Thoughts on Tressel-gate

Thoughts on Tressel-gate

March 10, 2011

I refuse to put up a picture of Ohio State, so here’s a stormy diarama created by Matthew Albanese.  It’s made
of parchment paper, thread, ostrich feathers, chocolate, wire, raffia, masking tape, coffee, synthetic moss,
and cotton.  Click on it if you don’t believe me.

 For the most part, I try to concentrate on Michigan football here at Touch the Banner.  With a full-time job and a strong dedication to Wolverines athletics, I really don’t have time to keep up with all the goings on in college football around the country.  So when scandals happen at USC and even Ohio State, I typically keep my nose to the maize-and-blue grindstone.

With all that being said, Jim Tressel is an idiot.

The e-mails that came out recently are damning to the nth degree.  I have always had a begrudging respect for Tressel, who is a polished, well spoken man with a squeaky clean personal record.  He’s never been in trouble for drunk driving, hiring prostitutes, choking his players, cussing out reporters, etc.  I guess that’s why they call him Senator.

And the Senator is a good nickname, because it turns out that the image of moral superiority is just a facade.  Just like any of hundreds of politicians in recent history, the dirty secrets are starting to leak.  I will be the first to admit that I don’t have huge qualms with every single one of the Ohio State football program’s transgressions during Tressel’s decade as a coach.  When a coach has 100+ players on his team, many of whom come from meager backgrounds, it’s difficult to follow what each of those 100+ players does on a daily basis.  And as much as a coach would like to believe that his players will follow team, university, and NCAA rules on a daily basis, we all know that college kids will be college kids.

But the pattern under Tressel is becoming more and more daunting for him to overcome.  He has had several star players face disciplinary action for taking improper benefits – A.J. Hawk, Nick Mangold, Maurice Clarett, Terrelle Pryor, Troy Smith – and the punishments from above have been fairly light.  Of course, Ohio State’s athletic director Gene Smith came out and essentially said, “Come Hell or high water, Jim Tressel is our coach.”  And why not?  Tressel wins a bunch of games, often wins the Big Ten championship, and even pulled in a national championship eight years ago.  Gene Smith and university president Gordon Gee want to True Grit this horse until it dies.

But at some point, each dynasty fails.  Look at Alabama in the early ’90’s.  Look at the University of Michigan under Rich Rodriguez.  Look at USC prior to Pete Carroll.  Tennessee.  Florida.  Texas in 2010.  Ohio State hasn’t had a truly bad year since 1999, when John Cooper went 6-6.

And the key point here with Tressel is that he had options.  Punishments are far less severe when evildoers (I figured that if Tressel can quote George W. Bush, then so can I) admit their evildoings.  Tressel could have taken the e-mails he received directly to the Buckeyes’ compliance director when Tressel received them in April 2010.  Instead, he chose to keep it quiet, and that’s why Ohio State is in this miss right now.  ESPN writer and author of Meat Market Bruce Feldman pointed out yesterday that the NCAA basically ended Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant’s career for lying about improper benefits he received through contact with Deion Sanders.  And keep in mind that it wasn’t the benefits that Bryant was banned for – it was because of the lies.  He stated that he had provided accurate information to the NCAA.  Tressel also signed the same type of affidavit, stating that he had given the appropriate information to the NCAA investigators.

So if a 20-year-old kid like Bryant loses his amateur status for lying to the governing organization, how can anyone justify a 58-year-old coach doing the same thing?

Tressel was presumably concerned that the offenses would get his players suspended or cause them to be permanently ineligible, the latter of which would be a preposterous punishment.  College kids should not lose their chance to play football just for giving out some autographs and memorabilia in exchange for free tattoos and a few hunder dollars.  Suspended?  Yes.  Forced to repay the money?  Absolutely.  Banned permanently?  Let’s not be ridiculous. 

A quick bit of critical thinking should have told Tressel that Pryor and company would have received a slap on the wrist.  What would that have meant for Ohio State’s football team in 2010?  Let’s take a look.  If those five players received the same punishment for the 2010 season as they now must face for 2011, they would have missed:

  • Marshall, whom they beat 45-7.  Still a likely victory.
  • Miami, whom they beat 36-24.  Miami was ranked #12, so OSU would have been in a dogfight.
  • Ohio, whom they beat 43-7.  Win.
  • Eastern Michigan, whom they beat 73-20.  Slaughter.
  • Illinois, whom they beat 24-13.  Again, this was a somewhat close score, but OSU still would have been favored.

That’s a likely 4-1 record after that five-game stretch, which would have essentially removed the Buckeyes from national title contention, but still would have allowed them to be in the race for the Big Ten and a BCS bowl game.  And it’s not like Pryor would have actually led them to a national title, because that kid’s a bigger moron than his coach.

So Tressel risked his job and program based on the difference between a 12-1 season and, at worst, a 10-3 year (if you grant Illinois a victory).  Get out the hypothetical pitchforks!

If the NCAA were fair, it would suspend Tressel for the entire 2011 season.  If Ohio State had standards, it would fire Tressel.  In my opinion, all twelve victories from Ohio State’s 2010 season should be vacated.  And if we’re talking about Practicegate vs. Tressel-gate, then the Buckeyes ought to be put on several years’ probation.  And if we’re talking about Reggie Bush-gate (in which USC’s coaches denied knowledge of improper benefits) vs. Tressel-gate, Ohio State ought to lose some scholarships in the coming years.  The program in Columbus has a long history of these things happening, and at some point, the NCAA needs to stop slapping Ohio State’s wrist and come up with some sort of viable punishment.


