“Inside the family everyone knows what’s going on.”

So how devastating was this SI article to Jim Tressel?  Pretty damned devastating:

… That support crumbled suddenly over Memorial Day weekend. Tressel was forced out three days after Sports Illustrated alerted Ohio State officials that the wrongdoing by Tressel’s players was far more widespread than had been reported. SI learned that the memorabilia-for-tattoos violations actually stretched back to 2002, Tressel’s second season at Ohio State, and involved at least 28 players — 22 more than the university has acknowledged. Those numbers include, beyond the six suspended players, an additional nine current players as well as nine former players whose alleged wrongdoing might fall within the NCAA’s four-year statute of limitations on violations.

One former Buckeye, defensive end Robert Rose, whose career ended in 2009, told SI that he had swapped memorabilia for tattoos and that “at least 20 others” on the team had done so as well. SI’s investigation also uncovered allegations that Ohio State players had traded memorabilia for marijuana and that Tressel had potentially broken NCAA rules when he was a Buckeyes assistant coach in the mid-1980s.

Last Friday, SI informed Ohio State spokesman Jim Lynch of the new allegations and asked that Tressel be made aware of them. Lynch said the school would have some comment by the end of the day. No comment came, and on Saturday, Lynch told SI to contact Tressel’s lawyer, Gene Marsh, for any response from the coach; Lynch also said he could not confirm that Tressel had been apprised of the new allegations. The implication was clear: Ohio State was distancing itself from Tressel. (E-mails from SI to Tressel and to Marsh and multiple phone messages for Marsh went unanswered.)

As bad as that sounds, Tressel’s mortal sin wasn’t being in charge of a program with all that going on.  He’d made a career out of plausible deniability.

… Yet while Tressel’s admirable qualities have been trumpeted, something else essential to his success has gone largely undiscussed: his ignorance. Professing a lack of awareness isn’t usually the way to get ahead, but it has helped Tressel at key moments in his career. As coach at Youngstown (Ohio) State in the mid-1990s, he claimed not to know that his star quarterback had received a car and more than $10,000 from a school trustee and his associates — even though it was later established in court documents that Tressel had told the player to go see the trustee. In 2003, during Tressel’s third season in Columbus, Buckeyes running back Maurice Clarett was found to have received money and other benefits. Even though Tressel said he spent more time with Clarett than with any other player, he also said he did not know that Clarett had been violating the rules. A year later an internal Ohio State investigation (later corroborated by the NCAA) found that quarterback Troy Smith had taken $500 from a booster. It was the second time the booster had been investigated for allegedly providing improper benefits to a star player, but again Tressel said he had no knowledge of the illicit payment.

It’s just that you can’t lie to the NCAA and hope you’ll get away with it.  That’s why Gee and Smith had no choice but to cut Tressel loose – they’ve got their own reputations for plausible deniability to protect.  They’ll portray themselves as a couple of doofuses who were misled by a man whom they believed had a sterling reputation.  (In Gee’s case, that’s probably not much of a stretch.)  Look for this to get pretty cold-sounding when the school makes its case to the NCAA’s infraction committee; it’s not like they have much of a choice but to lay it all on Tressel to save the program’s (and perhaps their own) skin.

That being said, don’t feel too sorry for the man nicknamed the Senator.  It never ceases to amaze me how often people who should know better ignore the lesson of Watergate – that the consequences from the coverup wind up being worse than those from the crime.  In the end, all Tressel got out of the mess he made was a Sugar Bowl win.  That hardly seems worth losing a career over.

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50 Comments

Filed under Big Ten Football, The NCAA

50 responses to ““Inside the family everyone knows what’s going on.”

  1. Murph Dawg

    Senator, do you think that Sugar Bowl win will stand given everything that has come out since the NCAA gave authorization for the players to have a delayed suspension and participate?

    It seems to me that this is an opportunity for the NCAA to save some face regarding the incident. The NCAA vacates the Sugar Bowl win along with whatever other penalties the drop on OSU and state had the truth been told they would never have granted a deferred suspension to the players involved.

