At press time, Harbaugh had sent Michigan’s athletic department an envelope containing a heavily annotated seating chart, a list of the 63,000 seat views he had found unsatisfactory, and a glowing 70-page report on section 25, row 12, seat 9, which he claimed is “exactly what the great sport of football is all about.”
This Diary is brought to you by MGoBlog user Michael Scarn. I posted a link to the full 139 pages of Tressel's interview last night and Mike went through and pulled a number of notable quotes and banter... Enjoy
I planned on laying out a grandiose narrative to introduce this diary, but decided most of the analogies, hyperboles, and myriad other literary devices had already been used by writers more talented and creative than me to discuss this topic. That, and the several tumblers of Macallan 18 I’ve consumed this Friday evening while writing this have left me with only so many remaining grammatically correct sentences in the keyboard. The bottom line is, we have access to the transcript of Jim Tressel’s February 8, 2011 NCAA interview, in all 139 pages of its glory. Knowing that you all are probably interested in the interviews substance while turned off by its length, I tried to highlight the most interesting portions. What follows is a mix of amusing quotes, the most interesting questions and answers, and just generally relevant stuff. Enough chit-chat, let’s get down to it:
Jim Tressel, and apparently others in the OSU athletic department, referred to his speeches to players as “sermons”:
Tressel (describing interactions with members of the compliance department):
“Or, there’s times when it’s just the opposite. Doug’s office gets the call. Doug comes into us and says, ‘Hey, you know, I don’t have a whole bunch on this, but I’m hearing they’re going to this bar a lot. And the word is that, you know, they’re letting ’em, you know, have a couple pops because they want the football players,’ or the basketball players or, you know, whether, the athletes, ‘there. In your sermons, you know, you need to weave that in.’”
Ted Sarniak wanted Terrelle Pryor to go to Notre Dame
Tressel: “Ted wanted him to go to Notre Dame. Strike that from the records.”
I, personally, prefer him taking this rival down. Charlie Weis took care of the Irish for us. Tressel also discussed how during Pryor’s recruiting process, there were some benefits waived in front of Pryor, but everything was so heavily redacted it’s not possible to get a remote clue of whom he was referring to. Tressel paints Sarniak as a great guy that kept Pryor’s head on straight.
Tressel claims the reason he didn’t move forward with information was that Cicero’s email that discussed a federal investigation scared him:
“But probably the thing that knocked me off my socks was at the bottom when there was a little description of this criminal. And, again, I didn’t emblazon in my mind his name. I just emblazoned in my mind, ‘Oh, my God. There’s a homicide. There’s drug trafficking. There’s possession of criminal tools. This is a bad situation. This is, you know, this isn’t like the girl that called from the hot dog stand. This is not like the guy that calls from the bar and says they might be getting a drink. This is frightening.’”
And, you know, it – I was scared, quite frankly, as I read that. I answered ’em and said, ‘You know –‘ I think we were in practice, and I got back after practice and happened to start grinding through my e-mails again and saw this one. I thought, you know – I said,
‘Thanks, Chris. Blah, blah, blah.’ And, you know, I guess I had a lot of the scared part of me elicited some things, you know?”
I know what I say when I’m scared. Happy Easter!
Tressel was scared the players Cicero was talking about in his emails were in a drug trafficking ring and involved in criminal activity. With the benefit of hindsight, he would’ve gone to the university’s legal counsel because he was scared of the federal investigation:
“Knowing what I knew – not knowing who all was involved with it– I mean, I knew one name. So you sit there saying, ‘Oh, my God. Do I got 25 guys drug trafficking? Do I got, you know, X number of people selling their stuff so they can feed their drug habits?’
You know? I mean, you go through a million things. If I fastforwarded to today, I think I have the answer to what I would do. I would go to the university legal counsel because it’s a federal issue. I wouldn’t go to the athletic department legal counsel. I wouldn’t go to the compliance office.”
When pressed on the fact that Cicero’s emails focus on his player’s involvement in memorabilia, not on any criminal activity by them, Tressel went back to his fear, and felt that any NCAA sanctions might end up being moot. He thought:
“I guess it won’t matter what NCAA problems you have if you’re in jail.”
Tressel Claims he went to Sarniak to protect Pyror:
“I don’t wanna be dramatic, but I would have a hard time having a second guy murdered or a second guy get incarcerated.”
When another name comes up from Cicero (Pryor was the only one at first), no parent or mentor for that player is contacted. So, he was concerned for Pryor’s safety, but not the second players…
When Chuck Smrt (I guess vowels were expensive the day his family got its surname), who was one of a few outside consultants for OSU present, offers to take a break, Tressel says something that comes off a little like he’s performing, rather than just speaking the truth:”
Tressel: “We’re rolling…I don’t wanna go and have a halftime, and come out and play a bad second half.”
