Monday, November 2, 2015

Punishing the help

J.T. Barrett should be riding whatever they make benches out of these days. When you're QB-1 for the No. 1 team in the country, it is presumed that you know how to keep your head clear of your you-know-what.

Barrett, however, apparently mislaid those instructions last weekend, and so was arrested for drunk driving. Which forced Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, whose players have a history of being way too cozy with the police blotter, to bench Barrett this weekend.

Good for him. Bad, however, that Ohio State has taken it another step and stripped Barrett of his scholarship for a semester.

The old-school crowd will no doubt applaud this, missing the point that this is not so much about punishing a college kid for the crime of being dumb (a naturally occurring event) as it is about providing Meyer some cover. He gets to look like the stern disciplinarian, and everyone forgets that, in this case, a one-game sitdown is pretty much a parking ticket.

There's also this: By cutting off Barrett's money, Ohio State gets to remind the help who holds the cards in their grossly unequal partnership.

Needless to say, it ain't the help.

No, they're pretty much just minimum wage widgets in the landscape of big-boy college athletics, making millions for the universities who own the rights to their names and images and (occasionally) bodies. In exchange, the widgets sometimes, though not always, get their education entirely free. And the university reserves the right to withhold even that if the widgets get out of line.

And so, OSU pulls the plug, which doesn't really cost it much considering what the university gets in return. And it does it without even a promise that Barrett -- who, lest we forget, played a huge role in Ohio State winning a very lucrative national championship last year -- will eventually get it back.

In other words: We own you, son. And no matter how much you think you aren't, you're entirely expendable to us.


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