    • crap sandwich

      Never try and guess what the NCAA will or won’t do. Remember the mantra, “every case is unique”. The NCAA knew about tOSU, but they never act, they only react after a story breaks.

    • I think that if the NCAA vacates any wins, it’s likely to be those from the regular season, as those are the games OSU played with ineligible student-athletes.

      • Do you think Tressel’s dishonesty will make any difference, though? The players were declared eligible for the Sugar Bowl before it was revealed that Tressel had known about Tatgate since April and had been basically lying his ass off since then.

        • That’s why I don’t think the Sugar Bowl win will be vacated.

          • Dave

            See: Rose, Derrick. The NCAA does revisit eligibility rulings when new evidence comes to light. The justifications for that ruling are in tatters.

            • Maurice Clarett

              Do you really think they can revisit eligibility rulings? Maybe they’ll look at my case again and re-instate me now that they know I was just part of a much bigger thing. I didn’t know what I was doing was wrong. I just did like Coach said–and shut up when he told me to shut up.

  2. lrgk9

    oh, when the ‘Someother Dude’ Defense doesn’t work use the ‘I’m a Dumb@ass’ Defense …

  3. Mike

    The “plausible deniablity” part sounds a lot like Calipari

  4. kckd

    You can lie to the NCAA and get away with it as long as the media doesn’t find you out. The NCAA sure as hell ain’t gonna investigate to find anything. The media broke this, the media found more smoke later and the media reported on the blazing fire. The NCAA continues to hammer schools who investigate themselves properly and give them what really went on and do nothing to schools who don’t unless of course the media turns up the heat. The NCAA needs an internal investigation IMO.

    • Gravidy

      Then there’s the interesting corollary to that rule: You can be completely truthful with the NCAA about matters upon which the media HASN’T reported and get your ass busted. If you don’t believe that, just ask AJ Green.

      • Dawgfan1

        Makes you wonder what Tressell, Pryor, and the rest of that slimy lot at Ohio State thought when AJ Green got hammered last season.

      • No One Knows You're a Dawg

        Neither the NCAA, Big 10 or OSU have any reason to uncover wrongdoing. In fact, they all have a very strong motivation ($$$) to downplay or even cover-up wrongdoing. The same is true of most other BCS schools and conferences. Investigations make college football look bad and potentially hurt revenue.

        For them, the quicker a scandal goes away, the better. This is why OSU cut Tressel loose. Keeping him would have meant the hits would have just kept coming. The whole thing will go away quicker (though not necessarily quickly) with a new coach.

  5. TNlogdawg

    The campus paper is reporting that Pryor showed up last night for a team meeting in a new 350Z with dealer tags dating May 24th! I predict he never wears an osu uniform again….

    • MinnesotaDawg

      Not a problem….just another six month test drive of a car that everyone knows he can’t actually afford on his own. Nothing to see here, folks. Move on.

      Sounds like Pryor is either too arrogant or stupid to realize that the Columbus gravy train might be delayed for a few minutes. Another indication that that many OSU players don’t give a second thought to NCAA regs because the system of cheating is so systematic.

    • No One Knows You're a Dawg

      Bet Pryor sits out this season and declares for the 2012 draft.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        That’s possible, but the supplemental draft is a better possibility. Does anyone remember how slick that move was when Bernie Kosar pulled it off?

  6. Merk

    Eh….The NCAA should have been looking at Pryor the whole time. I mean what kind of legit player thinks they are so special they can just say skrew National Signing Day and announce a month or so later. Its called “National Signing Day” for a reason. They should have owned the hell out of him and made him not be able to sign with any team until the next season. Just so other people don’t do the same crap.

      • Macallanlover

        So you feel the “ego satisfaction” from a delayed announcement in 1980 (which seems to have been true indecision) is comparable to the Army HS game/ESPN/FoxSports/Internet/blog era that impacts the decisions of today’s HS athletes? I don’t see the relevance, and the manner in which Mr. Walker has conducted himself since signing at UGA confirms it, imo.

      • Merk

        My point is that it took the Dept. of Justice to get the NCAA to look at Pryor. Even though not signing of National Signing Day is not a punishable offense. It should have allowed the NCAA to see this guy is already acting like he is above the rules. Thus warranting them to give him a watchful eye. Instead they spend all their time reading what TMZ is spouting out.

