Let's get this out of the way up front regarding the Ohio State football team's suspensions by the NCAA that were handed out Thursday:
It's everyone's fault.
Is the NCAA the most hypocritical organization involved in sports? Sure it is.
Does the scandal that's been exposed at Ohio State go on at just about every big money-making college football program?
It would be naive to think differently.
But the most important question I find myself answering is, did the players know what they were doing was against the rules?
No question in my mind.
Over Christmas break, I ran into current and former Division I athletes whose teams have participated in a NCAA tournament.
Jimmy Langhurst, a 2006 Willard graduate and the area's all-time leading scorer in basketball with more than 2,000 points, was a three-year starter at Robert Morris University. The Colonials made the 'Big Dance' in Langhurst's final two seasons.
So Jimmy, at a mid-major school in Pittsburgh, do they take the time to stress the rules of gifts and exploiting your status as an athlete?
"We were talked to about it at least three or four times every season," Langhurst said. "We were told up front, 'don't do ignorant things' in regards to that stuff. Then we were told in the middle of the season and again when we made the NCAA tournament."
Thursday night I spoke with Kyle Hallock, a 2007 Perkins graduate who is prepping for his senior season as a pitcher for the Kent State University baseball team.
Drafted a year ago but opting to return, Hallock has experienced two NCAA tournaments with the Golden Flashes.
So Kyle, at a non-profit program such as baseball in the Mid-American Conference, do they stress the rules of gifts and exploiting your status as an athlete?
"It's made extremely clear ... crystal clear," Hallock said. "Before the start of every season, you get the 90-minute talk on what you can and cannot do in that regard.
"It also is made pretty clear, If you aren't sure about something, then you should probably ask. There is no doubt in my mind those players knew. None."
Obviously Robert Morris and Kent State aren't Ohio State. But that's exactly my point. If it is being stressed at those smaller schools, do you really think it wasn't made clear to the Buckeye football team?
I've noticed the initial reaction in all of this by the fans is anger towards the NCAA. That's fair. It's hard not to have some type of feeling of sympathy for players who can't except so much as a penny from an organization that is a multi-billion dollar entity.
But let's be real about something else, which I feel cannot be ignored. Yes, the Big Ten championship rings and the gold pants charm belonged to those players. Maybe they should have the right to sell something that belongs to them, just like we all do.
However, the fact that they did is an insult to one of the country's greatest college athletic programs of all-time. Ohio State's deep football history doesn't need recounted. We all know it.
Does the name Vic Janowicz mean anything to Buckeye football fans? The 1950 Heisman Trophy winner and member of the College Football Hall of Fame never got a "gold pants" pin for beating Michigan, because his teams never did.
Meanwhile, quarterback Terrelle Pryor sold his while he was still playing for the school. I guess that tradition that dates back to 1934 meant a lot to him.
And it can't go unsaid what a poor choice of words Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith used yesterday when trying to paint the picture of financial hardship for the players families in "tough economic times."
How many of you parents or college students out there would like to have a college education worth around $100,000 for free? I don't know how much money those players' families bring in, but I know there are plenty out there struggling with the economy who aren't getting a free education to ease the pain.
So yes, blame the NCAA for being hypocritical as usual.
Blame Gene Smith, and yes, even coach Jim Tressel for not doing a better job of making their players aware of the rules (his words, not mine.)
Blame the players, because this was about being a responsible young adult. We've all made mistakes at that age, and whether or not we agreed with the rules we maybe broke, it doesn't change the fact that rules are rules.
But in the end, don't pass the "Buck."
Blame everyone involved.