Friday, June 3, 2011

Sports Q&A: “Walk” Away, Terrelle Pryor

By Jeffrey Boswell

In the wake of Jim Tressel's forced resignation, Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor is under NCAA investigation for his use of a succession of used cars. Pryor has already been suspended for the first five games of 2011 for accepting cash and tattoos from a tattoo parlor owner who has pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and money-laundering charges. Is Pryor going down?

Is Pryor going down? Absolutely. But, as history has shown us, not without "making a deal" first.

Reportedly, in his three years at Ohio State, Pryor has tooled around Columbus in no less than eight vehicles from no less than three dealerships. According to the owners of each dealership, it's all well and good, because they have said that all transactions were cleared through OSU's compliance department. Never mind that "OSU Compliance Department" is the biggest oxymoron in college athletics history. OSU Compliance is a lot like Pryor himself — neither can say "no." But let's not be overly critical of the OSU Compliance Department. It is, in fact, the hardest-working department in the university, as well as its largest employer of the blind.

If the compliance department, did, in fact, approve all of Pryor's used car transactions, then there is a rubber stamp somewhere within the department with a lot of explaining to do. Yes, they looked the other way. They looked every other way but "at" Pryor. It's a stunning example of the lengths an institution will go to keep their money maker happy. And it sure did take a lot to keep Pryor happy.

Pryor doesn't seem to be alarmed, or worried at all, by the NCAA investigation. Not long after reports indicated Pryor was under investigation, he casually rolled up to a meeting at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center (where employees still have to "punch" in) driving a Nissan 350Z with temporary tags, and a sound system blaring Gary Numan's "Cars." Okay, so Pryor's never heard of Gary Numan, or subtlety, for that matter. So let's amend the statement. He arrived in a car with a sound system blasting Chamillionaire's "Ridin' Dirty."

In all seriousness, Pryor didn't need music to herald his coming. Heck, he's the most watched athlete in Ohio, and that doesn't even include his time on the football field. Maybe a bicycle would have been a more discreet, and wiser, manner of arrival. In a sports car? Not smart. Pryor apparently has no intention of hiding, and every intention of flaunting, the so-called spoils of his fame. Sure, he's been known to blaze a trail. Now, he's known more for leaving a trail.

Pryor shouldn't have been driving. Not only because it gave the impression that he was thumbing his nose at investigators. No, Pryor shouldn't have been driving because he didn't have a valid license. Pryor's license was suspended because he failed to provide proof of insurance after a February 19th traffic stop for a stop-sign violation (let's assume the dual-threat Pryor "ran it" or just "passed" right through it). This charge is one of three traffic violations Pryor has had in the last three years. As a football player, Pryor would be classified as "driven." Maybe that should apply to his transportation methods as well. If not, then get the OSU sousaphone player to dot the "i" in "bike," pronto. Before Pryor kills himself, a pedestrian, or a university.

Would an athlete concerned about the outcome of such an investigation be dumb enough to be seen driving a sports car, knowing it wouldn't appear supportive of his defense? No. Pryor, obviously, is not concerned about the outcome of his investigation. Could his behavior been any worse? Well, yes. He could have popped out of his ride and proudly displayed his new tattoo, and introduced onlookers to his newly-hired agent, and whipped out a trunk-load of OSU memorabilia, and, to top it all off, produced a smoking gun, unlicensed, of course.

Indeed, Pryor's shenanigans, especially when viewed in conjunction with OSU's other problems, are downright comical. Pryor's a running quarterback. He's also a running joke.

While nearly all of Pryor's actions have been unwise, he is by no means dumb. He is, on the contrary, a manipulative shyster who preys on the desires of those eager to rub shoulders with greatness, or in this case, a superior athlete and horrible driver posing as "greatness." He's conquered the trifecta of shady persons relationships, with a tattoo parlor owner, used car salesmen, and Ohio State coaches. Pryor's a master salesman. He's sold himself to everyone but the devil, but I bet the devil will soon be wearing some OSU memorabilia. Hell may not be his next destination, but there is some form of purgatory in his future. May that purgatory be a disastrous NFL career? His athleticism gives him the potential to be the next Daunte Culpepper, but his irresponsibility saddles him with the certainty of becoming the next JaMarcus Russell.

Pryor's free reign of freebies is a testament to the lack of vigilance on behalf of OSU and the NCAA. It's oversight with too much oversight. OSU's compliance department has no valid excuse when it comes to explaining their actions. Did they blindly approve certain transactions while knowing the dealings were questionable, at best, and non-compliant, at worst? If so, they were wrong. Did they follow proper procedure and still approve Pryor's transactions? If so, that may be an even more egregious error. Whatever the case, a complete overhaul of the departments operating procedures is in order.

What, then, could be the reasoning behind Pryor's actions? Ironically, and with apologies to Jim Tressel, it seems to be an act of "resignation." Pryor knows, when all is said, done, and penalized, his college career will likely be over. That doesn't appear to bother him greatly. Pryor can call it a career and begin preparation for the NFL, while leaving a crumbling OSU athletic program in his wake. It seems he's already begun his professional career, because he's getting "paid" to play.

Pryor's exit will equal in shame what his entrance was in grandeur. That probably doesn't bother him. But it should. If Pryor has any sense of respect for himself and Ohio State, he will admit his mistakes, freely and truthfully, and submit to any questioning OSU and the NCAA so desire. And never put on a Buckeye uniform again.

In Pryor's case, it would behoove him to "walk" away as opposed to being "driven" off.

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