  7. Dave

    yeah, but at least they finally beat an SEC team in a bowl game – a first for any Ohio State coach – that was the only thing left for Tressel to do. Of course, it may not stand…..

    • It shouldn’t stand. If any of the players opt for the supplemental draft, that would violate the suspension agreement that was part of their eligibility. Once that agreement is revoked, they would be made ineligible again, retroactively. They would still be 0*-9.

  8. Merk

    Also…I’m pretty sure this moves Richt up the list one more slot for highest winning percentage of active coaches.

  9. Scott W.

    The only thing smart about Gee is that bow tie.

  10. Go Dawgs!

    If not for Yahoo! Sports, and now Sports Illustrated, NONE of this would have come to light. The NCAA probably didn’t even get their investigators a hotel room in Columbus the first time they went through the program on the tat-gate issue. Reporters have the open records act on their side, so they can get their hands on documents if they know what to ask for. Beyond that, nobody in the program, out of the program, near the program has any obligation to speak with them. The fact that they could uncover this much dirt which Ohio State and the NCAA weren’t able to (or at least, they weren’t willing to admit to uncovering it) is staggering. It speaks to a general lack of concern on the part of those investigating. Thank God for the media.

    Additionally, the narrative about Jim Tressel needs to be changed, and it needs to happen now. Kirk Herbstreit and other apologists, both with Ohio State ties and without them, are already trying to sell this line of BS that Tressel was too loyal to his players and was just trying to help protect them, and that’s why he took a step away from his vaunted integrity and got into this mess. That’s foolish at best, and a downright lie at worst. One reporter interviewed on ESPN Radio this morning laid it all out, saying words to the effect of, “Jim Tressel’s great integrity is a myth.” And, it is. The man may wear a tie and have tough standards. That’s great. But his willful ignorance in cases listed above, and his conduct in this case, proves that he has no integrity. The fact that he was honest with these media types at various points along the way is meaningless. Integrity is what you do when nobody’s watching. Well, now we know what he did when nobody was watching and an issue threatened the roster of a team he thought could win another national championship for Ohio State. We know that he kept Maurice Clarett around long enough to get another ring. What else was he doing that the good folks at Yahoo! and SI haven’t managed to get wind of? Am I really supposed to believe that he never did anything wrong in his life up until the year 2010?

    • W Cobb Dawg

      Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tressel on the WWL when we turn on cfb this fall. Maybe all he needs is a teary-eyed mea culpa.

    • MinnesotaDawg

      +1. I think the amount of smoke from Columbus over the last decade (and Youngstown before that) is indicative of his true character. The man made a career of facilitating cheating AND looking the other way. Although more than a few coaches choose this path, Tressel was so successful because of the “senatorial” facade that he played up to his (and OSU’s) advantage in the face of near-constant rule-breaking. His bullshit persona was his biggest asset, and, of course, the OSU administration relied upon their coach’s reputation to justify one toothless internal investigation after another. “Did you know about this coach? No? Good enough for us.”

      Of course the sports media is right along for the ride. Hey guys, just because the guy doesn’t oil his hair back, dress in polyester suits, and publicly flaunt his vices….it doesn’t mean he’s isn’t cheating or lying to your face. He’s just better at it. Apparently, the sports media is so frequently exposed to openly bad behavior and transparently craven individuals, that they are particularly vulnerable to a real trickster who’s actually skilled at lying while playing the good-guy role.

      Good riddance to this phony.

      • Go Dawgs!

        Exactly. I’ll give the man his due regard for apparently helping to steer a number of young men towards meaningful lives, especially during his time at THE Youngstown State University. But tOSU fans can quibble all they want to about other schools breaking the same rules or the rules being unjust. The fact is, they are the rules. I don’t think marijuana should be illegal, but I don’t smoke it because it is, and I would fully expect to be arrested if I did smoke it and got caught. This is the same situation. Tressel knew his boys were breaking the NCAA’s law, and not only did he not report them as required by his position, he actively lied in order to cover it up. There’s no honor in that, and there’s no “integrity” in that.

