Sweating the Unknown

By Jason Priestas on June 12, 2011 at 7:24a
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has his work cut out for himMaybe not beloved, but not Mike Garrett, either.

With new allegations against the program surfacing every few days, it's hard to say what verdict the NCAA will hand Ohio State. The uncertainty leading up to that point is perhaps the most difficult part of the process, because while we know we're going to get slapped, we don't know how much of a mark the slap will leave.

Even after discovering in early March that the school's initial investigation had widened to include Jim Tressel, the notion of USC-level sanctions heading our way was laughable. Those penalties included a two-year postseason ban, a loss of 30 scholarships and the vacation of a dozen victories, but that case involved agents and a half-million dollar home for the parents of Reggie Bush.

Now, just three months later, there's a very real possibility of something equal to -- or worse -- arriving on our doorstep. MGoBlog, unsurprisingly, is more certain of that happening than you might be:

Unless the raw amount of money funneled to Reggie Bush is a significant factor (and I can't see why that would be since the difference here appears to be between low six digits and mid-fives) it seems hard to make a case that Ohio State shouldn't get penalties harsher than USC's—significantly harsher. I'd be interested to see if anyone can make a Devil's Advocate case that what's currently happening in Columbus is less severe than the Bush imbroglio.

It's nearly impossible to guess what the NCAA will ultimately do. Severe penalties at the BCS school level are infrequent and the organization's propensity to get medieval on member institutions is very similar to that of the Securities and Exchange Commission. A decade of hammer-dropping followed by a decade of largely looking the other way, depending on who is in charge and the makeup of the staff.

About all we do know is that Ohio State officials, including the team's former coach, will have their day before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions on August 12th in Indianapolis. We're also pretty sure the new sheriff in town, Mark Emmert, wants to be more aggressive in dealing with rule-breakers because he said as much last month.

Assuming what we know right now (the events of the past six months have proven that this is subject to change at any moment), Ohio State has a few things working in its favor and a few things not so much. How do these things stack up to USC's case? Challenge accepted.


  USC Ohio State
FINDINGS/ALLEGATIONS 18 specific instances of violations by Reggie Bush or his family, including a house for his parents, a car (with new rims and a stereo), airfare, hotel stays, limo services, meals, car repairs, clothing, furniture and and appliances.

12 similar instances of violations out of basketball player OJ Mayo.

Running backs coach Todd McNair was found to have known or should have known of Bush's activity and was also cited for lying during the investigation.

Further violations by the women's tennis program and a failure of the athletic department's infrastructure when it came to oversight and policing.

Together, these findings led to a charge of Lack of Institutional Control.
An email trail that proved the head coach had knowledge of players forfeiting their eligibility, but did nothing to notify his superiors or compliance/enforcement staff.

UPDATED: Further, Tressel signed a statement attesting to the fact that he was unaware of any violations in the fall of 2010.

Additional athletes may have been involved in memorabilia-for-tattoos.

Potential improper benefits in the form of car deals for football players.

Terrelle Pryor allegedly received benefits in the form of free golf at a country club and is also alleged to have received $20,000-$40,000 in exchange for autographed memorabilia.


FATE OF HEAD COACH Bolted early for the NFL. Forced the resignation of a beloved coach with otherwise excellent reputation amongst peers.
LEVEL OF COOPERATION None Ohio State has reported all findings to the NCAA on their own and has stayed in contact with the organization to assist with the investigation.
TAUNTING Hired habitual scofflaw Lane Kiffin to replace Pete Carroll. AD Mike Garrett claimed the NCAA report was "nothing but a lot of envy". None, unless you wanted to count the fumbled presser on March 8th. Which you shouldn't.


So there you have it. One thing that certainly hurts Ohio State in the court of public opinion is the fact that it's a public institution and must comply with FOIA requests. USC, being a private school, did not have the misfortune of seeing its dirty laundry spilled across the internet ahead of its case.

If Pryor sticks with his stance and doesn't speak to the NCAA and other witnesses don't come forward to speak with the organization (only students, coaches, administrators and faculty are required to speak to the NCAA), a lot of what we're facing are just allegations. It's also safe to assume the NCAA has seen everything we have in the form of email (damning as that is).

