[Ed: I said on WTKA this morning that I didn't think this should cost Tressel his job, but I changed my mind upon reading the Hayes piece that contained details of exactly what Tressel did in the months between April and now.]
So I was pretty pissed yesterday. It was one of those moods that's obscure until suddenly it isn't, and the moment of clarity came when one of the Eleven Warriors guy pinged me on IM, suggesting that I must be happy today. I responded that I'd be happy if Ohio State's prospects for the near future had actually been affected… and there it was.
Jim Tressel was dishonest and his team benefited to the tune of a Big Ten co-championship and a BCS bowl victory; Ohio State's response to this was to suspend him for games against Akron and Equivalent. Ask Georgia fans who watched their team stumble to 1-3 start absent the services of AJ Green how that feels:
As a partisan, my immediate reaction to the complete bullshit which emanated from last night’s Ohio State presser was a question: what was Jim Tressel’s first thought upon hearing the news that A. J. Green had been suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season? “Suckers“? “There but for the grace of God go I”?
I'm a partisan too but a couple months ago I went on the Bucknuts podcast and told them I though Tressel was a top five coach who had created a problem I never thought I'd have as a Michigan blogger: lack of material. I bought the Senator act wholly. My biggest complaint was that he was boring beyond belief.
I've now reverted to default partisan conspiracy-mongering and hatred. It's hard not to when the mea culpa press conference features Tressel lying his ass off about emails now in the public domain, forcing out stumbling answers that are such obvious crap that not even the state of Ohio thinks Tressel got what was coming to him:
Even the deepest red section of the country looked at OSU playing see-no-evil to a BCS bowl victory and said "uh-oh." In no way is OSU's response proportional to the crime. That's what pisses me off. Michigan eventually proposed penalties that were reasonable given precedence and were accepted essentially as-is by the NCAA. (The committee added a third year of probation, as they are wont to do.) Ohio State proposed functionally nothing for a far worse offense. Twelve coaches have violated the NCAA bylaw Tressel did in April, and eleven were fired.
What's more, they spent the press conference announcing their gentle wrist massage lying. Tressel invented a fiction about how he couldn't look into the matter because of "confidentiality" that absolutely would not prevent him from interviewing the accused or finding out whose frickin' names were on the pawned memorabilia and then suspending them for the proverbial violation of team rules. This would not have exposed anyone to lethal payback from ruthless drug dealers or whatever, not that anyone was actually in danger.
Ohio State's trying to pull a fast one, and the NCAA should hammer them. A show-cause for Tressel is just as viable as the one widely speculated to be heading down the pike at Bruce Pearl. Tressel's lies were repeated. OSU's official letter to the NCAA lays it out. As summarized by Matt Hayes:
• Tressel signed a document on Sept. 13, 2010 that said he was not aware of NCAA violations.
• He failed to tell school officials on or around Dec. 9, 2010 about emails he received in April explaining players’ involvement in selling memorabilia.
• He failed to tell school officials about the emails — or his knowledge of players selling memorabilia — when specifically asked on Dec. 16, 2010. He also misled school officials that day when stating he “did not recall from whom he received the tip,” and that he “did not know that any items had been seized.” …
Another significant — and potentially more damning — issue: In a Feb. 8, 2011 interview, Tressel admitted it was “inevitable” that players named in the email had committed NCAA violations and would be ruled ineligible. In other words, Tressel knew the players were ineligible and played them anyway.
Whether it's a lie of omission or commission it's a lie, and Tressel's had a much larger effect on his team than Pearl lying about whether or not Aaron Craft was at his house. It is impossible to believe he did not remember the repeated correspondence from this lawyer. He probably sent it up the chain, making this a department-wide decision, but we have no proof of that. We do have proof that Tressel had at least four opportunities to come clean, starting with the day he got the first credible email from that lawyer, and failed to take any of them. As a result Ohio State won a Big Ten title.
With serious benefits should come serious repercussions; Ohio State's incredibly weak self-sanctions are an insult to the NCAA. If the association doesn't want to make themselves a joke they will come down hard on OSU with a thorough investigation stretching back to 2001 with the potential for vacating multiple years and a show-cause penalty that should make it impossible for OSU to continue employing Tressel as their head coach. That's a punishment that fits a very serious crime in the eyes of the NCAA—eleven of twelve fired before the NCAA had a chance.
The NCAA should use this and the Pearl case as a warning.
apropos image via MNB Nation
The media explosion in the aftermath of Tressel's folly has been nigh overwhelming. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who writes about college football who hasn't put finger to keyboard in the aftermath. Even Inside The Hall, an Indiana basketball blog, decided to transcribe Bob Knight's clueless defense of Tressel so they could shake their heads at it. It's kind of a big deal.
