Blow Out the Candle

By Ramzy Nasrallah on March 6, 2012 at 2:00p

The final Sunday of the regular season saw the Buckeyes place a capstone on yet another Big Ten championship. This title came on the strength of scorching 14/15 shooting from beyond the arc in a thorough annihilation of the Wisconsin Badgers.

Relax, you're not confused: Ohio State won in East Lansing on Sunday and clinched a piece of this year's title. Last season that final win came at Bo Ryan's expense in the comforts of the Schottenstein Center. Two great Sunday finales; one year apart.

The dawn following that Wisconsin win was the last time that the sun would rise normally. It was March 6 - hey, that's today's date.

Nobody saw it coming. Luke's Skull Session from that morning skipped around blissfully flipping fresh Badger pelts at happy readers while looking beyond the impending festivities in Indianapolis toward the NCAA Tournament.

A few hours later, Luke filed another story; one bereft of any animal skins or celebration. Yahoo! Sports had been tipped off to what Ohio State had itself discovered about the Tatgate affair from December. Jim Tressel's hands weren't clean. There had been a cover up.

The problem with Yahoo! spilling the beans early was that the news of the findings from the joint investigation into Tatgate between the NCAA and the university weren't exactly ready for prime time. The university didn't discover the emails from April 2010 informing Tressel of the violations until January 13.

Three days later when questioned, he admitted to university investigators that he had seen the emails. The NCAA then interviewed him on February 8 and continued its investigation for the balance of the month.

Yahoo! learned what Ohio State and the NCAA both already knew and ran their story exactly one year ago, right (remember, it's a Leap Year). Gene Smith immediately told his staff to quickly finish its self-report for filing by the following sunrise.

His team did its job, and the following evening Smith, Gordon Gee and Tressel took to the podium to try and explain everything. This mess all happened a year ago, and somehow you managed to survive it while Tressel eventually did not.

One year has passed and now we're talking about Urban Meyer's first Spring Game in Columbus. We're anxiously awaiting a recruiting class full of highly-regarded man-beasts, many of whom would have been headed elsewhere were it not for the events that wrecked most of last year.

Some Buckeye fans might be over Tressel's demise and the media shitstorm that included tales of free cars, $20,000 handshakes for secret autograph sessions, impending television bans and George Dohrmann's "investigation" that was thoroughly scrutinized by the NCAA before being summarily dismissed on account of no evidence. Apparently unreliable private crackhead sources get shy in public. Who knew?

Those same Buckeye fans can accept the fact that many people believe Ohio State was undone by a Yahoo! Sports exposé rather than an internal investigation, that Dohrmann's recycled and largely fabricated story sealed Tressel's fate and that Ohio State's bowl ban was the result of Tressel's misgivings and not the product of the NCAA's crippling second Notice of Allegations, which was far more damaging and centered around booster Bobby DiGeronimo, not Tatgate.

I may be one of those fans who isn't terribly bothered by the larger, ignorant perception, but I'm still not over the end of the Tressel era. A little over 30 years ago Woody Hayes prematurely punched his way into retirement and there are people who were never able to accept the way in which he left the sideline for good.

Tressel is now a former employee of the Indianapolis Colts who is currently raising money for the University of Akron and yet it's only been a year since the beginning of his end at Ohio State. I'm one of the people struggling to accept that.

shirt available at www.karmaisabitch.comThe most ironic shirt in the history of the universe.

There are some aspects of Tressel's demise that are easier to accept: He was likely to leave on his own terms after his contract expired in 2014 anyway. That Michigan fans feel entitled to redact the entire decade of their misery at his expense on account of him failing to report violations that amounted to about what Charles Woodson's mama's fur coat cost is only bothersome if you actually care about Michigan fan entitlements (remember that to Michigan fans Ohio is the worst state ever, which is kind of like petulantly hating your parents even though they gave you everything you treasure the most).

