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Character Issues

I have to laugh when I think of Bills fans anguishing over the character issues of Cam Newton. Sure, there are justifiable concerns about Newton's dubious decisions off the field, along with his work ethic. But maybe football fans should be more concerned about the character flaws of the men who make millions coaching college football, which is a cesspool of corruption and hyporcrisy nowadays.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel has long been held up as some model of purity in the sport. Buckeye fans were secure in the notion that their coach, clad in his signature sweater vest, was a surpassing moral figure, somehow above the seamy side of college football. Tressel recently published a book called, "Life Promises for Success: Promises from God for Achieving Your Best."

I tend to be suspicious of the ones who align themselves with the Creator, while making millions on the side. Now it turns out Tressel is just as dirty as the rest. A Yahoo report revealed that Tressel lied to a federal investigator last April when he was warned that several of his players had been trading team memorabilia for services as a tattoo parlor. Tressel did nothing at the time. In December, the scandal broke. OSU suspended the players for five games next season -- while allowing them to play in a bowl game.

Now Tressel has been suspended for two games next season, both against MAC schools. We wouldn't want to get crazy and remove a big-time coach from the sidelines in an actual conference game! The Sweater Vest was also fined $250,000. It sounds like a lot, until you note that Tressel is paid $3.5 million a year to coach college football. It's more like a slap on the wrist.

Last week, Sports Illustrated ran a front-page investigation into the criminal records of players in major college football programs. We're talking about criminal behavior that occurred before they went to college. Many of the records are sealed, though quite a few were available in Florida, where so many of the top high school players live. The story revealed that the colleges do very little to unearth criminal records of players they're recruiting. Boys will be boys, after all.

SI went through the rosters of the top programs to determine the 25 with the most players who had criminal records. Tops on the list with 22 student-athletes with rap sheets? Pittsburgh.

Yes, the program where Dave Wannstedt coached for six years. Wannstedt, of course, was recently hired as the assistant head coach of the Bills. I wonder if the Bills considered character when they hired Wannstedt. Evidently, it wasn't a major consideration when  he was putting together a college team and trying to save his job at Pitt.

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