USC ultimately received a Lack of Institutional Control charge, but that was for major violations spanning three sports. Ohio State's problem is strictly on the football side of the house. I believe the Buckeyes will avoid a similar charge based on that fact and the self-report and cooperation that just wasn't there for USC. As of right now, I have a hard time seeing the Buckeyes get hit with something worse than the Trojans received, though the penalty could be similar.


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Hoff_TBDBITL's picture

Thank you for a rational post Jason, and for placing at least a shread of hope in me this morning.

T-Row, The Row, The Quality Row!

OHIOinME's picture

I can't see how this is like USC at all.

1.) Bush was a professional by dealing with an agent.

2.) Said agent admitted to the financial relationship with Bush and his family.

3.)  USC didn't self report and then thumbed nose at NCAA.  Ohio State voluntarily self-reported and admits they need to look in the mirror.

4.) Tressel admitted and apologized for lies, said he would learn and didn't want to run from his problems.  While Carol bolted hinting that he didn't want to answer any NCAA questions, where Tressel was willing to be investigated further.  The School forced Tressel to resign.

5.)  Tressel convinced his players to stay around and accept their NCAA punishments.

6.) Talbot nor Pryor so far admits to cash exchange.  I'm not saying it didn't happen but can it be proven.  Especially since Talbot and now Pryor can't be made available to the NCAA.

7.) The only source says he witnessed Talbott give Pryor $500 to $1,000 but then said Talbott wanted to be careful to not let anyone outside of Talbott and Pryor find out. Can this source be trusted?

Bucknut-in-the-South's picture

Nice article, Jason!  Looking at things logically, as you so skillfully do, it is apparent that OSU is on the right side of this issue in terms of its response to the allegations.  The sad corollary to this, though, is that the court of public opinion, fueled by an inimical press, has already sentenced us to the gallows. I can only hope that NCAA investigators have been inoculated with anti-espn-biotics.

Carolina Buckeye's picture

Generally, I agree with your post.  I can say though, that suggesting that we are in line to receive less severe sanctions than USC is really pure speculation, and I know you know this, so I don't mean that as a knock.

To add another tid bit of fact that I think does further support Ohio State is that it is reported that of the 9 additional current players the SI article implicated, 8 have been cleared by the NCAA and 48 of 50 possible pieces of memorabilia have been documented and still in possession of the players or parents.

Also, Ohio State has always had access to Terrelle Pryor's financial records since he arrived on campus.  As obtuse and as boneheaded as the administration has been during this whole ordeal, I cannot fathom an instance where Ohio State knew of Dennis Talbott and did not cross reference TP's accounts to make sure there were no checks in there from him or any other illegitimate source of income.  So bottom line, there is no paper trail linking TP to Talbott financially.  That is speculation, but if we were so naive to let red flags and warning signs slip through the cracks like that, all bets are off and we deserve all the wood and then some that the NCAA is about to lay.

Also with the FOIA release that detailed some 30,000+ calls, texts and emails from Gene Smith and Jim Tressel, it genuinely appears that Smith had no idea that Tressel knew of Pryor's and Posey's (because those were the only two named) apparent violations.  That is also a positive. However, Mike Garrett was never linked to Reggie Bush either. Probably not a huge victory.

The negatives however, in my opinion, are that we are (potentially) being treated as repeat offenders for 2006 violations that included our football program, although we have been working with the NCAA and "proactive" in reporting violations the NCAA took it on the chin publicly for their ruling on the Tat5 and the Sugar Bowl that was largely based upon tOSU's word and Jim Delaney's word, finally our "model" compliance department that has also received accolades from the NCAA has really proved to be little more than a sham which also looks negatively upon the NCAA.

