For a program that spent the better part of the last eight months taking body blows, Friday's release of the NCAA Enforcement Staff Case Summary document was nothing short of peanut butter and chocolate manna raining down on central Ohio.
Not only did the summary absolve Ohio State of the dreaded failure to monitor charge -- and by extension, the more lethal lack of institutional control -- but for once, the timing of the release1 worked in OSU's favor, helping the school effectively neutralize a breathless 10TV report2 that was nothing more than an EXCLUSIVE on what was present in the school's response to the NCAA's Notice of Allegations (page 2-12 if you're curious).
We are not out of the woods just yet. Ohio State must still appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions August 12th in Indianapolis, but the case summary is an affirmation of the benefits of self-reporting, spawning additional investigations, taking corrective action and working closely with the NCAA. Contrast that approach with USC's path of sparing its football program of any self-punishment and doing things like questioning the authenticity of photos submitted as case evidence.
The enforcement staff, institution and Tressel are in substantial agreement as to the facts of both allegations and that those facts constitute violations of NCAA legislation. There are no remaining issues regarding either allegation.
On the subject of whether or not Ohio State actually self-reported the violations, which is known around these parts, but still not believed to be the case by the lunatic fringe in college football:
The institution conducted an initial investigation, including interviews of the then current student-athletes named in the letter [REDACTED] and [REDACTED]), and submitted a self-report of violations to the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement and enforcement staffs.
And the allegations made by SI's George Dohrmann?
After the notice of allegations was issued, an investigative media report identified other student-athletes who may have been involved with Rife. The staff interviewed each of the nine current student-athletes named in that report, one of whom, , acknowledged his receipt of preferential treatment in the form of free tattoos, as set forth in Allegation No.1.
Following its initial self-report, the institution conducted a review to determine if the violations were more widespread. Football student-athletes were required to indicate whether they had been to Rife's tattoo parlor, received any discounts or sold any awards. Based on those responses, the institution conducted follow-up interviews, but no additional violations were discovered and no other student-athletes were reported to have been involved in violations.
Not exactly 100% accurate.
Though the compliance department is set for an overhaul, the NCAA was satisfied with Ohio State's efforts on that front:
Additionally, the institution followed up on tips it received, through its online reporting portal or otherwise, and notified football student-athletes and staff regarding individuals and circumstances to avoid. On at least two occasions before the violations were discovered, the institution notified football student-athletes and staff regarding individuals who contacted student-athletes online to purchase memorabilia. The institution instructed student-athletes to avoid those individuals and informed student athletes that the sale of institutionally issued athletics awards, equipment and apparel could result in "serious NCAA issues."
Considering the institution's rules education and monitoring efforts, the enforcement staff did not believe a failure to monitor charge was appropriate in this case. Although the institution did not specifically provide education to football student-athletes regarding the sale of institutionally issued athletics awards, apparel and equipment until November 2009 (after many of the violations occurred), the enforcement staff did not believe that such omission rose to the level of a failure to monitor.
That also explains Gene Smith's statement about the athletes not receiving adequate education with regards to the sale of awards after the suspensions were made public in December of 2010.
Finally, what about Tressel's 10.1? The NCAA enforcement staff, Ohio State and Jim Tressel are in "substantial agreement as to the facts of the allegation and that those facts constitute a violation of NCAA legislation". This will almost certainly mean a multi-year show cause for Tressel, but that's likely moot as his coaching days are, in all likelihood, over at this point, anyway.
It's laughable that so many are saying Ohio State is going to get off easy because the casualties of this episode are real: the departure of Ohio State's greatest coach in a generation, the early exit of a quarterback that had two BCS bowl game MVPs under his belt, five game suspensions for a half dozen key contributors for selling personal property (all totaling less than $15,000), a once-in-a-lifetime streak of Big Ten championships surrendered off the field and last but not least, the specter of hearing about how we have yet to beat an SEC team in a bowl game again.
While we're still many weeks away from any sort of absolute closure, the case summary may be just what we need to move on from our collective funk and ready ourselves for the popping of pads this fall. You know, the part of this we all love so much.
- 1 Seriously, this was pure Swiss precision. The NCAA sent Ohio State the case summary sometime on Thursday, July 21st and by the time OSU finished with redactions and proofs, the iron was hot.
- 2 The Dispatch obtained Tressel's NCAA interview transcript via a public records request and shared the document with its Dispatch Broadcast Group sibling 10TV. You should not be surprised that the local TV news outfit decided to get lurid. IS YOUR DENTIST RAPING YOU? FIND OUT AT 11! Seriously, can anyone tell me why 10TV was one of the outfits invited to Gene Smith's fireside chat two weeks ago?