Jim Tressel as Jim Tressel

By Jason Priestas on May 1, 2011 at 6:00a
Jim Tressel is navigating the darkest days of his career.Still does not compute

If you took the time to read the NCAA's rejection of the final appeal from former USC running backs coach Todd McNair on Friday, your stomach likely settled somewhere under your bladder. The first attempt to appeal any part of the sanctions levied against USC last summer was met with a kind GTFO, locking in McNair's show-cause, and the language used in the NCAA's response (PDF) gives us a pretty good indicator of what we'll see later this fall when the NCAA makes a decision.

McNair, like Tressel, was found in violation of 10.1:

Further, the assistant football coach knew or should have known that studentathlete 1 and agency partners A and B were engaged in violations that negatively affected student-athlete 1's amateurism status. The assistant football coach provided false and misleading information to the enforcement staff concerning his knowledge of agency partner A's and B's activity and also violated NCAA legislation by signing a document certifying that he had no knowledge of NCAA violations.

Sound familiar?

Aside from the 10.1, both coaches were hit with additional infractions. Tressel was slapped with a 14.11.1 for permitting players to participate while ineligible, while McNair was served up several 12.X violations and one for a 30.3.5 for failure to report knowledge to the NCAA.

If you're a rational fan, there's no way you can parse that in any other way than "not good" when applying it to Tressel's situation. How "not good"? We'll have to find out, but let's hold off on any Jim Tressel as Todd McNair talk.

McNair was accused of being aware of the player-agent relationship between Reggie Bush and the partnership of Lloyd Lake and Michael Michaels. Specifically, the NCAA said McNair was involved in a phone call with Lake "during which agency partner A attempted to get the assistant football coach to convince studentathlete 1 either to adhere to the agency agreement or reimburse agency partners A and B for money provided to student-athlete 1 and his family." That's NCAA-speak for "get Reggie to start returning our calls or we want our money (and house) back."

Jim Tressel, for his part, tried to put an end to behavior that would jeopardize the eligibility of his players. He'll regret the cover-up for the rest of his life, but there's no evidence (amongst mountains of it) that suggests he encouraged or played an active role in ongoing violations beyond said cover-up.

In a perfect world, these cases are handled in a vacuum, but since this is real life we're dealing with, reputations come into play. Jim Tressel is loved by his players, his peers, and millions of Ohioans at home and abroad. Todd McNair was twice convicted on charges related to dogfighting.

Jim Tressel was accused of not reporting the sale of personal items by his players. Todd McNair was found to have been aware of a six-figure relationship between a player and an agency.

In LA, McNair had a head coach that booked town the first time the clouds darkened and an athletic director that turned a blind eye to what was happening in his own house before declaring the NCAA's initial report was "nothing but a lot of envy" and then for an encore, tossed gasoline napalm on the whole mess by hiring Lane Kiffin to replace Pete Carroll.

Ohio State self reported.

When it's all said and done, the dreaded show-cause could very well still end up in Tressel's lap. No matter how you try to spin that, it's not a good thing™. But unlike what McNair experienced at USC, Tressel has a competent athletic department that's in good standing with the NCAA backing him up. Barring a new revelation, there's no chance they bail on him this year.


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lhardeman's picture

I think the NCAA is mistaken in one of their charges. I know this probably isn't worth mentioning, but to me saying JT used ineligible players is false for the fact that they must have been ruled ineligible.  Those players weren't ruled ineligible until after the season was over.  Granted JT didn't give the NCAA a chance to rule them ineligible, but the fact that someone told him these things were going on doesn't take away their ability to play for their school. Unless I'm mistaken that can only be done after being found guilty of the allegations, which was done after the season.  If they were ineligible the NCAA would have already dismissed the games in which they played when they levied the ruling against the players.  I know it is all semantics, but I really think that is an important fact.  It isn't like he played players who's GPA clearly showed they shouldn't be allowed to play, he played players that were accussed of doing something.  They can't even claim that the federal investigation is proof positive that the players were ineligible for the fact that it was an ongoing investigation and not a case that was already tried and the evidence found to be true.  This is just all my opinion though.   

God, Country, Ship, Shipmate, Self.

buckfan77's picture

I was thinking along those same lines, but for different reasons. A coach can be caught "playing ineligible players" even they have not been officially ruled ineligible by NCAA if the coach knows with reasonable certainty they have committed violations which would impact their status with NCAA. Now in our situation this is little bit different in the fact that JT was provided some info about players selling stuff/free tat, but the issue for me is how creditble was this "evidence" at the time and the ongoing FBI investigation. So even if JT would have reported the email the players would have lied just like they did in December and the investigation would have drug on until the FBI was done. To me saying he knowingly played ineligibile players isn't nearly as cut and dry as it initially appears.

Orlando Buckeye's picture

My thing is the NCAA has ruled that the tat5 are suspended for the first 5 games of next season.  They didn't take wins away from last season even though they knew the date of the transgression.  Therefore, they weren't ineligible last season.  Is the NCAA really going to have it both ways?  Double penalty?

