Mr. Clean

By Ramzy Nasrallah on April 26, 2011 at 1:00p

Yesterday we were reminded once again that keeping a lid on bad news is against NCAA rules, and that getting caught in what amounts to an eight-month lie is an embarrassment that carries significant consequences. 

Tressel must have known Gatorade baths are cold, yet here he is acting surprised.

Granted, emptying your bowels into your trousers in Ohio State's south endzone, throwing a temper tantrum during a press conference or openly professing your love for Josh Groban classics are also embarrassing, but they're a lot less expensive than what lying is costing Jim Tressel and Ohio State. 

That's despite the fact that [/begins channeling Terrelle Pryor] everyone shits themselves, everyone throws temper tantrums, everyone loves them some You Raise Me Up and everyone lies [/quickly erases eyeblack].  The NCAA is a lot like your parents, except more exploitive, less forgiving and just as crotchety.

Tressel may still be able to win 10 games every season while keeping only 30% of the Ohio State fan base unsatisfied, but if there's one area in which his program stewardship skills seem to be experiencing atrophy, it's in keeping the lid on things. 

This used to be a Tressel specialty: From none of the things that Maurice Clarett claimed ever being proven to Troy Smith's $500 payment from Robert Q. Baker (the only cash handshake ever!) Donald Washington's mysterious status changes toward the end of 2007, how drug test results are handled, the "punishments" for DUIs, players receiving discounted furniture and driving more rental cars while in college than you'll drive in 20 years, Tressel and his staff have handled all of the particulars in a manner that has kept Ohio State football relatively unscathed, up until now.

Every tragedy has a well-intentioned idiot, and this one is no different.  From the moment that Columbus attorney Christopher Cicero created a paper trail to Tatgate, Tressel had his work cut out for him.  While he had options and could have acted more covertly, it's now abundantly clear that Tressel tried to abort Tatgate before it gestated into Tatgate.  Immediately notifying the compliance department would have effectively birthed Tatgate last April.  While he failed in the noble endeavor to ultimately make it go away, he kept it obscured until the Feds finally shot their publicity ray at it.

You know how many other FBS coaches would have hoped or tried for this episode to erase itself rather than give a glimpse of it to their compliance departments?  All of them.  This isn't the cop out of "it happens everywhere."  This is the fundamental principle of risk mitigation that says if you think you can make trouble disappear rather than deal with its consequences, you make it disappear. 

That was the gamble Tressel likely made and he obviously lost.  I assure you that he and every other coach worth his salt have won similar battles before.  Behind every clean coach is an effective "laundromat."  If you don't fully believe that then you must think college football is a relatively clean enterprise. 

As for the effervescent trolling and rooting interest of sanctimonious douchebag X who is feverishly ridiculing Ohio State in your presence for being clumsy enough to get caught knee-deep in what they believe to be business-as-usual in Columbus, there's not a lot that you can or should do.  Surely you've driven by the guy in the midst of the roadside sobriety test with some degree of schadenfreude.  It's just like any bad medicine; you take it, you squint, you move on.  This is the squinting part. 

Personally, I don't get all twisted up over off-the-field stuff like players selling possessions for discounted tattoos, selling their game tickets on the secondary market for a nice profit or occasionally getting free appetizers at crappy chain restaurants because while it's all not permissable by NCAA rules, genuinely giving a crap about it happening at Ohio State or anywhere else just because it's an NCAA violation isn't enough to make me care. 

It's just my personal belief system that leads me to despise most NCAA rules - especially the draconian one about not being able to capitalize on your own likeness - and root for players from all programs to do so without getting caught.  Plus, if there's a time to look stupid, act stupid and say stupid things, it's in college.  The NCAA frowns on that essential rite of passage, and I in turn root against the NCAA as though it wears a winged helmet in November.