I cannot reconcile the conclusion of the Tressel era for two reasons: One, he deserved a more dignified ending. Two, unlike Hayes he didn't seal his fate in a blunderous fit of passion. He essentially offed himself in a slow, deliberate and excruciatingly irresponsible way.

There was no way for him to escape the trap he set for himself. Teflon can only do so much.

One year has passed since that ridiculous press conference and I wish I could just be content with Ohio State escaping a rebuilding period by landing Meyer along with the added bonus shedding Tressel's few dead weight coaching cronies. It's all very comforting, but it's still an imperfect remedy.

Wondering what might have happened had Yahoo! run its Nevin Shapiro bomb just six months earlier, or if one of the most horrifying scandals in the history of American academia would have gone public sooner than it did is only torturous. The proper context for Tatgate didn't arrive until the die was prematurely cast.

The absurdly hyperbolic reaction to Tressel's actions might have been tempered with the right atmosphere, but it wouldn't change his actions. It might have worked to quell some of the sanctimony, at least from Pennsylvania anyway. However, fake outrage didn't bring Ohio State to its knees in 2011. Ohio State did.

Jason's Skully the morning following all of that breaking news was confirmation that the sun wouldn't rise normally again for quite some time. A year later and Ohio State football appears to be in great shape on a positive slope; that forfeited layup of a championship year that was to have been 2011 notwithstanding.

This unfortunate chapter came to an end in December, but it still isn't closed. There will continue to be reminders. Kyle Kalis in a winged helmet will be one. The Buckeyes staying home this winter will be another.

Meyer leading the team out of the tunnel in April will be the next one, and that happy ending is just about the only comfort that can be taken on this dubious anniversary.

One year later the wounds of Tatgate are still unscabbed and will continue to burn for some time. But at least now the sun is shining.


Comments Show All Comments

Mike's picture

I'm reminded every time I see Gene Smith.

slippy's picture

F'in-a Peterman.

Ethos's picture

Amen to that Mike.  Every time I see a new quote from him I cringe.

"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best

DowntheSideline12's picture

How does Gene Smith still have a job? Seriously

Greg Jennings "I put my team on my back"

TheHumbleBuckeye's picture

Based on what I've been told, Gene Smith may be forced to resign after Spring Quarter. Makes sense that they would wait until after the academic year ends. Certain boosters and donors are witholding their donations in protest over Smith still being the AD.  I would expect an announcement sometime in April or May, followed by a search committee in June, and a new AD by the end of June or early July (for what it's worth, I think Vandy AD David Williams will be at the top of the list if this does happen).

FLAMikey's picture

Williams is also General Counsel at Vandy, and is highly regarded as AD there. -Hope you are right about this.

FLAMikey's picture

-Bingo. I was hoping that this article was announcing Smith's resignation.

cronimi's picture

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Tatgate era will not be over until Gene Smith is no longer in the AD's office.

VestedInterest's picture

It's been a year and I still have yet to come down on the side that fully believe Jim Tressel was the only one who knew of any of this. I find it terribly difficult to comprehend that the athletic director of one of the largest athletic departments failed so entirely at his main job description (that being oversight), and yet remains in the universities employ. Mind numbing really.

I still contend that Jim Tressel fell on the sword for the university he cherished so much. In believing so, however, it must be concluded that Ohio State was not only aware, but wantonly disregarded and became party to that which they sought to avoid, Lack of Institutional Control.

It would be simpler to wrap for us as fans the notion that this was one man's disregard for rules and integrity, because the alternative is more destructive and disturbing all at the same time. I just have the feeling that my Alma Mater is better at playing the game than most, and as a result came through with a relatively light sentence.

I haven't decided which is worse, but will gladly see this chapter fade to black.

Ethos's picture

Unfortunately, Urban Meyer probably saved his job.  Otherwise he'd be out.