Tressel says he sat down with the Tat5, and said that he vaguely told them to avoid people they were involved with, didn’t mention Rife, and never asked any questions about drugs or memorabilia, or anything really. No great quote for this, just a lot of rambling, so either take me at my word or read the whole document yourselves, ya filthy animals.
Tressel seems to have a slip up and talks about a plan for the “inevitable”(Chuck and Beth are members of the outside compliance firm hired by OSU:
And the last thing that I mentioned to Chuck and Beth was that what was critical in my mind was that preparing for this inevitable, we had to come up with a way to make sure our student athletes stayed in the educational process, because witness too often that when our guys error, then they’re some consequences, then they’re outta college. And I go back to sitting in that living room and saying it’s gonna be safe. We’ll do our best to help take care of ’em. It’s gonna be paramount in my mind that they get their degree because I know if they stay here long enough to get their degree, their maturity level will have been enhanced.
And so we better be thinking through and talking through, and even planning seeds, you know, about the importance of making sure, you know, we stay through this process, through the educational process. Didn’t plant seeds by saying – calling ’em in and saying, “Hey, you’re in some serious stuff,” you know, and all that. “And, by the way, you’re gonna get some consequences. But after you get the consequences, you gotta stay in school,” you know? We didn’t say that.
But just ways to, you know, to come up with a plan, you know, for when the inevitable occurs. And interestingly enough, when the inevitable did occur, which was a lot further down the road than I thought it might, seeing how we were sitting there with June 1st
with someone supposedly going to prison, well, now we know that they were using him, you know, obviously, ’cause they – I don’t think they sent him to prison, did they? No. He pled out, I think. So they were using him for all that time to go get the next guy, or whatever.
But when the inevitable happened to us and the letter came, you know, the hallelujah letter, in my mind was – from the US Department of Justice was there was no allegation that any of these players were involved in or had knowledge of Mr. Rife’s drug trafficking. I’m like, “This is the greatest.”
Now, we got issues. And all along, you know, we’ve known that one of the things that we’ve gotta be preparing ourselves for is we gotta find away to keep these guys here. Now when the NCAA, after all the reinstatement discussions and all that, decided that the guys could play in the bowl game and then they would be sanctioned later, okay, at first, I was really disappointed.
Later, on the “inevitable”:
Chuck Smrt:So what is the inevitable?
Jim Tressel:The inevitable is are we gonna be drug traffickers? Are we gonna be drug users? You know, are we gonna be a group of folks that sell their memorabilia, you know, as cash to buy my drugs that I gotta have? Who knows? Are we gonna be a group that violated selling memorabilia, which we know we can’t do? Inevitably, something’s gonna come from this. And I’m rooting for the least.
Chuck Smrt:You said earlier, back when we talked about the first e-mail and what you did and why you did it.
Chuck Smrt:Now we’re six weeks later –
Chuck Smrt:– almost seven weeks later, and it’s gonna be resolved, it looks – there’s a resolution.
Chuck Smrt:Why not go at this point then to compliance or to Gene Smith or someone?
Jim Tressel:Well, I don’t know that it’s gonna be resolved from a drug trafficking standpoint. Just because they put one guy in jail doesn’t mean, you know, that there’s not drug trafficking going on or – I mean, kinda like I mentioned, you know, when the feds want our help and our involvement, they’ll, you know, request it.
This is something that I’m just going to let you read on your own, nothing to really introduce, this is probably the most interesting part of the interview, and requires no interpretation, other than your own. I will say that there is a RIDICULOUS amount of hand holding/help by the NCAA ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF ENFORCEMENT. He sounds like Tressel’s attorney, not an investigator:
Tim Nevius(NCAA associate director of enforcement):
You were aware that violations regarding student athletes, particularly and had either occurred or likely occurred.
Tim Nevius:Is that correct?
Tim Nevius:And you did not report that those violations to anyone in athletics or compliance or the NCAA. Is that correct?
Tim Nevius:Okay. And were you aware that as a result of those violations that the student athletes would likely be ineligible then for participationduring the 2010 season?
Jim Tressel:No, I didn’t think of it like that. You know, I didn’t take that progression of thinking. I mean, I knew that inevitably they were gonna have a problem. I don’t – you know, I can’t sit here and say I thought, “Oh, these guys are ineligible.” I didn’t think it of it that way.
Tim Nevius:Okay. But you knew that the young men who were involved in the violations were going to participate in the 2010 season then.
