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updated: 5/30/2011 6:59 PM

Big sigh of relief for Big Ten

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Finally, Jim Tressel paid Monday for being a liar, cheater, snake and fake.

Ohio State had no choice but to ease Tressel out of his job as football head coach, if only to let the Big Ten save at least a little face.

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You know, instead of exposing the league as two-faced.

Consider a column by David Climer in the (Nashville) Tennessean newspaper on March 12.

The headline blared, "Time for Ohio State to join SEC."

Ouch!

By the way, Climer recently wrote another column with the title, "For SEC, skirting the rules remains a way of life."

No nastier mud can be slung in college athletics than to suggest a football program belongs in the SEC. It's worse than if Tressel was alleged to have a tattoo of Maurice Clarett on his butt.

"Yep," Climer wrote, "the Buckeyes will fit right in. Welcome to our big, dysfunctional family of quarterback brokers and tree poisoners."

The SEC's rogues and renegades are heirs to the old, outlaw Southwest Conference.

Doesn't the Big Ten always insist it's holier than that and than thou?

Climer continued back in March, "The revelation that Jim Tressel is just another cheater in a sweater vest has dragged Ohio State down to the SEC's level. Likewise, the university's lame response and weak punishment are right out of the SEC manual."

Ohio State and the rest of the Big Ten became more than the butt of mean-spirited jokes. They started being perceived as just another school and conference splotched on the lawless landscape of big-time college athletics.

I'm not gullible enough to think that the Big Ten isn't already a member of the gang that couldn't play straight. That would be like imagining that someone who cavorts with the mob is purer than a bullet to the brain.

Heck, I would be a registered genius if I had an IQ point for every time Illinois was caught breaking NCAA rules during my lifetime.

Stuff does happen. Michigan has had its transgressions. Wisconsin has. Minnesota has. Michigan State has

Still, creative public relations portray the Big Ten as cleaner than your average college conference.

Climer noted a note that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany sent to fans four years ago defending Big Ten teams that were drubbed by SEC teams in bowl games.

According to Climer this was among Delany's jottings: "Fortunately we have been able to balance our athletic and academic mission so that we can compete successfully and keep faith with our academic standards."

Maybe because I'm partial to delusion, I still believe the Big Ten tries harder to play by the rules than most leagues this side of the Ivy.

But for more than a decade Tressel was the face of Ohio State football and Ohio State football the face of Big Ten athletics. Then he corrupted the marketable brand names of his school and conference.

When Tressel turned his reversible vest from sweater to biker, the reputation of Ohio State and the Big Ten took an embarrassing turn.

With so much of college sports these days shrouded in hypocrisy, the Big Ten couldn't allow Ohio State to allow Tressel to continue dragging the conference down toward the SEC's dubious level.

Ohio State had to divorce Jim Tressel so the country didn't make a habit of slipping the Big Ten into the same sentence with the SEC.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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