There are not many college head football coaches that we here at Coaches Hot Seat respect more than Jim Tressel, but his recent decision to not suspend Buckeye defensive linemen Doug Worthington for a recent DUI arrest is terribly disappointing, and even irresponsible. Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer lays out the facts of the case, but the bottom-line is that at the Ohio State University a Buckeye football player can get into a car and drive drunk and be assured that he will not be suspended from the football team. That is just a very troubling message that Ohio State and Jim Tressel is sending to “his” Buckeye football players, and even to the students at Ohio State. Tressel’s reasoning must go something like: You got into car drunk where you could have easily killed someone or yourself, but that is not something that is a big concern to us here at Ohio State, and driving drunk and getting arrested for a DUI will most certainly not cost “my” players any playing time. That type of logic not only sends the exact wrong message to the football player that put people’s lives in danger by driving drunk, but also makes it clear that there are not really any “real” consequences to breaking a very serious law if you are a player at Ohio State. Jim Tressel, and any other head football coach, that has a policy that doesn’t administer a mandatory and very serious penalty for driving drunk risks putting into danger, their own athletes, the student body of the school, the general public, and yes, even the head coach himself. Jim Tressel has now put himself on the record that an Ohio State Buckeye football player can drive drunk and not even be suspended from a football game, forget about an automatic suspension and possible loss of a scholarship, so if an Ohio State player from this point forward gets into a car and drives drunk, and God forbid kills someone, everyone can look straight at Jim Tressel for what is nothing less than “his” policy that does NOTHING to discourage the players in “his” charge from driving drunk. We really have to wonder that if Doug Worthington had gotten into his car drunk and had killed a freshman at Ohio State, if Jim Tressel would be suiting him up for the Youngstown State football game. We all know the answer to that question, and that makes Tressel’s disciplinary policy a laughingstock and an embarrassment to Ohio State. We seem to remember Tressel giving former Buckeye Maurice Clarett quite a bit of leeway several years ago, and as current Buckeye players absorb the punishment of Doug Worthington for his DUI, or rather lack of punishment, we really wonder what type of message is being sent to the Ohio State football team.
College football players driving drunk and receiving DUI’s must be purged from this game and from our college campuses, because every time a football player, or anyone for that matter, gets into a car under the influence of alcohol or drugs, that individual puts the entire community at risk, not just the player as Jim Tressel seems to think. The policy on driving drunk and DUI’s should be very clear and very firm by all college head coaches, and anytime a football player puts other people’s lives in danger then a severe penalty must be paid by that player. The current Ohio State athletic policy only calls for mandatory suspensions on “second alcohol offenses” which really gets us to wondering that if a player gets into a car drunk and kills someone if he would be able to suit up for the next football game if he was out on bail. That is a hell of question, and that goes to the heart of why Tressel’s policy on his players driving drunk does not meet the basic standard that playing college football is a privilege, not a right. Evidently, every player on the Ohio State football team could go out tonight, get rip-roaring drunk, get into their cars and put the entire Columbus community at risk, get arrested for DUI’s, and Jim Tressel would be telling everyone: “It’s a big picture thing.” No Coach Tressel, this is not a “big picture” thing. Your football player, Doug Worthington, got into a car drunk and put his life and other people’s lives at risk (including members of the Tressel family), and if Jim Tressel and Ohio State had a disciplinary policy that actually held the Buckeye players accountable, Worthington would be suspended from the OSU team for a year at least. With Jim Tressel’s current policy on his football players driving drunk, there is only one thing for sure: Ohio State players can drive drunk and put people’s lives at risk and they will not miss any playing time. That is outrageous, and if an OSU player gets into a car and kills someone, the entire world is going to be looking right at Jim Tressel, because his disciplinary policy does not punish a player that gets a DUI, but allows it, and in the mind of an early 20-something, does not discourage it. You can roll those dice and put the people of Columbus at risk if you like Jim Tressel, but if one of your players kills someone when he is behind the wheel drunk, YOU JIM TRESSEL will hold some of the responsibility for that death.
Here is what the policy should be on a football player or student-athlete driving drunk (a coach might find out one of his players is driving drunk without getting caught by the police) or getting a DUI:
1. A player that is driving drunk or is arrested for a DUI should get an immediate and total suspension from the football team until the DUI case is resolved in the courts.
2. When the player either pleads guilty or is found guilty of a DUI the player is suspended from the team for one year from the date of the DUI.
3. A player that is driving drunk or gets a second DUI is immediately thrown off the football team and loses his athletic scholarship.
That is a disciplinary policy on driving drunk and getting DUI’s that actually discourages players from getting into their cars drunk, instead of the current Ohio State policy that allows players to drive drunk, get arrested, and still suit-up in the scarlet & gray. Outrageous is only word that fits OSU’s policy when it comes to DUI’s.
What is very sad and pitiful for a great institution like Ohio State is that when a Buckeye football player gets one DUI he gets no mandatory suspension from the football team or from playing in games. If an Ohio State football player gets a second DUI, he gets a two-game suspension. That is an outrageous and irresponsible disciplinary policy for DUI’s that is in effect at the Ohio State University, and brings into serious question the judgment of the President (E. Gordon Gee) and AD (Gene Smith) at OSU, and of course, Jim Tressel’s judgment as well. When someone gets killed by an Ohio State football driving drunk, all of the above three men will have some responsibility for that death, because they have put into place a policy that not only does not discourage OSU athletes from driving drunk, it actually allows them to get away with it the first time without penalty. I just hope these men are able to deal with the potential consequences of this outrageous DUI policy at Ohio State. Maybe it will take attending the funeral of someone killed by an Ohio State athlete for the leaders of OSU to come to their senses, but until then there is NO “real” punishment for Buckeye athletes if they get arrested for driving drunk, which by default puts at risk the entire Columbus, Ohio community.
How Jim Tressel can sleep at night knowing he has basically empowered his players to get into their cars and drive drunk is beyond our comprehension. Tressel better just hope that his phone does not ring late at night in the future and there is someone on the other end telling him one of his Buckeye football players killed someone while driving drunk. If that does happen, Jim Tressel is going to be out of job, and probably the people above him that have set this policy, will be out of work as well.