Well played, douchebag. Mark Schablach manages to piss off both OSU and Michigan fans in the same piece by laying into Tressel ("might be even worse than other coaches corrupting college athletics") in a fashion irrational even to this Michigan fan at the same time he conflates Michigan's stretching-and-confusion with what seems like a serious, games-will-be-vacated offense (At least Michigan "had fired their cheating coach").
And now… THE COMFY CHAIR! SBN OSU blog Along The Oletangy headlines a two game suspension against MAC teams "Jim Tressel Forced To Take Tough Medicine." Michigan suffered more concrete penalties for the Jihad—at least they lost some practice time. Of course, the NCAA probably isn't going to say "good job, here's an extra year of probation" when they get around to their own discipline.
Only in Ohio. The blacked-out name of the lawyer who tipped Tressel off in April has been revealed: Chris Cicero, a former OSU walk-on. I wonder if he's going to get hammered for trying to help the program. Also:
In 1997, the Ohio Supreme Court suspended his law license for one year because of misconduct. The lawyer led others to believe he was having sex with then-Judge Deborah P. O'Neill, who had appointed Cicero to defend a client in a criminal case.
Our old friend. Remember Michael Buckner, the Florida lawyer who seemed to show up in every piece about Michigan's misappropriate stretching and GA sketch? He's back:
"Just looking at it, it may seem a little light, especially in light of the fact Tressel didn't report it to the university within a reasonable period of time," said Michael Buckner, who heads a law firm that helps schools deal with the NCAA.
OUTRAGE. "Disingenuous Tressel Is Wizard At Spinning Empty Words"—a Yahoo piece from something called "The Postgame." They're right about the spinning empty words bit.
OUTRAGE. "No trouble spotting hypocrisy in college sports"—this one is just awful:
And now, our latest offering from a septic tank of a system that's unlikely to be flushed out in our lifetime.
OUT—NEVERMIND, MILQUETOAST. "Tressel report appears damaging"
OUT—ACTUALLY, A REASONABLE QUESTION "Tressel docked, but what does it take for a coach to get fired?"
Retrospective reaffirmation. Mets Maize has one Michigan-related takeaway from Michigan's recent turn under the lights:
Dave Brandon, like any good athletic director should do, showed tremendous leadership by taking the reins and guiding Michigan through a 6-month investigative gauntlet. He answered questions like a political ninja, hired a third-party independent firm to couple with an internal investigation, and reported back to the committee of infractions with a comprehensive review and self-imposed penalties in line with the violations and precedent. This was for stretching. The NCAA ended up adding 1 measly probation year and agreed to take away some of the most damaging charges--something unheard of in terms of appeal.
People complaining that Michigan's approach to their NCAA violations invited more bad press and ended up resulting in stiffer penalties than pretending there was nothing to see here are going to get empiricism in their face over the next six months. I've given Brandon a lot of stick for The Process and the results therein but the whole Identity is a Ceiling thing isn't all downside; he was still pimp throughout the whole process and saved Michigan the OUTRAGE you see above.
Can you imagine anyone associated with the Michigan athletic department saying "I hope he doesn't fire me" when talking about a football coach, joking or not? Bo could have been sitting there* and that wouldn't have happened.
This all banks on the NCAA crafting a punishment that fits the crime here, but I think that's likely given the existence of paper, both the emails sent to Tressel and the forms he signed and the transcripts of the December investigation. The NCAA has way more linking Tressel to a serious offense than they ever had on USC—though that was a more serious offense still—and OSU's pathetic wrist-slap will not help them avoid the penalties they have coming.
*[In a hypothetical world where Bo wouldn't have immediately suspended and possibly killed all six players.]
MORE OUTRAGE. "Lame defense affirms winning is the only thing that matters for Jim Tressel, Ohio State." I mean, right?
SEXY OUTRAGE. "Ohio State mess latest example of college athletics gone wild"
PROTIP: do NOT start looking for humorous "gone wild" pictures by typing in "bears gone wild."
ENTIRELY PREDICTABLE OUTRAGE. Doyel. /wanking motion
OUTRAGE WITH SURPRISING VERBIAGE. Never thought I'd see this word in an H1 on AnnArbor.com: "Ohio State coach Jim Tressel: A fraud, manipulator and image whore." That's actually from the Drew Sharp of Central PA, David Jones, but dang.
METAOUTRAGE. That's Ray Ratto writing a column about the columns that are outraged about Ohio State and their handling of this.
The Free Press Jihad ended with Bruce Feldman quoting people saying it's a "joke," Kirk Herbstreit declaring it a "joke," and the final NCAA word declaring the original lurid descriptions were overblown. The OSU reaction was such that people were writing columns about said reaction the day of. Boring, honest, NCAA-is-serious-business press conferences are so obviously the way to go.
Let's win this NCAA violation contest. "Document" on three.