"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best

VestedInterest's picture

Urban Meyer was an inside the park homer that aunt Millie could have hired, but you're probably right. If I'm right in my thought though, it would be of benefit to keep him on simply to keep him quiet and not raise the flag of potential wrongdoings.

hodge's picture

I'll agree with you.  I may be optomistic about our football team's prospects, but I'm pretty cynical about human nature.  I'm sure that the NCAA has their suspicions on this as well, but it's what you can prove happened--not how plausible it was that you were duped.

Give OSU credit though, as bad as their public relations were to the general population-at-large, they spun this thing pretty well (if in fact your scenario is true).  And only were they levied a postseason ban when it was apparent that a booster was involved.  Unlike Gee, I think without the FTM for DiGeronimo, we walk with the 9 schollies.  

biggy84's picture

@ Vested- Integrity and disregard for the rules? You mean that players were selling their own belongings?

VestedInterest's picture

Nope, JT knowing about them selling their things and not reporting. "Their" stuff is a whole other issue.

biggy84's picture

If you think that means he lacks integrity then i strongly disagree. Espin told you that it was bad, so you bought into it. These guys weren't stealing or pillaging the community, they sold their own hardware they worked and earned. No matter how you, and others want to frame it, i don't see that as a horrible thing. 

VestedInterest's picture

You've missed the point, entirely.

Ohio Guy in Jersey's picture

This gets very simple for me. Tressel knew that at least five players had sold their swag, which is against NCAA rules. He knew it that spring and he knew it that fall. Period.

Take the issue about whether that's good rule to the debate team for another day because that's a separate issue. Once he signed the compliance document, he was likely toast. The fact that he didn't come clean when it first came out in December before the Sugar Bowl only added fuel to the fire.

Ultimately Jim Tressel is responsible for his own reputation and he should have come clean. Does that make him a horrible human? No. But it does mean he's a regular guy, like the rest of us, and was capable of losing perspective.

It's a sad way for him to go out, but no OSU football coach has left on his own terms in my lifetime - including W.W. "Woody" Hayes.

biggy84's picture

You are going on what the media told you the transcripts. Things are not simple when you don't have the facts.

Ohio Guy in Jersey's picture

What facts did I get wrong?

He was tipped off by Chris Cicero's emails in the spring. He signed the compliance document in September. The story about the players first broke prior to the Sugar Bowl. He let the players play even though he knew the NCAA didn't have all the available info at that time.

That's not media hype, that's just what happened.

biggy84's picture

No it isn't. Read the transcripts.

Ohio Guy in Jersey's picture

I read them a while ago. Just say where you think I'm mistaken because none of the things I mentioned are really debatable. That's just what happened.

TheHumbleBuckeye's picture

You're right. Some of the things you said really aren't debatable; they're flat out wrong. Like when you say he knew of at least five players. False. He knew of two. Read the transcripts. The whole thing. It will take you up to four hours to read carefully. Maybe more. Everything is there. Even the fact that Tressel did tell OSU compliance about the Cicero tip in December, though he had trouble recalling the guy's name, but the fact is he did tell them.  You will see exactly what Tressel was thinking. 

Ohio Guy in Jersey's picture

Fortunately I don't have four hours to devote to parsing every word of those transcripts.

That said, I see focusing on numbers like "five" or "two" as a distinction without a difference.

And I am not persuaded that Tressel told anyone if he can't recall the guy's name. This was a big deal and if he told, he knew. The reason the NCAA came down so hard on him is that they didn't find Tressel credible either.

In the end, it doesn't change the fact that he was a great coach who, for all practical purposes, owned Michigan, won an NC, appeared in two others, won multiple BCS games, and generally conducted himself very well. He deserves to be honored by OSU for that. While Ramzy makes an interesting point at the end, I say again that no OSU coach in my lifetime (maybe back to Carroll Widdoes) left on his own terms. That's not a shame, it's just a truth about coaching. 

But I'm not going to look at all the great things he did and mythologize the man. Great coach. Good man. Big mistake. Paid dearly. I'm done.