Jim Tressel:Mm-hmm. You talking about –
Jim Tressel:Right. You’re talking about we’re sitting here at what point?
Tim Nevius:Anytime before the 2010 fall season –
Tim Nevius:– you knew they had engaged in violations –
Tim Nevius:– and that they were gonna then participate that season.
Tim Nevius:And that you had not reported any of that information to –
Tim Nevius:– the athletics or compliance.
Jim Tressel:And I knew why. But, yeah.
Tim Nevius:Okay. And I understand, and you’ve explained your reasons why. Do you understand that it is an NCAA violation not to report information concerning violations?
Tim Nevius:Okay. And then in that regard, can you provide us with any further context or explanation as to why you didn’t report that information?
Jim Tressel:Outside of what I already have? No. Outside of the gravity of what I thought the federal criminal investigation was, outside of the confidentiality request that was in front of me, you know, those – outside of that, no. I mean, just what we’ve talked about.
Tim Nevius:Okay. Did you think it was against the law at all to reveal the information that Chris had provided to you in those e-mails?
Jim Tressel:You know, I didn’t know. I didn’t know that.
Tim Nevius:Was that a thought that crossed your mind?
Jim Tressel:You know, it crossed my mind about, you know, the attorney/client privilege kind a thing as, you know, I think I had mentioned earlier in the day of like, “Is he allowed to do this?” You know? And did I know for sure why he wanted it confidential? Was it that? Was it that, you know, you could interfere with the federal, you know, investigation? Could you, you know, obstruct justice? You know? Exactly why, I did not know.
So to answer your question, did I think it was against the law? Yeah, I guess I thought it could be. I wouldn’t have said it that way. But –
Tim Nevius:Well, then is that why you did not report the information? Does
that help explain why you did not report the information?
Jim Tressel:If it helps explain the compliance – or the confidentiality part. But, no, I would say as I have been saying, I thought this was first and foremost a criminal investigation and that anything I would do to interfere with that would be against the law. You know? I did feel that way.
Tim Nevius:And did you feel that reporting the information would be interfering with the investigation?
Jim Tressel:You know, anything I would do with it, you know, I would think would have been, yeah.
Tim Nevius:So any action that you would have taken, you felt would have interfered with the –
Tim Nevius:– federal investigation?
Tim Nevius:Even if it’s just simply telling someone?
Jim Tressel:Well, now I’ll say this. If you’re talking about how did I feel then, yes. I thought anything I would – now, I would say to you as I’ve learned is if I would have gone to the person in our world that’s, you know, at that level that, you know, could speak to that federal criminal investigation part of it appropriately, that that’s what I could have done. Did I think there was anything I could have done, you know, that would have been appropriate? No.
Tim Nevius:You’re saying at the time?
Jim Tressel:At the time. Yeah.
Tim Nevius:You didn’t think there was – you thought the most appropriate thing was to not do anything.
Jim Tressel:Right. It was to let the federal investigation happen, you know, and that – again, you know, hopefully, that wouldn’t be something we were a part of.
Tim Nevius:And you felt that even though you knew that NCAA violations had occurred, and that you were gonna go forward with those student athletes participating in the 2010 season.
Jim Tressel:Yeah. Then we would – there would be, in my mind, as I mentioned it there somewhere, is that inevitably, we were gonna get as our works deserve, as we say. You know, we were gonna pay the fiddler, you know? And how – what, and how many, you know, who all? I mean, you know, I didn’t have a clue, nor did I have a clue to who and how many and all might be involved in a federal drug trafficking thing that might be, you know, huge in the federal arena. I mean, I didn’t know.
Tim Nevius:But did you anticipate that that would include – the consequences would potentially include NCAA sanctions?
Jim Tressel:Even if we were guilty of drug trafficking, you know, I’m sure we would, you know – I’m sure we would, along the way even though I suppose the guys wouldn’t be here. You know? I mean, there’d be record of that I guess is the way I’d put it. It would be, you know, somewhat irrelevant. But – and I tried not to infer that I really think these guys are drug trafficker. You know, I don’t think I’ve tried to say that.
But I also think it would be a poor defense to say, “Well, you know, I knew my guys weren’t involved in that.” (Ed: NO SHIT, SHERLOCK) And so I wasn’t gonna ignore any of the federal investigation. That’s their problem. I gotta go get my guys squared away and, you know, take care of their NCAA issues.” I just felt that there was a hierarchy. I don’t know.
Tim Nevius:I appreciate that, yeah. And I can understand what you’re thinking there. But I guess what the problem is that there was no action taken on either the NCAA issues or the federal investigation.
