The Ohio State University vs Notre Dame: Whose Reputation is most Tarnished?
by guest columnist Rod Gibbs
Now is the season that two behemoth football programs will be putting on their pads for a bruising run at the national championship. There is no doubt that both Notre Dame and Ohio Sate University have been scared and tattooed by scandal. The marks left on skin and reputation will take many scrubbings of PR and good faith actions to dissolve.
Who is more culpable in these infamous incidents? On one hand, we have the OSU football program which has lost “More than a Coach”. They have lost Jim Tressel who has a national championship in 2002 and over an 82 % winning record. A coach who was like a father to his players but it turned out through a little digging by Sports Illustrated that dozens of his charges over the years were getting NCAA illegal assets at a tattoo parlor and car dealerships. On the other hand, we have the Holy of Holies - Notre Dame, which has smoothed over the fate of Declan Sullivan who fell to his death in a windstorm while filming football practice. Notre Dame has also tried to smooth over the suicide a St. Mary’s college student who was sexually harassed by a ND football player.
Jim Tressel had a record of oversight well before he arrived at OSU, including a physical episode on the sidelines. He always claimed he wasn’t aware of what was going on which should be a familiar refrain to USC fans who have watched the buddy to his players Pete Carroll go pro before possible NCAA sanctions.
The sins of OSU were underhanded payments while ND issues involved death in both cases, with blame resting on the shoulders of the ND “family” as they call themselves. Twenty year old Declan Sullivan was killed when the 40 foot tower he was on was toppled by a “sudden extraordinary burst of wind” as noted in the official report. I recall that day and the menace of wind storms was well noted on weather forecasts for the area.
Supposedly, the report of stronger winds didn’t appear to be upgraded until several hours before the start of football practice. However, Sullivan was aware of these severe weather reports before practice and Tweeted from the lift, “Holy shit, this is terrifying….I guess I’ve lived long enough” It is venial (a term familiar to Catholics) for ND to maintain that Sullivan was just joking about the situation since at that time planes were being diverted from landing at South Bend. The lift was rated for wind not above 25 mph while the gusts that came in were above 50 mph according to the OSHA investigation. Coach Brian Kelly called for the practice that day and was so dedicated to bettering his football team that he continued practice for nearly another half an hour after the accident.
The head of ND Rev. John Jenkins concluded, “numerous decisions by many people made in good faith…played a role in the accident” but “no one acted in disregard to safety”. So no one was responsible, no one charged, no one reprimanded, no one was fired. The most apt analogy that applies is the blindness and lack of responsibility by the catholic church in the case of child abuse by priests which lasted for decades. Yes, ND will set up a memorial scholarship and Sullivan’s sweet parents will not sue the university though no doubt they could gain millions if this were prosecuted.
The second issue is more problematic but shows the callousness and carelessness of ND and involves sexual harassment against Lizz Seeberg by an ND football player. She reported the episode to campus and local authorities but nothing significant was done. She supposedly received text messages saying “messing with ND football is a bad idea”. She was suffering emotional problems and several days later committed suicide. The investigation was brief by ND and local authorities who could not proceed because what Lizz had told them was “hearsay” - because she was dead. Just to illustrate the animus against a woman making charges in a campus environment are the words of -naturally – an anonymous pervert on a blog , “Thank god the female is dead. She’s one of those defective females who would be nothing but trouble.”
In comparing OSU to ND we must praise the Irish for a sterling 95% graduation rate, though this is in jeopardy now that the university has given Kelly the green light to recruit less qualified players. OSU has a mediocre 55 % graduation rate which actually breaks down to 85% of white players graduating to only 33% black players. OSU had seven players with felony records which was much less than Papa Paterno’s Penn State 16 felony players.
It is fair to say that Ohio State has far to go in football academics and payoff ethical issues. But these can be seen as essentially skin deep. The scandal issues of Notre Dame perhaps do not rate being banned by the NCAA as advocated by David Zirin in “The Nation” but there are deep flaws institutionally both in the football program and the university administration which have resulted in death and great pain to many families.
The Golden Dome has been tarnished and it will take serious reform to return the luster.