In the end, I do think perception is worse than reality but when push comes to shove I believe the NCAA will have kicked up enough dirt to levy a lack of institutional control charge against the program (really pure speculation) at which point our violations will be on par with USC's.  I don't see Ohio State's penalties exceeding USC's but once you have been labeled with lack of institional control, does it really matter if the car was a Dodge Charger or a Lexus or if the house was a mansion or an off campus apartment? I'm not sure of that answer, that is up to the NCAA to figure out.  IF we get the charge, I see vacated wins, bowl bans and docked scholarships.

original buckeye's picture

Mgoblog has become a hypocritical joke, IMO. From what I have seen over there, anyone perceived to have attacked the UM program gets dissected and ripped, and anyone perceived to have attacked the OSU program is quoted for truth, while mitigating or contrary reports or info is never mentioned. It is selective, biased blogging at it's finest. It is, ostensibly, driven by terrible jealousy and envy from the on-field (and court) results in the past 10 years. They have nothing else to hang their hats on.

M Man's picture

Brian Cook and MGoBlog did an amazing, thorough, and laudable job of dissecting what was (mostly) a joke about the Michigan/NCAA "Stretchgate" situation.

Now, I think Brian and most of the MGoBlog membership have jumped the shark on the OSU allegations.  I'm disappointed, at how short some of the memories are, about how much hysterical hyperventilating the media did, before the NCAA announced the results of the Michigan investigation, and found that the (one) newspaper story that started the whol thing was mostly gabage, and the final results were the most minor "major" violations that anyone could imagine.

I think that same kind of media hysteria surrounds OSU now.  I would have predicted that kind of hysteria.  I think I did predict that kind of hysteria.  Wait for the NCAA investigators to complete their work, is what I say.  In Michigan's case (led by Gene Marsh who is now Tressel's counsel), the final results of the investigation were laughably less than what the two newspaper writers first tried to allege.  I expect that the OSU results will be much more moderated than what passes for news right now.  And Jason's chart ought to be required reading for anybody who professes interest in a USC/OSU comparision.

I don't agree with Brian Cook, this time.  I see no reason to predict anything comparable to, or worse than, USC.  We'll see.  Brian might be right in the end.  But it is not a prediction that I'd make, and it is not a prediction that I think has any objective basis in fact right now.

And yes, all sense of proportion gets lost when Michigan and OSU fans start talking about their rivals.  Although I will say that I saw a fair bit more proportion coming from the 11W author/hosts concerning Michigan's hyper-technical CARA time violations, than Brian Cook is showing to OSU in return.  They are of course vastly different orders of violations.  But just look at OSU -- No recruiting issues.  No academic issues.  No coaching issues.  No game-influence issues.  I'll be "past" OSU's investigation the moment that sanctions are announced.

We need to say a lot less about OSU off the field until we are beating you more often than not on the field.

AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

Appreciate your insight, M Man.

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

elaydin's picture

Thanks to both Jason and M Man for well thought out responses.

Mgoblog has been difficult to read lately, just for the reasons you mentioned.  It's a shame, because it's usually a very level headed blog with intelligent readers.  OSU just seems to bring out the worst.

Maybe Brian and everyone else is right, but if there's anything we've learned over the last few years, it's that the media is not always correct.


RBuck's picture

I don't see a LOIC but I'm ready for Failure To Monitor.

Long live the southend.

OHIOinME's picture

At this point I agree 100%. 

Carolina Buckeye's picture

Fair enough, I did not take into account a failure to monitor charge. I am now hoping and bracing for that.

Jason Priestas's picture

Great point. I should have added that to my conclusion.

spqr2008's picture

What I want to know is how far do you have to cooperate if you are a Student or Student athlete.  Can you assert your constitutional rights without infringing upon your contract status with the NCAA?  Because if I could not plead the Fifth Amendment, then I would give them the most believable boring stories that I could give them, and have it result in a lot of wasted effort on their part.  Any avenue of investigation that anyone associated with the program can force investigators down that will bog them down leaves them less time to investigate real possible wrongdoing.  If we could find a cache of "Palin emails" and have the press and NCAA run with that, it would be great.  Because honestly, ESECPN won't unfortunately go bankrupt any time soon, or lose the support of Disney/ABC on this investigation, because they hate tOSU.