Still, when the NCAA does come looking for your dirty laundry it's scary what impact that can have on your favorite escape.  That's what makes an NCAA investigation so terrifying.  It's the equivalent of putting a policeman's radar gun on your car at all times: It's virtually impossible not to get caught speeding, and that's just no way to comfortably drive.  That's what made l'affaire de Clarett so remarkable: The NCAA showed up twice and didn't write so much as a parking ticket. 

This time around they're buying Ohio State's lone gunman theory that the Tatgate coverup began and ended with Tressel.  Supoenas may uncover phone records and emails, however they're still largely ineffective at shedding light on unrecorded conversations or innermost thoughts.

Just as the national media swiftly used Monday afternoon to predictably take its predetermined boilerplate breathless outrage out on Ohio State once again, ESPN talking head and full-time Fake Buckeye Kirk Herbstreit's reaction was as shallow, vindictive and stupid as anyone following his broadcasting career would come to expect.  Herbstreit said that Tressel should "quit recruiting players like Clarett and Pryor," a suggestion borne from the benefit of selective hindsight and revisionist history. 

While both Clarett and Pryor were five-star recruits by anyone's measure who could have attended the schools of their choosing, Clarett also graduated from high school early and Pryor is a repeat offender of Academic All-Big Ten honors.  Clarett still holds the all-time freshman rushing record at Ohio State and to date has never caused Ohio State to face any kind of punishment for his actions; just the pain of two NCAA investigations, the wrath of ESPN's tabloid fury and several years of needling from your hater friends. 

Ultimately, Clarett simply wrecked his own life, ended up in the clink and is now known as being one of the greatest cautionary tales in school history.  Any coach would have recruited him in 2001 because every coach did.

Herbstreit does have a point about Tressel not recruiting a player like Pryor though.  He should have had the vision to see Pryor for who he really is: The Parade National Player of the Year, a two-time preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, a Rose Bowl MVP and a Sugar Bowl MVP who will probably become the first quarterback in Ohio State history to go 4-0 against Michigan. 

On occasion Pryor says and does painfully stupid things in the public eye, but he has no criminal record or rap sheet to speak of.  Herbstreit's right: Why would anyone recruit a guy like that?  Herbstreit as an Ohio State quarterback was a poor man's Joe Bauserman with a lucrative broadcasting career as his runway.  It's only natural for him to resent a feckless talent like Pryor.

I want my team's coaching staff to recruit as effectively as any other staff.  I don't want them giving $6000 to shitty players like Jim O'Brien did, I don't want them replying to emails about players selling their possessions for discounted tattoos from their Ohio State email accounts and I definitely don't want them forwarding said emails to anyone who could be described as a "mentor." 

I'm not so much as interested in Ohio State football being clean as I am in Ohio State football operating a safe distance from the NCAA's autumn-ruining machine.  They've been pretty good at that; one of Baker's colleagues reported his $500 handshake after Baker gloated about it.  Cicero created the Tatgate paper trail.  The technical term for those things is "loose ends." 

Illegal recruiting, lousy recruiting, point-shaving and bad coaching get my attention.  Playing illegal players like Tressel did gets my attention.  But being "clean?"  Ask any NBA player from the last three decades if John Stockton was the game's best point guard because he played clean.  Dirtiest player, possibly ever.  Watch Wisconsin's offensive line block - they're coached to do that.  I want that offensive line

It's very difficult to get all sanctimonious about a coach not being clean.  Tressel's eight-month lie wouldn't have bothered me at all had it not extended into and through the season, yet his coverup was cheating in the eyes of the NCAA from the moment he failed to report what he knew.  His coverup was cheating in my eyes the moment the Marshall game kicked off.  Operate a safe distance from the NCAA's long arms and the media's endless shame loop.  Figuring out a way to quietly dispose of Tatgate last July would have satisfied that, and none of us would have had the pleasure of knowing just how satisfied we should be.