  1. Comments: 21386
    Mar 10, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    It's time to hammer Tressel and the OSU football program harder than USC got hammered last year. This is textbook "Loss of Institutional Control", if not outright proactive cheating. And it's a pattern going back 10 years. Look at what the NCAA did to our basketball program. Loss of scholarships, vacation of a bunch of victories and a postseason ban because of the effects of one booster. Why shouldn't Ohio State get the same thing? They should look into all of the benefits that Terrelle Pryor has received and forfeit every single game that he has played in. Not vacate. Forfeit.

  2. Comments: 21386
    Mar 10, 2011 at 4:34 PM

    Also, you're being way to kind to Tressel, in my opinion. You seem to think that he was feeling some sort of conflict or guilt. He wasn't. He thought this would be swept under the rug neatly just like everything else. He still claimed no knowledge even after it all went public, and he was never going to share these e-mails with anyone.

  3. Comments: 21386
    Mar 10, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    "We need to rid the world of all those who do evil…evildoers. And all those who lie…liars.
    And those who deceive…Decepticons."

  4. Comments: 21386
    Mar 10, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    @ 11:34 a.m.

    I don't know how I'm being too kind to Tressel – I called for him to be fired. But okay.

  5. Comments: 21386
    Mar 10, 2011 at 6:24 PM

    Tressel should be castrated. If not, then the NCAA has no balls.

  6. Comments: 21386
    Painter Smurf
    Mar 10, 2011 at 8:33 PM

    Since this will turn into a big investigation, I can foresee no scenario in which Tressel survives as HC. He clearly broke the cardinal rule by allowing players to get paid without addressing it, and then lied about it to the NCAA. The NCAA will find additional dirt on Pryor alone five minutes into the investigation. The car loaner program is already out in the open and the coaches had to know about that. Even if OSU was extremely stubborn and fought like crazy to keep Tressel, the pressure from the NCAA, the non-rabid OSU community, and the Big 10 conference would be overwhelming. I think the only question now is how to mitigate the damage to the careers of those involved and the program in general. Assuming Tressel is not ready for retirement, I cannot imagine him taking the fall for the entire AD. There is no way Tressel kept this issue to himself.

  7. Comments: 21386
    Mar 10, 2011 at 10:03 PM

    This isn't about tattoos.

    The emails sent to Tressel in April say that the tattoo parlor owner was a known drug dealer being investigated by federal law enforcement; he has previous convictions and was involved in (not accused of) a homicide.

    Whatever happened between those players and the tattoo parlor owner, it looks very bad when they are trading expensive merchandise to a big time drug dealer. When he's arrested and the FBI/DEA finds a large collection of memorabilia that had to come from OSU football players, with certain players signatures on it and/or initial engraved, they may pay a visit to the OSU locker room next.

    I'm not surprised that Tressel wants to avoid all assocation between his players and federal crimes!

  8. Comments: 21386
    Mar 11, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    @ Painter Smurf 3:33 p.m.

    I hope you're right. I just never trust the NCAA to do what's right, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. One half of me thinks the NCAA is going to suspend Tressel for five games and put OSU on probation or some lame punishment like that. The other half of me thinks Tressel gets fired, OSU loses a bunch of scholarships, OSU vacates a bunch of victories, and they go on probation for four or five years.

  9. Comments: 21386
    Mar 11, 2011 at 11:59 AM

    @ Anonymous 5:03 p.m.

    Maybe I'm just naive, but I really hope those OSU players weren't trading that memorabilia for anything more than tattoos. I do believe it's possible that they were just getting free tats and that's it.

    So while the guy might be a big-time drug dealer, it could just be a coincidence. I think there's a stereotype out there that shady dealings go down at lots of tattoo parlors, so whether they bartered for free tattoos at Tattoo Parlor A, Tattoo Parlor B, or Tattoo Parlor C, there's a chance that any or all of them could be selling drugs out the back door. That doesn't necessarily mean that every customer who walks through the door is a user.

    Like I said, maybe I'm just being naive. I really hope there isn't anything more sinister going on, no matter how much I hate OSU.

  10. Comments: 21386
    Painter Smurf
    Mar 11, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    If this tattoo guy is really a shady drug dealer as we are hearing, it will get ugly when the press checks into him in earnest. Even if no money exchanged hands and the deal was just free tattoos and the tattoo guy's relationship with the players was minimal, you will still have OSU star players painted as pals of drug dealers in the press. The press excels at overstating and exploiting even the loosest associations.

  11. Comments: 21386
    Marc Shepherd
    Mar 11, 2011 at 5:53 PM

    Just a few points about Tressel.

    1) The frequency of star players who've been found to accept improper benefits on his watch, is too great to be a coincidence. I mean, if Tressel is honest, he can't see this happening without realizing there's a pattern here.

    2) As it is, there appears to be a lot that they're sweeping under the rug. It's already well known that Terrelle Pryor has been pulled over for traffic violations 3 times, and in each case he was driving a "loaner car". Does anyone who is NOT the Buckeyes' starting QB get all of those loaners? If you're Jim Tressel, and if you're the straight-up citizen that everyone says, how could you NOT smell a rat?

    3) The explanations Tressel gave at the press conference were comically bad. I cannot imagine that he actually believes them. I cannot imagine that his bosses do.

    This is a major test for NCAA Compliance. I don't see how they can do anything less than vacate Ohio State's entire 2010 season.

  12. Comments: 21386
    Mar 12, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    That whole press conference was a giant farce. What a joke.

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