Ohio State students hang a sign in Columbus in support of former football coach Jim Tressel, who resigned Monday. (AP)

Ohio State students hang a sign in Columbus in support of former football coach Jim Tressel, who resigned Monday. (AP)

At one point as various infractions high and low involving those paid legitimately and not-so-legitimately at Ohio State University were coming to light over the past few months, Gordon Gee, the president of the university, was asked whether he thought he’d have to fire Head Football Coach Jim Tressel.

Dr. Gee said, “I’m just hoping the Coach doesn’t dismiss me.”

It was meant to be a joke.

For the record, Coach Tressel was paid about $3.5 million each year to coach football in Columbus, which is a little over twice the value of the package Dr. Gee receives to be president there. Over the years, numerous young men who helped make Coach Tressel’s teams successful were allegedly paid much, much less in cash or cars or tattoo art or marijuana by various individuals, some of whom had criminal records, and some of whom did not. Some of those young men traded various items they’d obtained – sometimes legitimately, sometimes perhaps not – by playing football: jerseys, rings, and so on for the tattoos and other goodies.

There is perhaps nothing remarkable about any of the athletes involved in these activities. Young men recruited to play the so-called “revenue sports” for institutions like Ohio State University have been breaking the rules established by the NCAA since those rules were established, as coaches, athletic directors, and compliance officers have tried in vain to figure out how to appear to be abiding by the rules they knew their players were breaking, sometimes with their assistance, while maintaining competitive programs. This has been difficult, because the rules are numerous and confusing, and in some cases they are absurd. But would even sensible, streamlined rules work? Young men without much money are bound to want some, and when they win football or basketball games often enough to attract the attention of generous fellows who run businesses such as car dealerships or tattoo parlors, those young, hard-working men without money are bound to recognize the possibilities in their circumstances, unless they lack initiative.

Jim Tressel was completely unconvincing when he maintained that he didn’t know his players were breaking the rules, or that he wasn’t sure whom he should tell about the violations, or some rubbish along those lines, so he’s an ex-coach now. In his letter of resignation Mr. Tressel wrote: “We know that God has a plan for us, and we will be fine.” The $3.5 million he’s been paid by Ohio State each year should also be helpful in that regard.