  11. 69Dawg

    The SI writer on the Dan Patrick show today when asked if this article would end his involvement, laughed. He said it was just the beginning. Dan, who is from Ohio and a OSU fan as a youth has said that his Ohio sources have said there is at least 2 other bomb shells just out there for the reporters. He predicts that Pryor is the next sacrifice as OSU tries to position itself for the NCAA hearing. The AD’s job is not looking to strong either.

    • Normaltown Mike

      “his Ohio sources have said there is at least 2 other bomb shells”

      Kurt & Ram are gay?

  12. Cojones

    What gets me is all of this info was out there and no one writer or self-credentialed poster went after it. We preferred here to attack any word or phrase Richt would utter to further our ego-fueled pomposity . Writers like Schlabach and Herbstreit (by some comments here, I’m sure some have missed the latter’s anti-Tressel comments in print) attacked Tressel earlier. Yeah, there’s more. Do you think that only four players took ganja for their autographs? From a guy who had over 200 lbs available? A nice man-cave was created for folks just waiting for a tattoo? Nah, this goes further and deeper. Although I’m for legalizing mj (and have been for years), this doesn’t mean that possession from this Columbus/osu atmosphere is not onerous. The cars have been in articles from years back when Clarett was under investigation. It isn’t new. Like some of you, I think there is plenty left unsaid that will involve the AD, those responsible for compliance, some other faculty members and the Gee.

    While this is going on, writers and others are taking advantage to push the idea of money payment supplements to needy players. Why? You can take your “college plantation” arguments and jam them. You bet that we can empathize with those guys from poverty levels, but we don’t need to do that by empowering them with more money to break rules. College football scholarships should be looked at as ample reward to lift a student-athlete from other environs and place them in a supportive student matrix. A small stretch could be reached by comparing this life bonus to the military. You join, you are taken care of by a supportive service that reaches down to your unit. In return, you vow to operate as a disciplined cog in that unit for the betterment of your immediate team members that further gives the overall support of service objectives. Much as the football team serves to spawn good publicity as an adjunct to your school’s overall mission to enable a player further in life with a good education. And possibly by the sweat of one’s brow be thrust into a dream profession realization from the training that you receive.

    I certainly hope that the SEC does not bite the apple presented by Delany as an excuse to place this tradgedy in another forum. Many of us ignore the Big-assed elephant in the room that all colleges are guilty of; namely, a handshake token of fan appreciation for a good game and for winning. This little hypocrisy is always glossed over when the big hypocrisy hits the fan, but it still is in our subconscience. Paying players a salary opens a Pandora’s Box to a panoply that we can never correct in the future and that will not solve the individual greed present in some people. Paying players talk should be canned instead of furthering the aims of a Big10 idiot who brought it up to see which idiots would embrace it. A good conscience and honesty can’t be bought , but it sure as hell can be disturbed. Let’s try to manage the rosy system we have instead of adding more thorns. Many people have been led to disagree with that statement. Why don’t we discuss our fan hypocrisy as a method to get a grip on the present osu hypocrisy before we all look for the enemy and it be us?

    • Dog in Fla

      “Paying players a salary opens a Pandora’s Box to a panoply” of piss-poor payment prevents proper performance protests by the more poorly paid players.

    • shane#1

      That’s all well and good Sir. Now lets look at it from a street angle. These people are making millions and I can’t buy my girl a freakin’ pizza! All these other kids have cars and I am on a stupid mo-ped that ain’t even mine. I see this town full of folks on Saturday and these folks are spending a lot of money and TV is paying the school a lot of money and all the coaches are making a lot of money and I am getting didly squat. Don’t they know that all those people are spending all that money because of us?

      • Zero Point Zero

        As always…what percent go pro? 2-3%? when they go pro how long are they in the NFL? 3 years on average. The lesson here should be to Study and better yourself for 40 years. Paying players will put a lot more players in the poor house 4 years down the road.

        • Go Dawgs!

          How does paying a player prevent that player from studying for the future?

