So Tony, what do you really think about Ohio State's descent into NCAA hell?
As of this moment all of my friends from the Big Ten are on notice. And you know who you are. You are the ones who call and write constantly about the (expletive) Southeastern Conference and claim with such confidence that the only reason the SEC has been so successful (five straight national championships and counting) is that its schools are ethically challenged and have their priorities misplaced.
You are the ones who talk about the Big Ten schools in hushed, reverent tones and use terms such as "greater academic mission." Your schools are not football factories like ours in the great, unwashed South. Your schools would never cut ethical corners like we do down here, where you believe our motto is: "If you ain't cheatin' you ain't trying." You look down your collective noses at us.
Give me a freaking break.
I don't want to hear any more lectures on ethics or morals or accountability from that part of the world -- not if Jim Tressel returns as Ohio State's football coach this season.
If a Southern football coach did what Tressel did, which was to engage in an orchestrated coverup of potential NCAA violations, the calls for his firing would have been immediate and would have come from sea to shining sea, especially from the Big Ten. And they would be right.
I can’t really disagree, although I would add one point that Michigan fans - in our snooty, ivory tower, condescending manner – have made for years: Ohio State is the school in the Big Ten that would fit in perfectly in the SEC. Same uncomfortably rabid fan base. Same prioritization of winning over all else. Same “screw yer book-learnin’!” mentality. I suspect that Penn State fans would make the same criticism. How much of this criticism is grounded in reality and how much is just displaced anger that the Bucks have been clobbering Michigan and (to a lesser degree) Penn State on the field is anyone’s guess. That said, the overall point is that Ohio State’s scandal does not reflect a systemic problem in the Big Ten; it reflects a systemic problem at Ohio State. The Big Ten has other systemic problems (mediocre coaches, declining talent base, Gerry Dinardo), but a casual attitude to NCAA compliance isn’t one of them.
Barnhart’s column also has a whiff of a preemptive strike. There isn’t so much smoke coming from the Plains as a plume of radioactive waste. (Happy 25th anniversary, Chernobyl!) If prior history is any guide, Auburn will go down and take everyone they can with them. Every little morsel of dirt that they can find on their rivals (especially that rival in Tuscaloosa) will come out. What Mike Slive had successfully avoided for most of his tenure, but is now confronting is a repeat of the 80s and 90s where SEC teams turned one another in in a never-ending spiral of allegations. With media interest in the SEC at an all-time high, the prospect of multiple scandals looms. Barnhart knows this, which is why playing the “you’re dirty, too!” card, early and loudly, makes sense.