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College Football Needs PR (And an Ethics Refresher)
By: Julie Walsh
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Let me start this post by first saying that I am a proud graduate of The Ohio State University. You can tell I am because I added “The” before the university name (see what I did there?) However, it is no secret that the football powerhouse has recently come across some major issues, causing us to lose our beloved coach and become the center of an NCAA investigation.

Just as a recap for those who missed the scandal: It started with players accepting cash for their football memorabilia, a couple of tattoos that put those team members in suspension, and poor judgment all around. Flash forward a couple of weeks and it has now turned into OSU having to vacate the entire 2010 season, including the Sugar Bowl win, and losing quarterback Terrelle Pryor and head coach Jim Tressel.  

Just recently Jim Tressel and Ohio State had their NCAA hearing, and now coaches, staff, players, and fans alike will all have to wait up to 12 weeks to hear about the sanctions and the fate of the OSU football program.  

So, how does OSU start to rebound from these rough couple of months? With great PR and more integrity in their actions.

On Monday, the Washington Post wrote an article outlining exactly how much it has cost Ohio State to deal with these issues. According to the article and an OSU PR person, Jim Lynch, the university has spent over $400,000 in PR advice in relation to the football scandal. However, that only covers about half of the $800,000 that the university says they have spent on the scandal to date.

Public records and invoices show that OSU paid New York-based PR firm Kekst and Co. $267,000 for help with public relations between March and mid-July and paid The Compliance Group of Lenexa, Kansas $162,000 to help deal with the compliance problems uncovered by the scandal.

I have no doubt that with the help of the PR firms and ethical decision makers on the staff and on the team, Ohio State will rebound from this. I may be blindly biased because I spent four incredible years there, and many of my family members are also graduates of the university, but I see that they are already making positive moves. According to a university spokesperson, Ohio State will be donating the revenue from the Sugar Bowl to local charities.

But let’s be realistic. To really rebound they are going to need to do more than donate money; they are going to need to prove it with actions, like anyone else. Just because they are a sports team does not mean they are exempt from ethical standards. As PR practitioners, we are well aware of the dangers of being unethical, and have seen the repercussions in our own industry when we are not.

Thanks to organizations like the PRSA we have our own code of ethics to follow, just like the NCAA provides guidelines to the sports teams. Penalties come to those who do not act ethically as we have seen time and time again, not just in our own industry, but every industry.

So, to end on a related note, I think Miami will need some good PR to get them out of their scandal. Any takers?

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About the Author
Julie Walsh is a Media Relations Specialist at Walker Sands. Join her in the conversation @JWalsh254.

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