          • Mayor of Dawgtown

            I think 0.0’s point is that more players will go to college for the wrong reason if they get paid. Better to sacrifice now, study hard and understand that you probably will not get to the pros and even if you do you won’t stick there. Sorry, I’m not buying that it would make any difference.

  13. RhymerDawg

    From the street level it is a pretty one sided, selfish view. What about me, this guy on the street? I can’t buy my girlfriend a pizza. Okay, then don’t have a girlfriend. You are not in college to have a girlfriend. You are in college to play football and study. You do not have to have a girlfriend to make it to the pros.

    The argument could be made; well when you are in college you are supposed to have a girlfriend, get laid, or whatever you want. I mean don’t all the wealthy kids have nice cars and girlfriends and members of a fraternity, etc. Since these wealthy kids have all these things then should I not have have as well. I mean I don’t have to drive a 1998 Dodge Ram with a broken bumper if I have a 3.95 GPA. I mean why can’t my department which makes millions for the university through grants and federal funding get me out the sh*thole that I am in because I come from a family that neither has attended college or can pay for college.

    Is this not the same “street” motivated argument? Certainly. It is an appeal to what does not matter. How is having a girlfriend, cars, extra cash money, or other stuff supposed to be part of the deal for going to college, whether you are playing football or not? We cannot be blinded by our own selfish desires. One may argue that this is very spartan-esque. My answer would be so. I come from a very poor family and have had to pay my own way so I get grants and other stuff which I have to pay back. The money there is equal to the stipend that players get for their scholarships. But I have to pay mine back.

    What I am saying is that the “street” argument is not only selfish but is one-sided. A free education is not just the four years of freedom but it is also the fact that I don’t have to pay money to my lenders for the next 30 years. You want to talk about indentured servitude. These athletes may feel they are indentured for 4 or less years but I, the average student, am indentured for 30+ years. I mean if I don’t pay back that money then I in serious trouble with the government and debt collectors who are able to repo and garnish my wages. So I am sorry that I don’t shed a tear for the student-athlete who is made to be seen as a “house slave.” Because, this “field slave” may have it better now but it is far worse in the long run.

    • Dave

      A UCLA player started an advocacy group because he left UCLA with $5,000 in debt. I graduated with $15,000, and my parents paid $60,000 – and I wasn’t paying UCLA tuition or paying LA living expenses.

      We’ve become so used to the notion that our athletes must live in a protected bubble with special privileges. I had plenty of friends who rode bikes, worked two jobs, sold blood and other bodily fluids, and still spent most of their Saturday nights mooching beer and pizza off their wealthier friends.

    • shane#1

      True, but they haven’t been recruited because of whatever grant money you can bring into the university after 6 or 7 years when you have earned your PHD. How many butts can you put in seats in the next three years? Spinal injury? Well too bad, but you can get a medical and get your degree. In your wheelchair. Imagine going to college, keeping up your grades, and working 40 hours a week on the side. The average BCS football player works 40 hrs a week on football alone. These guys work full time and get no money. I know they get a shot at an education but how many are recruitted just for the money that they can bring to the school? The fact is my that five star athletes are in short supply, it’s a seller’s market for the best, and somebody’s going to pay them. Do you prefer that the NCAA pay them or that drug dealing tattoo artist, shyster car dealers , and the Bobby Louders of the world pay them?

      • Dave

        False choice. A small check from the NCAA will not stop the on-the-side stuff.

        Every member of the Olympic Committee and FIFA got there because they’re rich and influential. They still take massive bribes for their votes. Should FIFA and the OC pay their members a salary to discourage taking bribes?

        CFB is hard. But so is graduate school. I got paid $700 a month to teach 2 classes and do research for a faculty member. The University owned my own research. I had to maintain a 4.0. And I did NOT receive tuition, fees, room, and board.

        Again — they get a wonderful deal. Just not an easy one.

        As for the medical angle, I would rather see any additional money put into a fund to help to provide long-term health care. Spinal injuries are rare — but bad hips, knees, and backs aren’t.