The spotlight on Tressel and Ohio State is enormous, and it's not because of the student population.  UCF is actually bigger than Ohio State is now, but if its coach (it's George O'Leary - don't look it up) failed to notify the NCAA of some players who should have been ineligible the hammer that would come down on him would be ball-peen to Ohio State's sledge.  The party who would be hurt most by that hypothetical crime would actually be O'Leary's almost-former employer, Notre Dame, since the media would have to remind everyone why they care about O'Leary. 

Spotlights are funny like that.  Bemoaning it should be repudiated in favor of expecting and embracing it.  The media isn't making this any bigger than it should be, it's simply constructing a story befitting of its subject.  This is all Ohio State's - er - Tressel's doing.

If you're like too many Buckeye fans, you've intertwined Ohio State's success with your own personal well-being, which means you're in the throes of a struggle to just get out of bed without crying.  When the Buckeyes win, you're on top of the world with them, and when they lose, well, you're a loser. 

As you struggle to deal with it all, try and occasionally remind yourself that Buckeye football does not reflect upon you personally.  Your personal uncleanliness, flaws and misgivings and Tressel's parturition are mutually exclusive.  You didn't suddenly become a liar when Tressel got caught.  You already were one.


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Matt's picture


BuckeyeChief's picture

Jason and Co. are you fellas open to t-shirt ideas?

"2014 National with it!!!"

Johnny Ginter's picture

Always, forever

741's picture

Best Ramzy column yet.

cal3713's picture

Totally ancillary comment... but can we just get rid of pre-season awards?  If I ever won one of those, I'd take it outside and burn it.  Let's recognize people for what they did, not what they are supposed to do.

BuckeyeChief's picture

You can't burn it, it's not really yours to burn.

"2014 National with it!!!"

BuckeyeSki's picture


Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

BED's picture

+all the internets I have.

The Ohio State University, College of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2006
The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Class of 2009

GoBucks713's picture

Why isn't anyone calling for Kelley's head. His irresponsibility caused an innocent student's death. Great Column Ramzy!


-The Aristocrats!

Colin's picture

I will defend Kirky on one thing, and one thing only. To his credit, he could scramble better than Joe Bauserman. There is proof.


But this was also his only play ever that was worthy of highlights.

BuckeyeChief's picture

4 people I have really hated in my life:

Bernie Williams

Colin Cowherd


A prick Ensign from when I was a Seaman.

"2014 National with it!!!"

Denny's picture

LOL u said seaman.

Any races planned soon? I'm likely doing a 50k in Great Falls VA first week of June.


BuckeyeSki's picture

Woah, woah, woah Chief. You got some 'splaining to do. Why in the world would you hate Bernie Williams? One of the best CF's the Yanks ever had.

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

BuckeyeChief's picture

Denny, I've got a 5K in May, 10K in May, then an 8K in June...looking at that new Garmin running the Rock and Roll in Va Beach?

Ski, I'm a Mets fan, but I loved Paul O'Neill, and Jeter. As a kid, going to Clipper games, Bernie was a WORLD CLASS Prick. He completely blew me off when I asked for an autograph 'cause he was trying to talk to some chick. I was like 11 at the time. I really don't have any hate for any other Yankee but him.

"2014 National with it!!!"

BuckeyeChief's picture

Also, I have dropped 23 lbs, so looking for some PR's this year.

"2014 National with it!!!"

Denny's picture

Cheers to that - well done. Not sure re: RnR, depends on how the summer goes. Finding out tomorrow about the NYC lottery, hopefully I get in to that. I need to find some short races too.


RBuck's picture

Sorry Chief, but if I had to choose between some chick and an 11 year old kid I don't know, the kid loses.

Long live the southend.

BuckeyeSki's picture

BuckeyeChief...Upstanding Serviceman, Known Marathon Runner, Big Blue Supporter, and World Renowned Cock Blocker!

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

BuckeyeChief's picture

Hahaha, i'll have to add that to my resume!

"2014 National with it!!!"

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Hey, don't knock it, that could be an important skill for maintaining combat readiness in the post-DADT era.