Nick Buckeye's picture

Dorian Bell suspened for year, May isn't looking much better than April:

Bucksfan's picture

What may seem ambiguous to those of us holding out hope that Jim Tressel is going to come out of this unscathed is actually fairly clear-cut in the eyes of the NCAA.  What it all boils down to is that Jim Tressel made a decision that constitutes a win-at-all-costs thought process.  Whether you agree with them or not is irrelevant.  If it were Ray Small, he'd have turned him over to the NCAA in the blink of an eye, I'm sure we'd all agree there.  But when faced with having to sit the star/Heisman candidate QB, starting RB, starting LT, starting WR for a year that they were poised to take the national championship, he decided to keep it under wraps.  I understand what was going through his head.  He worked 5 years on building this particular team, from recruiting them, to signing them, to teaching them, to winning with them.  Maybe he panicked, but ultimately he made the wrong decision.  He's going to pay the price for it.  Maybe they'll allow him to step down on his own terms after this season.  The more I think about it, the more it pains me to admit that this is all over for Jim Tressel.

You can write all the books you want about how to win with people and leadership and whatnot.  At the end of it all, you're still a coach, and you still are confined to the rules that surround you.  The CEO's of the big banks might do wonderful community service and philanothropy in their spare time.  But at the end of the day, they made decisions that FUCKED America in the ass, committing illegal fraud to get rich.  And for that, they should burn, no matter what kind of "good people" they might be on the side.

Go Buckeyes14's picture

Completely agree, as much as it pains me.

M Man's picture

This is old news, but our outside counsel in 2009-10 was Gene Marsh of the Lightfoot firm, a former NCAA Infractions Committee Chairman and what he said was:

"I think if you have a lifelong good record, that should weigh into how things turn out... If it doesn't, then what is the use of living life right?" 


"While the violations are very serious, they are not the kind of violations that somebody makes a movie out of... It's not some gigantic academic fraud, it's not some slush fund that a coach was using for paying players. Although they are serious ... I'd say after nine years on the infractions committee, they don't break the bank as far as severity."


"There are human beings on the enforcement staff and human beings on the committee... It's not a machine, it's not a calculator. It's folks. In the end, folks take a look at things like a life's work, the inner workings of their entire profile and their character in their life as a coach and in their life as an individual."

"I hope it's the case that we all, if we're sitting in judgment as I did for nine years, weigh in on what is the integrity of the person who may have made a mistake and may have made a big mistake and otherwise is a good person in his life, as opposed to other coaches we know who are like Pigpen in the Peanuts cartoon, that have that cloud that follows them everywhere."

Props, again, to Doug Lesmerises of The Plain Dealer for doing that interview of about a month ago.  Gene Marsh (an OSU grad) is the man.


anchorman's picture

M Man.....

I am thinking that comes into play as well. Marsh other then being an tOSU alum, really has no direct connection to tOSU. So I think his word means a lot. While the situation is not good. I don't think the NCAA overdoes it with JT or the university. Don't think we will get bowl bans or anything like that. Maybe probation.

Cross Village's picture

You might be wise to get off the trash train aimed at Kirk Herbstreit.  When all the mud sinks, he is going to look like the sane voice as we forfeit 11 wins of the 2010 season, lose an AD, and watch Gordork Gee get humiliated.  It will take more than a few wins to forget this nadir in Ohio State football history.

And if you are one of the morons who harassed Kirk and his family in Columbus (some of which I saw personally in a restaurant) , you need some perspective.... and perhaps some counseling.



btalbert25's picture

I was on record saying it was absolutely ridiculous for anyone to harass Herbie and his family over his opinions about a team that plays a game.  People who are willing to do that need to get a life as they are sad.  I lump them in a category with morons who are willing to fight about sports, and poison a rivals trees etc. 

That being said, Herbie has opennly trashed Tressel and his program for years and his comments last week about recruiting players like Clarrett and Pryor were way out of line.  Especially, when you consider that virtually every major program were recruiting both of these guys.  Herbie has had an axe to grind with Tressel since Tressel has been this coach, not sure why he has such an attitude toward Tressel, but it has been there for much longer than just the last year or 2.  Herbie instead of defending his comments uses the excuse that " i have to be objective"  after he spouts off on the single biggest provider of sports information in the US. 

I disagree with how he was treated and what ultimately made him decide to move, but I basically take everything he says with a grain of salt.  To me, when it comes to opinions about Ohio State, don't care to hear what Herbie has to say when there are other objective sources who can show their love for the school while also giving honest comments about the current situation.  Robert Smith and Spielman are better voices.  They can show their love and be objective.  Herbie's version of being objective is to slam his alma matter ever chance he gets.

William's picture

I agree with what Btalbert25 has said. Herbstreit isn't objective he's overly critical. Smith and Spielman are by far more reasonable. As for looking stupid because of name calling, Cross Village what is with the Gordork Gee comments? Don't trash Gee, he's an excellent president for our university. During his tenure we have established ourselves as one of the top research universities in the nation, so if you want to still seem ignorant then continue to trash the man. Also where do you get off saying that we'll lose our AD, Gene Smith? That is completely irrational.

btalbert25's picture

Yeah I'm pretty sure this starts and ends with Tressel, whether he passed the info up the ladder or not.  He either F'd up royally by not telling anyone and will take the fall, or he did pass the info and the AD dropped the ball, but Tressel is taking the bullets to save the program/university.  Either way, Tressel is the guy taking all the blame.  Gene Smith is out of the picture.

I'd like to add, Herbie has also admitted openly that he is overly critical of the Buckeyes in an effort to try and appear impartial.  So this opinion is not just homers getting pissed that he doesn't wear scarlet and great goggles when he talks about the Buckeyes on national TV. 

gwalther's picture

Great article. Thanks.

Class of 2008