Tim Nevius:So despite the concern of one of those issues being more problematic than another –
Tim Nevius:– I don’t think that you – the facts are that you didn’t address
Jim Tressel:Right. And the federal ones weren’t over. So I couldn’t address. I had established in my mind, right or wrong, that there was a hierarchy, and that there was a confidentiality. And that there – in the higher part of the hierarchy, it had not been – there’d been no action. And I don’t know if all of a sudden, just ’cause – and I guess what I’m hearing you say is, okay. Now we’ve moved to September in your mind. And we’re talking about playing in the game. Okay?
That’s the way I’m feeling it, anyway. It’s not you decided to put ’em in a game. Okay? Well, to me, you know, it wasn’t tied to time. You know, just because, well, it’s the summer and there’s no games and, you know, we’ll wait on the federal, you know – the hierarchy is bigger federal now. But now when the games start, you know, the NCAA becomes bigger. You know, I did not think that way, no.
Tim Nevius:And I’m not suggesting that – I wasn’t necessarily jumping to September.
Jim Tressel:Oh, okay.
Tim Nevius:But it is important for a head coach to recognize that if student athletes had engaged in violations and they’re aware of that, that that information needs to be reported, and the student athletes have to go through the appropriate channels to be reinstated before they can participate in competition. You’re aware of that, too, right?
Jim Tressel:I am, yeah.
Tim Nevius:And you were aware of that at the time?
Jim Tressel:Yeah. I don’t know that I was thinking of it that way. But I mean, if you would have asked me the question, you know, if a guy sells memorabilia and we’re aware of it and so forth and so on, we have to deem him ineligible. You know, we’ve done that, you know, numbers of times. You know, not necessarily just memorabilia, but things come up and sometimes you have to declare ’em ineligible for a day ’cause something’s not paid or, you know, all that stuff. So I’m aware of that.
That didn’t all of a sudden come into my thinking and catapult over in my mind what was, you know, the biggest part of this situation. You know, and so then I was gonna shift gears and say, you know, “Now it’s – hey, now it’s different. We got games.” Well, I didn’t think of it that way.
Chuck Smrt:Did you – when – ’cause the first game, whether it’s August or September, before that first game, did you have a thought process, “Okay. I know in those e-mails I’ve got athletes that –” and I don’t know if the word is could be or are, but, “there are potential
eligibility issue.” Did you think about that in the fall prior to the –
Jim Tressel:In that context? No.
Chuck Smrt:And if you can, what were you thinking about their eligibility of at least those two guys –
Jim Tressel:I was thinking that when the situation is resolved, that they will certainly have penalties. And whoever else because, you know, the inference is in there where there were multiple, you know, X number of jerseys and, you know, stuff. So that, you know,
whether it be those two or those two and anyone who was involved, you know, there’s gonna be – you know, as I pointed out when I got off of my rambling thing there, is that, you know, we had to prepare for the inevitable, and there was gonna be an inevitable.
Chuck Smrt:All right. Okay.
Beth Chapman(Compliance Consultant hired by OSU):Can I ask just to – just so I’m clear, the letter from the feds that you eventually received, we you expecting that? Did you believe you’d get that at some point?
Jim Tressel:Yeah. I mean, I didn’t know anything about what form things take. I mean, the only reason I was given that is I was invited to a meeting to discuss the violations, the reinstatement process. “Here’s, you know, how this has come to fruition.” And I mean, I
didn’t know it would come, you know, just in this form. Nor did I know it would say so clearly, you know, the thing that, you know, was important.
Beth Chapman:But you thought at some point understand be notified that that investigation had concluded?
Jim Tressel:Yeah. Yeah. I mean, whether the guy went to jail or – I think in this case it says he pled. And I didn’t read it that close. But yeah, there was gonna be a moment. And, you know, I guess you could say, “Well, gosh. That could take three years, and these guys
could be long gone.” I don’t know. I guess it goes back to my – I don’t know what you’d call it – old-fashioned thinking that, you know, you’re gonna get as your works deserve. You know?
It’s gonna – you know, there’s no such thing as getting away with something. It’s not gonna happen. And now had all of these guys – whoever else – we knew how old were, okay? But let’s pretend that there was like nine other guys involved and they were all seniors, you know? And theoretically the only thing they could get sanctioned would be a bowl game. You know? I mean, that could have happened.
You know, I guess it – I guess in my – I use the phrase, as I was thinking about this whole thing is that I know there was times when I was paralyzed in the federal moment. I just was. And I guess I wasn’t concerned that that might happen. Now as I started to say before Chuck said I was rambling –
Chuck Smrt:I didn’t say rambling.