Matt's picture

Anyone else notice Holly Rowe in the background of that pic giving us her vinegar strokes face?

BuckeyeSki's picture


Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Rey Maualuga stikes again!   

Irricoir's picture

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

741's picture

Our dominance is clearly the result of our Cheaty McSweatervest ways.

Hoody Wayes's picture

Ramzy, you're a talented scribe - a welcome addition to this site. But, in this opinion, you meander, without getting to the soul of the thing.

What more can be said, than this: a good man and a great coach, failed to do the right the wrong moment. In doing so, he has blunted the impact of his great work and brought great shame and cost, upon tOSU.

And, how can he - Jim Tressel - fail to do the right thing? It isn't the university, that should let him go. It is Jim Tressel, who should aim to relieve Ohio State of some of this ill-begotten glare, by stepping down.

THAT...would be "falling on his sword."

Bucks's picture

Sorry but tOSU is not viewed in shame by myself or many people I know. Errors in judgement do not cut you off forever. This is a big mistake/choice but it in no way means monumental. Monumental is a littany of other scenarios around the nation that surpass this easily.

Since your mind is already made up, doing the right thing is only one thing in your mind.

I could care less about glare upon this school by outsiders. What I care about is what the people who have been involved think on it. Resoundingly, this man has been a driving force in their life, for the good and even, exceptional.


The more I toss things around in my mind, the more agitated I get about it. You for example express Woody in your name as your choice for representation. I applaud that & love it. Woody cared about people first. Under those guidelines, JT would make Mr. Hayes a proud man.

While plenty of people can say "Oh coaches do things for people/players all the time," there is a seperate distinction to that used up mantra & him. He has shown over almost 30 years that he does the extra things, cares about his players & influences people in a positive way.

Anyone can say whatever they choose about him regarding this failure, but I'll be damned if someone is just going to use white-out on every other thing.

Hoody Wayes's picture

I respect your point-of-view.

I love Woody Hayes. As a boy, I shook his hand and watched him sign my copy of "You Win With People." 

And I watched him punch Clemson's Charlie Bauman, in the 1978 Gator Bowl.

Ohio State Football lived on. We almost won the MNC, the following year.

And Woody Hayes will never be forgotten.

I also love Jim Tressel. Like Woody, he will always be in the Buckeye team photo. Jim Tressel would only grow in stature, were he to make the choice to carry out an honorable exit.

This is about honor.

Bucks's picture

Well, we disagree then which is obviously fine.

I would say that the men he helped mold & actually have the right to pass judgement have a clue in regards to him as a man/person/mentor.

Emphatically, they support him & present him as a man of honor & distinction. I damn well won't disagree with the people who actually matter.

Carolina Buckeye's picture




NoVA Buckeye's picture

no one college football program is clean. we caught ourselves and reported it, can the media give us some credit? its not as bad when other schools are found cheating and not reporting it to the ncaa, now THAT'S bad. imagine how bad auburn would be if the ncaa found out on their own that cecil newton was receiving money for cam newton?

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.

Denny's picture

"we caught ourselves and reported it" . . . eventually.

The issue is that Tressel knew, and didn't report what he knew right away. 


Sgt. Elias's picture

Reading MSM sport sites is pure troll heaven. The howling masses (including many of our Buckeye brethren, color me not surprised) act like this is My Lai, Nanking-Rapage, Watts Riots, and face-AIDs all rolled into one mind melting, galaxy ending laser beam o' suck  pointed at a basket of kittens, and perpetrated by god's own cousin no less. All we need now are some Glenn Beck tears to divide by zero and this shit has officially gone pro.

Somehow people equated JT's Midwestern circle-speak and immaculate vest as an indicator of sainthood.  Often they will posture and reiterate their horror whilst pointing accusingly at a dog-eared copy of "The Winners Manual".  /facepalm

This news cycle disgusts and bores me. Right now I hate the media with the immeasurable power of eleventy supernovas. Wait for the NCAA hammer then freak out if you must. JT effed up large and it may be time for his seppuku ritual, but this revolves around a GAME.  FFS. Perspective folks.  How can people get so worked up over hand-egg controversy?  Do people really think there are any top 10 programs that  aren't riddled with violations of some type?  My gawd, times like these confirm my decision to suckle the nourishing teet of Irish Whiskey was indeed a wise one. Wake me when the harpies stop wailing...

