begin amending Civil Rights Legislation as well. Moral righteousness is in the heart, not in a reg. Legislation can only lay the groundwork to encourage all people to exercise morality. You can’t make them love their fellow man. And you can’t make some people think of a student-athlete on moral grounds.

    • Re: “Moral righteousness is in the heart, not in a reg…you can’t make some people think of a student-athlete on moral grounds.” This is probably one of the wisest things I’ve in one of these threads in days, and it’s precisely one of the reasons why I wrote that piece at Garnet and Black Attack last week that asked where everyone’s heart is on this matter. You’ll have to excuse me for being a little cynical about this when the people who are most vocally against oversigning aren’t the kids themselves but, rather, the fans of the schools that have the most to gain on the field.

      Your line about this being a tempest in a teapot is also a propos. This might be one of the most important topic in college football right now, but with some of the other things going on in our world today, it’s certainly not the issue some are making it out to be.

      And no, this isn’t downplaying the issue, TD. It is, again, about establishing an audience for it. If you want to get everyone on board and produce consensus on a topic, you have to present it with a little perspective.

  11. Pingback: On moral superiority « Frothing Rage Has Never Felt So Good

  12. lrgk9

    Tressel has deeply disappointed. The non-Mea Culpa press conference has ended my admiration for the man. Gee is a reed in the wind – no backbone there.

    Ahh – what could have been…