Sports Today: The bigger picture from Spielman vs. Ohio State

July 20, 2017
  • By Marcus Hartman
Marcus Hartman/CMG Ohio
The sun sets at Ohio Stadium on a spring day in Columbus, Ohio.

Ohio State loves its brand more than anything. 

If you spend any time on campus in Columbus, that’s pretty clear. 

They care about the athletes, some students and of course making money for the hospital, but nothing trumps The Ohio State University (TM). 

And that appears to have gotten them in trouble again

The fan reaction to Chris Spielman’s lawsuit against his alma mater has been far from overwhelming, but I don’t think this is going to fade away. It won’t cast a pall over the football season or anything like that, but you can expect it to pop up from time to time over the next couple of years as it goes through the various legal stages. 

RELATED: 5 things to know about Spielman’s legal action against Ohio State

I was doing some more reading up on it when I came across an interesting point in The Columbus Dispatch. 

Writes CD columnist Rob Oller

I see coming to a head the culmination of bad blood that has been brewing for more than a decade between old-school Buckeyes and new-school administrators, who take a business-first approach to everything. Spielman’s suit is the drop of oil on the garage floor that signals more serious issues, in this case university exploitation and arrogance.

That is fascinating to me as someone who has lost interest in visiting campus for anything but “work” over the years because the whole place seems to have been sold off to the highest bidder. 

The last time I wandered around campus was the day of the spring game, and while it was cool to walk across the Oval, say hi to William Oxley Thompson and see what’s left of my old dorm, there wasn’t much else I recognized. 

I am not against making money. I understand time marches on. Nothing stays the same forever. Etc. 

But I do value history and tradition. They obviously don’t, at least not enough to protect it. That’s up to them to do what they feel they have to do, but they also have to deal with the consequences — like alienating regular alumni or getting sued by prominent ones. 

Oller quoted Jim Stillwagon, the nose guard on the best Ohio State team ever assembled and a businessman himself, taking issue with the attitude university reps take to going about their business: 

"I’ve had dealings with that (OSU) marketing group and they’re abusive,” Stillwagon said. 

Maybe the powers that be at Ohio State ended up at this point the same way they justified supporting Big Ten Friday football by saying they needed to be a good TV partner.  

That OSU AD Gene Smith would say that displays a real disconnect from reality.  

RELATED: Ohio State siding with TV partners over high schools is a disgrace

First of all, they are Ohio freaking State. They don't have to bow to anyone if they don't want to -- as they seem to feel when they sue people for copyright infringement or sign up for deals like the one that has led to Spielman's lawsuit.  

Second of all, the TV partners are going to be just fine either way. The high school football programs you're entering into competition with? Their future seems a lot more precarious.  

RELATED: Evidence Friday night Big Ten football will have a negative effect

I'm not one who believes the NCAA amateurism model should be blown up, though it could use some significant work. Many of the old defenses, even if they were accurate, look a lot weaker now that revenue has increased by an almost immeasurable degree over the past 10 years or so.  

Athletics departments used to have some credibility when they cried poverty, but now it's pretty obvious to everyone there is plenty of coin to spread around without really fundamentally eliminating anything important. That's probably why getting proposals passed that paved the way for helping cover travel costs for the CFP and NCAA tournament didn't seem to take very long.  

On the other hand, I do believe there would be a fan exodus if players were granted true free agency and able to negotiate whatever terms of compensation they want (this would also benefit fewer players than it would hurt, in my opinion). 

Players have been getting paid for decades — yes, scholarships count, not to mention the free training, food, promotion, networking, etc. — but fans believing there's a difference between college and pro sports is vitally important to the ability of the college sports complex to generate the money it does and therefore give millions of people opportunities they would likely not have otherwise. 

(The fade of college athletics would also be a disaster for many local economies I’m sure.) 

But getting back to the Spielman suit, thinking there's no difference between promoting your past and promoting your past while collecting some extra money from a car company is pretty dumb. 

I don't blame Spielman one bit for thinking one is in bounds and the other is not, especially given his personal business connections to a competing car brand. 

Recalling the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit that will no doubt be cited as precedent if this goes to trial, I was mystified when I learned EA Sports thought it could get away with using the likenesses of ex-players in a video game and the NCAA apparently agreed. 

I get that waivers might have covered current players, who are not only still part of the university but also benefit from the revenue the athletics department gets from those licensing agreements. However, claiming control of all players’ likenesses in perpetuity always seemed ridiculous. The judge in that case ruled in favor of both current and former players. 

Now Ohio State (and/or its marketing partner, IMG) has made a similar mistake, and it’s frankly inexcusable. There’s no way the money produced by this banner campaign was worth ultimately opening them up to litigation, especially litigation that could have far-reaching consequences. And especially when the action being brought now should have been anticipated by professionals in that business. 

But this is also the school that once cost itself millions in the way it handled firing a coach who literally confessed to paying a recruit, so maybe it shouldn't be entirely shocking… 

In other news, the Cincinnati Reds actually won a game

Adam Duvall’s single in the 11th drove home the winning run against the Diamondbacks. 

It came the same night they got a good start from Tim Adleman, so at least for one day all was right in Cincinnati baseball land. 

Also: Devin Mesoraco is back and Zack Cozart is heating up... 

News was more mixed in Dayton, where the Dragons got a rare second half win but also found out Tyler Stephenson is out for the season with a thumb injury. 

Their No. 1 pick from 2015 was having a strong season after injuries plagued him most of last year... 

Who is the best Miamisburg football player of all time? 

Marc Pendleton has some candidates for one of the region’s oldest programs. They include former players from Notre Dame and Miami plus a current Ohio State Buckeye. 

Steve Channell talks about his team moving back to Division I in 2017.

Also in the world of high school sports: Our leagues continue to spread east as North Union and London plan to join the Central Buckeye Conference. 

Madison Plains, the neighbor of London in Madison County, previously joined local teams in the Ohio Heritage Conference. 

That was a little less surprising, though, because the Golden Eagles spent some time sharing the a conference with Miami Valley teams in the past (the old Kenton Trace Conference, may it rest in peace). 

READ MORE: Conference expansion coming to CBC