By Ramzy Nasrallah on March 8, 2011 at 9:13 pm
WHACgateThe Woody Hayes Athletic Center

(Ed: The timing could certainly be better, but we're still pumped to introduce 11W's newest contributor, Ramzy Nasrallah. Most of you are probably familiar with his fine work at Bucknuts (and bringing lulz to Twitter) and we're expecting nothing less here. His first regular column tackles the topic on everyone's mind.)

When you finally got to bed on Monday night (softly mumbling the words to Carmen Ohio through your tears) you were led to believe that it was the work of a two-month Y! Sports investigation that had implicated Jim Tressel in deliberately obscuring his knowledge of the Tatgate scandal that broke in December for several months, including the entire 2010 season.  We now know a lot of that supposition to be false, especially the part about the crack Y! Sports investigation.  Getting to that story wasn't nearly as cunning or sleuthy as Dan Wetzel and Charles Robinson had intimated: Someone simply tipped them off.  Someone on the inside.  As pissy as that might make you feel, that's actually a good thing.

Amidst our collective racing thoughts and spontaneous bowel-evacuating nervousness was the notion that a couple of writers could uncover the sordid details of what went on behind Tressel's desk back in April better than Ohio State or the NCAA could.  The idea of Tressel as a naive, Ken Lay-type patriarch conveniently not-knowing or "forgetting" misdeeds that he was directly informed of was hard to stomach.  It was perfunctory math for even the least cynical hypothesis: The 2010 Buckeyes were so loaded that Tressel was not going to allow anything to prevent them from hitting the field come September intact and at full-strength.  So upon hearing about his players' interactions with Edward Rife (you know him better as the shady tattoo parlor guy) Tressel "forgot" about it. 

The math was off.  Tressel had his reasoning, some of it circuitious to be sure, but at no point during Ohio State's press conference last night did he fail to remember any element of what had transpired - the man has a memory like a steel trap to go with the keen self-awareness to recognize everyone knows already knows this about him.  To believe what Tressel said in copping to his actions, you have to first believe that he buys into his own mantra of paying forward, developing men and it - being the Ohio State football experience - not really being about the ball.  If you don't believe that, you can stop reading now, because you'll hate the rest of this.

Ohio State football is bigger than one bad season, one missed opportunity or one off-the-field disaster.  Buckeye football history is already spotted with bad seasons, smited by off-the-field disasters and a veritable start-to-finish tapestry woven almost exclusively with missed opportunities.  Jeopardizing a program much bigger than he is on the bad bet that the media, a university compliance office that employs nearly five dozen people or a simple public records search would all somehow miss this could not have crossed his mind as a viable option.  I have no doubt that the Tressel and the compliance office at large get daily, detailed emails about players getting free chips at Chipotle, discounted car washes or unsolicited high fives from swarthy, jock-sniffing miscreants.  I also have no doubt that Tressel reads every email he receives, from ones about how poorly one of his kids is doing in a 100-level Psychology class to others on how much someone's Nana appreciated his birthday card.

Now that Ohio State has gone on the record with what really happened (it was an exhaustive internal investigation, not some 1970s-era Washington Post staffers prying facts from the abyss) there is some comfort with how it was conducted.  There are schools that exploit scholarship limits, deliberately cover up rampant cheating and endure booster activities that would make the shadowy, pocket-lined figures around Columbus blush.  Ohio State self-reports violations like absolutely nobody else.  They're wholly interested in policing the enormous athletic department that brings with it the full spectrum of attention. 

What would be more suspicious would be a large athletic department that did not report a similar list.  College athletics are far from virtuous, and the sanctity of a program will always lie with the athlete's ability to shun temptation - at Ohio State and everywhere else.  Maybe I'm just easily appeased.  Perhaps it was seeing Tressel take the blame, apologize and do so with palpable difficulty.  It's hard for middle-aged men to fake remorse, and Tressel only has one character he's fit to play: Himself.

When Y! Sports' report broke, immediate comparisons were made to USC, which felt the wrath of Y!'s investigative brawn to the tune of weapons-grade probation (still under appeal) from the NCAA investigation borne from it.  As it turns out, Wetzel and Robinson were merely leaking a story that the Ohio State compliance department was already almost finished writing.  As lousy as the Tat Five suspensions and at least half of a September without Tressel on the sideline is going to be, castigation came from within.  It's not the kind of news you wanted to hear, but the retribution could have been far worse: It could have come from somewhere else.

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