Wednesday, March 9, 2011

THE Ohio State sets THE standard for embarrassing press conferences

This we know about Jim Tressel:

He wears a sweater vest -- against which he hides most of his cards.

He's a motivational author.

He is openly religious, if his book jackets accurately reflect his inner life.

He flat knows how to coach, winning national championships at Youngstown State and The Ohio State University with a simple, attacking style.

One other thing: Jim Tressel has trouble following the rules.

He may have left Youngstown State with a trophy, but he also left it on probation.

He won a national championship in Columbus by somehow keeping Maurice Clarett eligible and jail-free for one magical year. After that, when Clarett continued to act out, Tressel cut him loose. Clarett claimed he had been the beneficiary of academic fraud -- allegations that were never thoroughly investigated.

In subsequent years, Tressel's extraordinarily successful tenure in Columbus has been marred by persistent problems with boosters. Today, The Ohio State leads The Nation in violations reported to the NCAA. Buckeye fans explain away the numbers by saying their school takes NCAA compliance that seriously. Which makes the recent allegations of Tressel's less than forthrightness more ironic than surprising.

Let's review: Last December, The Ohio State announced it was investigating five players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, for trading team paraphrenalia for free tattoos and other benefits. Astoundingly, the NCAA ruled the kids could play in the Sugar Bowl, saying they had not been adequately schooled by their coaches or support staff to discern right from wrong. The suspensions were delayed until the first five games of 2011, when Ohio State will play five of the Seven Dwarfs (Sleepy will be taking a nap, and Doc used up his NCAA eligibility in 1943.)

Now Tressel will join his players on the sidelines for the first two weeks. Turns out, the coach had been tipped off to his players' comings and goings at the tattoo parlor some nine months before Tressel's erstwhile bosses began investigating. Somehow he didn't say a word, and the players, several of them team stars, played the entire 2010 season. Thanks to the situational ethics of the NCAA, they also played in the Sugar Bowl. Only after that game did Tressel admit to his superiors that he knew far more than he had first allowed.

In other words, he lied.

Yahoo Sports broke the story this week, which led to Tuesday's flung-together news conference, during which Tressel justified his actions with a story so convuluted it would wow Verbal Kint.

He was joined at the podium by the university president and athletic director who fell all over themselves making the point that Tressel's job IS NOT IN JEOPARDY!!!

Heck, school President Gordon Gee added, he hoped the coach wouldn't fire him -- perhaps the most humiliatingly honest assessment of gridiron realpolitik ever uttered by a career educator.

The school hit Tressel with the suspension and a $250,000 fine -- a love tap really, given that Tressel put winning football games over the reputations of his program and his school. Based on a press conference with barely a hint of reproachment, Tressel's bosses made a separate peace with the same value judgment.

It's not hard to imagine that Tressel would have avoided his school-ordered suspension and fine altogether had Yahoo not spilled The Ohio State's little secret. Now that TOSU has been outed, so has the NCAA, and an embarrassed NCAA -- if there is such a thing anymore -- will mete out Tressel's final sentence.

The governing gods of collegiate sports have had a tough autumn. They suffered back-to-back torchings from their eligibility decisions involving Auburn's Cam Newton and Tattoo U.

Newton is gone, but the NCAA's current football champion remains under investigation. Ohio State will soon join them.

And now the world knows a second dirty little secret: In making its laughable Sugar Bowl decision, the NCAA took the word of a coach who, despite his image and book titles, can't be counted on to play fair.



rtr said...

And if you haven't seen the what-did-he-know-and-when-did-know-it e-mails yet:

J said...

Before I rant, some background: I was born & raised in Ohio, about an hour or so west of THE OSU. I have been an antagonist since before I was born (I decided to hang out in the internal sauna until 2 days after Mom's due date). I always stirred the pot as a kid. And, for absolutely no other reason than to p**s people off, I rooted for Michigan the Saturday before Turkey Day. This became even more entertaining in the mid-80s when THE Bo Jackson arrived on the scene and I pledged my eternal allegiance to Auburn. So I've never had a soft spot for THE "hometown" school.

I was never impressed with THE Jim Tressel's success at Youngstown State. Those of you not from the area may not know that Youngstown is one of the few remaining communities that is wholly and completely owned by the Mafia. Hang around that area very long and you'll have a tough time holding on to your scrupels due to the less-than-stellar culture. The only surprise about the recent improprieties is that they took this long to manifest. Tressel is probably "on the payroll," if you catch my drift.

Now, on to the bone I have to pick with Gordon - you are doing Auburn a great disservice by always lumping the Cam situation with that of TOSU. Despite the shrieks of extremists, the idea that a parent could be plotting a nefarious turn to a child's life with the child have no knowledge of it is not an unreasonable conclusion. (I still say, if you think it is unreasonable, could you swear on a Bible your kids know absolutely everything you have ever said about them or done something on their behalf? Of course you can't.) Of course they are going to continue to investigate, because the extremists will demand it. They have already concluded Cam and Auburn did nothing wrong. Several times. On the other hand, to not know you can't sell or barter NCAA merchandise while you are still wearing it is not a reasonable conclusion. I don't care if your school didn't educate you (and given where Tressel came from, I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't), you only have had to watch SportsCenter on a regular basis the last 20 years and you would know full well that anything that nets a player any additional assets is a no-no. So Cam vs THE OSU is apples to oranges. Stop lumping them in the same Kool-Aid pitcher.

Now you want some real entertainment? Put Tressel and Cecil Newton in the same pub, get a few drinks in them, and sit back and listen. I'd pay $10 to listen to that. We could donate half the proceeds to Cecil's building fund and half to THE OSU's compliance dept. upgrades.

Anonymous said...

A fraudulent man for a fraudulent program.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the ongoing UNC-CHeat scandal:

* Assistant coach John Blake resigned after phone records revealed hundreds of calls between John Blake and sports agent Wichard.
* Yahoo! Sports uncovered multiple financial transactions between Blake and Wichard while Blake was employed by UNC-CH.
* 14 UNC players were held out of at least one game in the 2010-2011 season.
* Player Marvin Austin was dismissed from the team.
* Players Greg Little and Robert Quinn were both ruled permanently ineligible for receiving approximately $5,000 in benefits each, including high end jewelry.
* Academic fraud involving UNC paid and coach paid tutor
* Wichard suspended by the NFL Players Association for 9 months for his involvement with Austin.

The NCAA has got to be on a hiring spree to keep up with all of these scandals.

Michael said...

J, as always, thanks for your comments.

But the only people who believe the Newtons and Auburn are in the clear are "the extremists" on your end. It doesn't take an Alabama fan to see that there are plenty of cards to be played.

rtr and wde

pstonge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pstonge said...

I'm guessing that the NCAA president doesn't say - on three separate occasions - that Auburn has done no wrong, if he has any inkling at all that something wrong might be coming.

I think the exact words were "no evidence." The NCAA president. On Auburn.

But keep hoping...

Michael said...


Typical, I write 500 words on Ohio State, two sentences on Auburn, and look where we end up.

I'm not hoping for anything. It's a matter of public record that the NCAA is still investigating AU.


Very poetic, by the way.

J said...

Don't blame us MG, you brought it up. :-)

But back to THE imbeciles at THE OSU - why hasn't anyone suggested that Gordon Gee be fitted for a sleeveless jacket, and placed in a room with striped sunlight, padded walls and no corners? First he claims that no one in the Big 11 plays patsies (presumably including his own school), and then he says, "I just hope he (Tressel) doesn't fire me." If ever there was a 1,000-year-old man who resides on Earth in body only, this is it.

I hope Nebraska beats them 900-0 every time they play.