JozyMozy's picture

pretty sure they don't hate our fine University, or any of the athletic programs associated with it. ESPN, just like any other major news outlet, goes where the story is and focuses on that. This is a high profile team in a high profile sport that it being dissected by the NCAA, tOSU compliance, and ultimately, the court of public opinion. Yes, it sucks, and yes, ESPN has a huge problem with the quality of the opinions that they put out there. Doesn't mean they're out to bury us more than Tressel/Pryor already have.

I do understand where you're coming from, though. It gets frustrating as fuck working out at the gym weekday afternoons and seeing 'college football live' come on and re-analyze the same shit, with the same flat, predictable opinions, every damn day. bah. 

NC_Buckeye's picture

I disagree about ESPN. If they were only a sports reporting entity like SI, Sporting News, or Yahoo Sports, it would be different. But as a broadcaster/sports reporting entity, they see the B1G as a threat to their revenue generation. The BTN completely caught them by surprise and they've taken steps that ensure that other conferences don't repeat that. The salvaging of the Big XII last spring made that crystal clear to everyone as it's widely known that they (and to a lesser extent T. Boone) were instrumental in aligning all the parties to make what happened possible.

And incidentally Herbstreit's casual on-air backstabbing of tOSU roughly began about the same time the BTN began showing profits. Not to be a conspiracy-nut, but I think he got some "advice" from someone in Bristol that it might be better for his career if he started putting some distance between himself and his alma mater.

I'm sure if some reporting entity were to turn their investigative eye on ESPN they would find a slimy underbelly to what's been going on in college football for the last decade especially in regards to the BCS.

Jason Priestas's picture

If you are a current student athlete, you have to cooperate at the risk of losing any eligibility you have left. If you're no longer a student athlete (Pryor), you do not have to, nor do you have to cooperate if you're a random from the community.

Seth9's picture

Constitutional rights do not exist within the NCAA. When an athlete joins an NCAA team, he is expected to abide by their rules and fully cooperate with their investigations. If he screws with them in any way, they can suspend him or revoke his elligibility.

cal3713's picture

Potential improper benefits in the form of car deals for football players.

Terrelle Pryor allegedly received benefits in the form of free golf at a country club and is also alleged to have received $20,000-$40,000 in exchange for autographed memorabilia.


These are the two that really scare me... because I think that the NCAA "found" them during their own independent investigation.  I guess we don't know that either actually is real at this point, but that also means that we didn't self-report any related violations.  And I think Tressel's resignation is evidence that at least one of them is true (probably Pryor's given 11Ws posts about him losing all remaining eligibility).  If that's true, then we have much more widespread problems, and much greater penalaties coming down the pike.

AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

tOSU warned players to stay away from this Talbott guy. Again all of this is centered around Pryor. Compliance was in on the car issue and since there are no more scathing articles being written about the car issue I think its moot. Pryor playing golf and going to birthday parties CAN NOT BE MONITORED. It's just not possible unless the NCAA wants ankle bracelets and Lojack to be provided for all athletes.

Maybe Tressel's resignation had more to do with his ability to come back in some capacity than what was found by the NCAA. If all we can do is sit around and speculate, then how about we look at the glass being half full for a change.

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

cal3713's picture

I agree that that's all possible... and I've been a pretty even handed, glass-is-mostly full type of guy until recently.  I even like Tressel's play calling and game planning and thought people were stupid to wish for anything different.  I think people VASTLY underestimate his ability to change his schemes and play calls based on the talent, skill, and understanding of his players and I loved watching him put the slow stranglehold on teams once we were ahead.  He's spectacularly good at winning and cares about that a lot more than putting on an entertaining circus show like so many people seem to prefer.  And he always seemed to do such a good job managing academics and off the field issues.  Unfortunately, every time I relied on these feelings and trusted that things were being handled appropriately since December, I've been wrong.  And now my glass is feeling mostly empty.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Has to be a good sign that the investigators are no longer on campus.  Right?  I mean they were at USC for years.

BuckeyeChief's picture

I do find it comical that everyone in America thinks we've already lost to scUM.

"2014 National Champions...deal with it!!!"