Rooster Buckburn's picture

Argh, what a painful day (year) that was.

spqr2008's picture

this whole year has just reinforced my desire to declare our independence from the NCAA's arbitrary and capricious enforcement.  Especially with Posey, who didn't even get a hearing to decide his case.

Maestro's picture

The pit in my stomach from that day one year ago still remains.  Recruiting season has helped curb it somewhat, but until the Bucks beat scUM it will remain to some extent.

vacuuming sucks

Rooster Buckburn's picture

The pit in mine will remain until one, Gene Smith is fired.

AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

How could any of us not remember the day our lives changed? I still remember where I was when I saw the ticker on ESPiN about a press conference. I remember starting to cry and just knowing that something had changed. I jumped right on here and stated to vigorously defend JT by proposing all kinds of legitimate scenarios by which this could have happened. I dont know that I will ever recover from that moment in time.

I am very excited about the future of this team, but I am afraid those feelings have been tempered by sadness. I miss JT. I miss the idea of him. I miss knowing that with him there was a higher purpose in his leadership and this made us somehow different.

His legacy deserves better. Simple as that.

**Oh, on a side note; DO NOT miss the Walrus. Just sayin'.


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

JasonBuck's picture

I have to say come the spring game, I will move a little closer to letting the "past" go.  As with the recruiting class we just landed has helped me move on a little, I feel the spring game is next, than of course.....when we beat scUM in the shoe in November....I will feel like we have truly moved past the "past".

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

It was a rollercoaster ride over the last year haven't we!!!  Finally beat an SEC in a bowl game then hit the absolute bottom when we found out The Vest was lying and it cost our program a tremendous amount, forcing us to be exposed to a year's worth of hourly bad press, and now reaching high again with the hiring of Urban and his subsequent recruiting miracles over the following 2 months! 

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

Steve Earle Bruce Springsteen's picture

Has Gene Smith been fired yet? 

The North remembers.

cbusbuckeye's picture

Archie for AD, anyone? This move is long overdue IMO

TheHumbleBuckeye's picture

Archie has a sweet gig. I doubt he'd trade it for more work and possibly less pay (in addition to his role at OSU, he's also on the Board of Directors of a few companies, and he'd most assuredly have to resign from those seats if he were to take the AD gig). But FWIW, I do think he'd make a phenomenal AD. Very smart, very energetic, very much on top of things.

cbusbuckeye's picture

Very good point. Just going off of what I've heard which is that AD is a job Archie has always coveted. If it opens up (heres hoping it does!) he should at least be given a look if he wants it.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

I take comfort in knowing Coach defines himself by his family, faith and acts of kindness. He does not define himself with employment. The line of people he touched is a mile long. Anyone who speaks poorly of this man should be ashamed of themselves.

acBuckeye's picture

Well said Steve.

buckeye76BHop's picture

I agree with all the above comments on GS.  He should have been gone along with Tressel and it's a shame (I'd say) that Meyer being hired did indeed save GS's neck.  If you remember right in the press seemed like HE and he alone was the one in contact with you make you're own assumptions.  As far as Tress...I think that he was the scapegoat and that's unfortunate.  However, he put his and the university's reputation (and his own neck) out on the line for too many players.  It unfortunatley caught up with him (just look back to 2002 and all the others till the end).  What he did for OSU goes without mentioning and will always be remembered as one of the greatest times in football history...but if you read his book and saw what we "all saw" last year around this time...hard to argue with many criticisms.  Go Buckeyes! Urban Meyer will be as good as any OSU has seen since this man's name below...hopefully...

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Poison nuts's picture

What a beautiful account of a gutwrenching affair.

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

MediBuck's picture


"There will continue to be reminders. Kyle Kalis in a winged diaper following vivisection by our 2012 D-line class will be one."


Sometimes, I wonder if Urban brought in the best haul at that position (possibly in school history) as a lesson to defectors...

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

Bucksfan's picture

This won't be over until January 1st, 2014, when the Buckeyes take to the field in Pasadena, California.

cbusbuckeye's picture

Correction- *January 7th in Pasadena, California.

