Don't shed any tears for Ohio State University's football program or its athletic director, Gene Smith. The sanctions handed down by the NCAA are lighter than deserved -- and Mr. Smith is lucky he still has a job.
Last week, the governing body of college sports put Ohio State's football program on probation for three years. It banned the Buckeyes from participating in a bowl game next season and took away nine football scholarships over the next three years. The NCAA's infractions committee also effectively banned former OSU head coach Jim Tressel from college football for five years.
Mr. Smith complained predictably that the "decision punishes future students for the actions of others in the past." But he vowed that OSU would somehow soldier on, with its remaining 82 football scholarships, its blindly loyal fan base, and its new $4 million-a-year coach.
"Ohio State embraces its leadership responsibilities and affirms its long-standing commitment to excellence in education and integrity in all it does," Mr. Smith said in response to the NCAA sanctions.
Integrity? OSU football players broke the rules. Coach Tressel lied rather than report their infractions. School officials initially pooh-poohed the allegations, then tried several times to pre-empt appropriate punishment.
The NCAA is not punishing future OSU players for the sins of past players. OSU coaches, staff, and athletic department administrators are responsible for the players who won't get scholarships in the next three years and those who will miss out on a potential bowl bid. A true commitment to integrity would have caused OSU to reject its bowl bid this year.
New coach Urban Meyer is saying all the right things, but candidly, Mr. Tressel also was thought to be a pillar of virtue. What will be important is whether Mr. Meyer calls the right plays in overseeing the conduct of student-athletes.