Thanks for letting me lay on your couch and vent 11W. What's that you say 11W?  Looks like our half hour is up?  #showsselfout


Pat Forde photographed while visiting Bar Harbor, ME (courtesy Ghetty Images, 2009)




"Okay -- I've got an El Camino full of rampage here." 

Run_Fido_Run's picture

One of my all-time favorite E11 comments: "My gawd, times like these confirm my decision to suckle the nourishing teet of Irish Whiskey was indeed a wise one. Wake me when the harpies stop wailing..."

I'd write a poem based on that line, but it would be plagiarism, so I'll just lift some Dante . . .

Here the repellent harpies make their nests,
Who drove the Trojans from the Strophades
With dire announcements of the coming woe.
They have broad wings, a human neck and face,
Clawed feet and swollen, feathered bellies; they caw
Their lamentations in the eerie trees.

Wake me when the harpies stop wailing . . .



741's picture

Where's Pam?

Pam's picture

Right here!  You missed me? 


741's picture

Just checking.

M Man's picture

Another nice post by Ramzy.  Just a bit harsh on "winged helmets in November," however.  I have my limits.

The "poor man's Joe Bauserman" called to mind this classic screen-capture, which I thought I'd bring to today's skull session for show-and-tell:

Scott K's picture

That's some pre-action karmic retribution Turdstreit...

"There's a fine line between stupid, and....clever.  David St. Hubbins/Nigel Tufnel

Silver Shotgun's picture

Unbelievable.  I am shocked to find such continuing support for Jim Tressel on this site and among most of the other Buckeye-centric sites I visit.  Honestly, what does it take for people to understand that there should be consequences for this duplicity?  I don't care about the players selling their own things or trading them for tattoos.  It isn't even the cover-up that bothers me so much.

Brazenly failing to live up to the standards he professes ad nauseum is what makes me angry with Jim Tressel.  There is no end to excuses that are being made for the man, and it needs to stop.  We can f***ing beat Michigan, win the Big Ten, and contend for national titles without him.  Give me Urban and let us cheat without hypotcrisy, if cheat we must.

Scott K's picture

cue 10 ft hooked cane....exit stage left

"There's a fine line between stupid, and....clever.  David St. Hubbins/Nigel Tufnel

The_Lurker's picture

Different folks have different definitions for consequences. An ultra-rare 5-game suspension and a quarter of a million dollars in fines is one definition of consequences. The NCAA may have another. Some folks think that nothing short of firing will do, so we can get in yet another coach who will commit violations - some of which we'll find out about and some of which we won't, but there WILL be violations. After all, this is D1 college football at a major program.

As for "failing to live up to the standards he professes," far as we know there was only one perfect man, and he got nailed to a tree for his efforts. The thing about being an imperfect human is the IMperfect part.

Doc's picture

Well said!

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

Pam's picture

Who here has said there should be no consequences? Of course there should be consequences and there will be. You want him gone and yet would want Meyer to replace him. 35 arrests doesn't concern you? And we are not talking about parking tickets either. 

Maestro's picture

I am in this camp for sure.  I don't understand the thinking that termination is the only form of punishment available.  The man has become an institution at Ohio State by doing good and he deserves a chance to "totally redeem himself" in my humble opinion.

Efff the outsiders and their calls for his head.  In my experience on the interwebs Ohio State fans (myself included) spend way too much time and energy being concerned with national perceptions.  This is an in-house issue that the people in-house decided was not grounds for termination.  Good enough for me.

vacuuming sucks

painterlad's picture

How about the simple "Free the Tat Five."


To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.