Jim's picture

As a true Michigan fan and an avid reader of Mgoblog who tries to keep some level of objectivity (not always easy, but I try), I think there are a couple of things that may not be in OSU's favor.  For starters, the Cam Newton affair was a black eye for the NCAA, but regulations are regulations.  The president of the NCAA recently came out with a statement suggesting stricter enforcement.  Depending upon the timing, this may not bode well for OSU as they may get the short end of the enforcement stick should the NCAA choose them as the recipient of their "love".

Another thing I wonder about is whether the FOIA requests have produced the same set of documents that OSU has provided to the NCAA.  Is there more evidence yet to come to the forefront?  Could there be civil litigation down the road where the same rules of evidence in terms of document production might not apply and other smoking guns be waiting in the wings?  After the March news conference, there is little OSU/Smith/Gee can do that would surprise me.

On the bright side,  Pryor is gone...don't know about you OSU folks, but if Pryor were at Michigan and did what he did, I would be happy to see him depart. 

Personally, I get no joy out of OSU's current and future pain.  It besmirches the repuation of the conference and makes the B1g look more like the damned SEC.

JozyMozy's picture

Sup, Jim. my opinion is this: Dohhrrrmannn (the SI Writer) wasn't the only one digging around Columbus for juicy, dirty compliance crimes. While the SI article was NOT flattering, it also wasn't nearly as incriminating/damaging as I had feared. Reading it was like reading a high school report desperately trying to flesh out a flimsy narrative with weak sources and circumstantial evidence. 

A student newspaper publishes the sketchy testimony of one of the most unreliable, underwhelming, and immature team members of the Jim Tressel era. The result? Media outlets far and wide treat Ray Small's idiotic statements as some damning new revelation, while those familiar with Mr. Small's personality and reputation can only shake their heads. 

Then an anonymous source shows up on ESPN and mentions that he "definitely saw $20k-$40k changing hands over time" in regards to signed memoribilia. Source was rumored to be a jilted ex-Buckeye QB's brother? who knows. Proof? anything? no?

Nader Abdallah, among others, have come forward and stated that national media types were BEGGING them to go on the record with something, anything negative.

I dunno. Looking at the facts- not the sensational College Football Live/Outside the Lines allegations- I'm not as afraid as many on the outside seem to think I should be. Hell, going back to November, we were all CERTAIN that Auburn would have any titles/awards won stripped by now. The court of public opinion is just that- opinion. If found guilty in that court, we'll be sentenced to media talking head/message board outrage. I don't recall the NCAA ever giving many fucks about what the people want to be done. Unless more proof- REAL PROOF- comes forward, I'll save my freaking out for things in my life that I can control.


Jim's picture


Regardless of how you play it, you still have a coach who lied to the NCAA. I don't believe for a moment that Tressel's conduct was to protect his players.  The facts would indicate otherwise.  He did what he did, IMHO, because he thought he had a shot at a national championship.  I think there is little doubt that last season's wins will disappear.  I think the punishment has to be signfiicant.  To do otherwise, would be to condone reprehensible conduct.  The NCAA may look kindly upon Tressel's resignation, but a message must be sent, and I think it will be a strong one at that.

Pam's picture

Jim Tressel's teams had a shot at a NC every year, 2010 was no different. No coach in CFB had more job security than him. 8 BCS bowls with 5 wins including a NC, a Heisman QB, 9-1 against UM, 6 Big Ten Championships and not one losing season out of 10. He could have gone 10-3 last year and every year after that and kept his job until his contract was up. There was zero pressure on him to win a NCG. I will never believe he did what he did to win a NC because his behavior and relationships he has/had with players indicates otherwise. Vacated wins etc. won't change what JT meant to his player's current and former.  Call it reprehensible all you want, but try to remember that this is the coach who refused to negatively recruit when UM was being investigated and who came out in support of UM when they got popped.

M Man's picture

More required reading, this time from Pam.  This should be the starting point for fans on both sides of the border.

nickma71's picture

I don't see the comparison in the most important way. USC encouraged the relationship and gave the NCAA the finger when they tried to investigate. In criminal law they obstructed justice. Which I think is why the NCAA came down on USC hard. The NCAA showed them who is in charge. Tressell didn't encourage them to be with trouble.