      • RhymerDawg

        How many butts can I put in the seats in the next 6 or 7 years? Well, I can not put in any. But does that diminish my worth because the immediate gain of my work does not garnish millions a year. Imagine a student athlete who allows the University to get $1,000,000 a year for 3 years, they would earn the University $3,000,0000 for their total contribution to the University for their recruitment. However, for me I earn the university $500,000 a year for the next 45 years because of new research that I came up with and the University owns. I have earned the University $22,500,000. Now when it comes to the numbers game then I have in total garnered the University more money. The payoff is immediate gains versus patient dividends. So it is not just simply the money I make the university.

        These are arbitrary numbers thrown out there with absolutely no data to back them up. I was merely trying to relate how a non-student-athlete can earn the university more money per enrollment than a student-athlete.

        As far as the injury thing goes, I am not sure how to explain the concept of “oh well.” It should not be thought of as passing the buck but it seems you are making a mountain out of a molehill. No, university would simply push these truly injured kids to the side with no medical attention. How often do we find the university helping these kids out on serious injuries? Almost always. Certainly there are mitigating issues to consider but which injuries were sustained in relation to what they were recruited for and which injuries were sustained because the student-athlete was being stupid. Which one should the university pay for? Which ones should they cover? To simply state that the University should carte blanche pay for all injuries sustained by student-athletes is ridiculous. As far as knees, backs and other injuries of the like, I think they should do it like the military does it. First you have to prove that these bad things were the result of injuries sustained in the military and on duty. Secondly, you get a percentage of disability based upon the severity of the injury. Based upon that percentage you are given certain financial and medical aid. But to simply argue that the University is held responsible for all injuries is short-sighted and honestly has no bearing on the argument of paying players or the money they earn for the university. It is a appeal to emotion which clouds the issue.

        • Dave

          Yes, because no one would root for Georgia if not for AJ Green.

          Seriously, the University makes the player, not the other way around. Randy Moss was unstoppable at Marshall, as was Jerry Rice as MSVS. No one gave a crap until they turned pro.

          Georgia makes millions from football. The players are a part of it, but they are not the reason so many people attend the games or watch on TV.

  14. Cojones

    Good example of student-athlete having it hard was Hines Ward. Absent father, mother scrubbed floors (two jobs) and he played football in HS in Atlanta area. When he got his Scholarship to UGA, his mother surprised him with an old used Ford because she understood that he may have a social life . Hard labor to sacrifice for her child, but she was wise enough to know that other things are important to a teenager.

    I feel that everyone on this blog feels that the football athlete needs more in their life as part of their college experience, but we see it different ways. Many of us feel that with the athlete knowing he is going to college that he has plenty of time to prepare by earning money for extracurricular play. There are extreme cases where both parents are gone through tragedy and everything earned goes to help support the remaining family. That doesn’t mean that funds can’t be established , NCAA approved plans can’t be set up or that welfare funds for just such circumstances can’t be used. Giving a stipend to all players to forego any social hardship is fuzzy thinking. For some of the jerk media to use tragedy in the college football system as an excuse to push a quote used first to describe the NFL as a “plantation system” is dumber’n grits. College football doesn’t approach such a system. If selling uniform parts for greed is used as your excuse then I guess we should pardon Clarett for robbing people at the point of a gun. If a player makes a number on a uniform worth a lot of money you should realize that he has not bought and invested in all the uniform numbers as the University has as well as
    having the university support and educate him for the privilege of wearing that number. Yes, I’m aware that the universities make boucou bucks off the player’s jerseys, etc, but that does not jibe with giving everyone money to run around and play with to allay any fear of the athlete’s attitude going sour. More fuzzy thinking that follows the fuzzy college “plantation” talk. Think giving the osu players a little stipend would stop them from selling equipment for tatts, cars and pot? Think again about the nature of all of us. Mo’ money is the evil here, not the Universities selling their own jerseys. If Nike and others don’t like the fact and still give free jerseys, then tell the players to hold onto them, make the number famous and they can sell them as an investment after college. Providing uniforms is between the company and the University, not the players. And the University hasn’t given the right to uniform providers to mess in our bidness.

    Has anyone considered the carrot of allowing commission on sales to be paid the player for one year after completing his career at that institution? Might be an incentive for the players to make their number famous.