Maestro's picture

I like the way you think Cbus.

vacuuming sucks

btalbert25's picture

Would anyone have thought 1 year ago that this program would be in the shape it's in now? Would anyone think there would be so much buzz about the future?  Sucks that it happened, sucks how it happened and all that.  I have moved on though.  We constantly hear how 1 man is not bigger than the program, we knew JT wouldn't be here one day and that the program would live on.  One day Meyer won't be here and the program will go on.

I'll never forget the great times this program had under Tressel.  I'll never forget the great things he did for this university, and community.  Fact is, he's gone now and has moved on.  The university has too, so arguing about whether he was a mastermind or martyr does no good.  He probably wasn't the Christ that some want him to be, but he wasn't the devil either.  He was a football coach, and now he's not.  


highwire's picture

Your two final sentences pretty well sum this up...very well written by the way...

Baroclinicity's picture

Yes BT... last two sentences are gold.  Puts it into perspective very well, I think.


And this has driven me crazy for the last few months... are you BT Albert, or B Talbert?  Or BtalbertNickey?

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

btalbert25's picture

Baroclinicity, it's actually B Talbert.  My first name is Brian, rest is my last name and age when I started posting on 11 w.  I'm pretty creative!

acBuckeye's picture

I pretty much feel exactly the same as you, Ramzy. I couldn't have said it better.

causeicouldntgo43's picture

I will miss Jim Tressel - he kicked TTUN's arse "nine" ways from Sunday, was a class act, truly cared for his players, repaired broken relationships with Ohio HS coaches, is a humanitarian, and was a great representative of the university and state of Ohio for that matter. I will always look back on his reign with a warm, rose colored glow. I guess he just didn't understand that once you get an email at OSU and delete it, it is not really deleted and it's still in the system. As soon as you get that email from that D-bag attorney, you go to Smith and others, case closed. The old saying about "the cover-up is always worse than the crime" rings so true - even if the actual "crime", i.e. tats, was very petty in my opinion. 

TheHumbleBuckeye's picture

The fact that Tressel got a five year show-cause AFTER giving an affirmative defense at his COI hearing shows that the NCAA did NOT want to bite the hand that feeds them and come down on OSU. The NCAA wanted to be able to pin it on Tress - for right or for wrong - so that they didn't have to dig deeper into tOSU's compliance and find something that might potentially cause a much bigger scandal (Remember, Gene Smith used to serve on the COI). And Tressel graciously fell on that sword. And for that, I will always respect the man. Bruce Pearl got a three-year show-cause despite being the one that actually committed the initial infractions and then specifically telling Aaron Craft and others to not tell anyone because what he was doing was indeed illegal per NCAA rules. Tressel never once claimed that he didn't know it was a violation. He said multiple times he knew it was, and that it would eventually come out, but he didn't want to potentially hinder a federal drug investigation. And once it came out in December that, indeed, his players were not involved with Rife's drug business, he was forthright.

This was from December 16th (page 122 of the COI transcript) where he revealed he did know ahead of time, and the NCAA knew this when they reinstated the players for the Sugar Bowl (thus the Sugar Bowl should have NEVER been vacated):

And so Julie said to me something about that when there was the three or four us in there. And I said, “You know what? Yeah, I do remember.” I said, “There was a kid that’s an attorney and he was a walk-on player for us. And he gave me a tip, you know, that –” and I said, “I can’t remember his name to save my life.”

osubuckeye4life's picture

"Urban renewal" has certainly aided in the therapeutic process. However, the abrasions have not completed healed.


It will just take some time.


Though, winning couldln't hurt ;)

Oakland Buckeye's picture

YAWN...It's a new era - Urban is here & I for one am ready to move on - Absolutely a Vest guy, but wondering if Ramzy can write on any other subject? I have skipped the last two investigation regurgitations produced by Ramzy, and I check this website thrice daily. LETS MOVE ON! Urban Renewal has began, tired of this stuff that is almost a year old....