Jim Tressel:– all of a sudden, this happens, okay? They come to us. They say, “Our federal investigation is complete. Here’s a bunch of stuff. This guy claims he bought from your guys. We wanna know is it stolen or did they buy it?” We call our guys in. They say, “You know what? Yep. We got paid for it,” okay. Here’s the process.
Thing comes back saying they can play in the bowl game and they’ve got X number of games later.
And like I woulda felt a little bit better if they’d a said, “Don’t play in the bowl game,” because then I would know for sure that there’s no such thing as getting away with something. But the more I tried to think through what I had been thinking about for some time, which was there’s gonna be an inevitable day for whoever – for whatever. And we have got to find a way to make these kids be in school because they can’t run from their problems. They can’t run from their mistakes. You know? The worst thing they could do is flee and think that the world would be better over there.
And then it dawned on me, you know what? I think the NCAA did me a favor, because now I can say to those guys – it just so happened, none of ’em were seniors. And I can say to these guys,
“If you wanna play in the bowl game, ’cause the NCAA says you can, and your teammates want you to –” by the way, we went to the seniors first ’cause we always give the seniors – “Hey, if you don’t want these knuckleheads around, they won’t be around.”
“No, we want ’em, you know, blah, blah, blah.”
Went to the coaching staff. Went to Mr. Smith, you know, I’m sure he checked with the people above him. I said, “Well, here’s my opportunity to do just what we had been thinking about we need to get done to finish this job that we’ve said we were gonna
do when they were in their living room when we said, ‘Hey, you know, you have to sign this sheet of paper –’” which is not a legal document. I mean, it’s, you know – “But you have to sign this piece of paper telling me that you’ll live up to these things at the bowl game,” which is earlier curfew, go to the community outreach project, all the boloney, okay? “And that you are gonna be back for your senior year at Ohio State. And can’t get on the plane if you won’t sign.”
And so in my mind, the NCAA ended up doing me a great favor ’cause five guys signed the letter, had some moments at the bowl game where had to tell one guy I was gonna put him on the plane and send him back ’cause I had heard rumors that he was – you know, the head coach hears everything. I had heard rumors that he said, “I ain’t sticking around. I’m gonna play this game and have a great game and get drafted high. I’m outta here. I’m not sitting out five games.”
He was in, in his early curfew on New Year’s Eve. I said, “We’ll going out early. I can’t look at the NCAA in the eyes and not have any sanctions. Can’t do it. I can’t. Ohio State can’t. You know, can’t do it.” And so did I think about that there are sanctions, you know, and you have to, you know, live by the rules? Yeah.
Did I think about it preemptively before the federal issue was done? No, I did not. But I certainly did not – I guess my whole point in that ramble was that I don’t wanna give you the impression that that’s not something we don’t take serious is the fact that our guys, you know, and ourselves, have to take the consequences for the decisions we make.
Now do I wish he hadn’t a sent me an e-mail? Yeah. At the end of the day now I know how it turned out and I know our kids are gonna be in college and I know they’re gonna get a fourth year or a fifth year in some case, and I know they’re gonna be bet they’re prepared when they leave here, and I – yeah. No, it’s been painful and I know it’s been problematic and all the rest. But, you know, things happen. You gotta deal with it.
“Most of the time” #HALOL:
Chuck Smrt:Tim asked you earlier did you know it was contrary to NCAA rules not to report information. And what – and, again, what’s your answer to that?
Jim Tressel:Did I know?
Chuck Smrt:Did you know that it was contrary – do you feel like you have a responsibility –
Jim Tressel:Yeah, I definitely have a responsibility.
That’s why I do it.
Chuck Smrt:Okay. Okay.
Jim Tressel:Most of the time.
Jim Tressel:I mean –
So, that’s most of the substance that I found interesting. I’ll admit this was rushed more than a little bit, because I figured MGoFanatics like myself would want it quickly. This is not intended to be all-inclusive – I was trying to strike a balance between brevity and depth. Feel free to comment below with additions or changes or comments. Last few comments from my perspective:
- Tressel tries to play several sides. He likes to play ignorant, innocent and scared, but often sounds like an attorney in a deposition with phrases like “strike that” and repeated use of hearsay to describe why he doubted the substance of Cicero emails.
- The NCAA staff was disgustingly friendly to him. There were at least 3 or 4 times that I had to double and triple check that the NCAA staffers weren’t from OSU or Tressel’s attorney or something. To paraphrase Larry David, pretty, pretty, pretty, RIDICULOUS.
- Tressel didn’t worry about suspending his players or asking them about their involvement in terms of NCAA violations because he figured that would be moot if they were in jail? So not only was he playing ineligible players, he was playing players he at least somewhat suspected were involved in criminal activities.