If Only Chris Cicero Had Picked Up the Phone

Submitted by oakapple on June 3rd, 2011 at 4:03 PM

NCAA sanctions are often the result of just one particularly stupid act.

Ohio State is now staring down the barrel of a gun because when Chris Cicero found out that Buckeyes were selling memorabilia for tattoos, he sent an email to Jim Tressel, rather than picking up the phone. Had he telephoned the OSU coach, there would have been no paper trail to prove that Tressel lied, when he claimed (many months later) that the violations were news to him.

Of course, Tressel compounded his sin by forwarding the emails to Terrelle Pryor’s “mentor,” Ted Sarniak, while claiming later on that he failed to tell Compliance because he considered them confidential. But even without that error, Tressel was in violation the instant he found out about probable violations, and sat on them.

Without the incriminating emails, this case would have been no different from those of Ray Isaac, Maurice Clarett, and Troy Smith: Tressel would have claimed he knew nothing, and there would have been no way to disprove him. Common sense would suggest that when the same type of violation occurs repeatedly around athletes under your supervision, any coach serious about compliance would see a pattern, and do something about it.

But to find OSU guilty of the most serious violations, the NCAA needs to prove that the coach actually knew, and that’s devilishly difficult to do, unless the coach or someone in his circle is awfully stupid—as Chris Cicero was, in writing to Tressel, rather than speaking to him.

The same thing happened in the USC case. The evidence that anyone on Pete Carroll’s staff actually knew (as opposed to the proverbial “should have known”) Reggie Bush was on the take is actually very limited, and mostly circumstantial: a photo of assistant coach Todd McNair with Bush associate Lloyd Lake, along with cell phone records proving that the two had spoken once (though not what they had spoken about).

You can argue at OSU, as people did at USC, that if Bush was paid to the tune of $700,000 over multiple years, the rest of the team probably wasn’t squeaky clean. But even the NCAA needs actual proof, and that is usually hard to come by.

For that reason, I suspect the worst news about Jim Tressel is already out there. It’s not that the Tat 5 were the first time he cheated. It’s that no one will be able to prove the other times.

Comments

michgoblue

June 3rd, 2011 at 4:10 PM ^

I am definitely not trying to be pickish, and this comment is not directed only to you, but:

Do we really need more threads that contain no new info about the OSU fiasco.  I love to discuss the topic as much as anyone, but there are tons of open threads about the topic, and this really is just a post saying, "here are my personal thoughts on the matter."  Good thoughts, by the way, and I largely agree with you, but it just seems like it could go in response to one of the many threads.

Also, yes, I know, it's the offseason so what else is there to talk about, and your title was clear, but I just personally think that if you are going to start a new thread, you should have some new info - or at least an article - to share.

 

Born N' Maized

June 3rd, 2011 at 4:28 PM ^

I'm not sure that Cicero made a stupid mistake by emailing this information to Tressel.  The mistake he made was trusting that Tressel would do something about it. 

michgoblue

June 3rd, 2011 at 4:34 PM ^

Cicero was one of the only people in this whole mess who, once informed of the problem, actually took the proper steps and notified someone in a position to handle it.  Unfortunately, he didn't realize that the person he notified was going to cover it up. 

michgoblue

June 3rd, 2011 at 4:39 PM ^

Thanks for posting - this is an awesome piece.  If the OSU fans weren't such asshats, I would actually feel bad for them.  I couldn't imagine how I would feel if this were Michigan.  When the whole Fab 5 thing happened, I was obviously very upset, but since it was BBall and not FB, so I was able to move on and it didn't have the same impact. 

oakapple

June 3rd, 2011 at 5:11 PM ^

The NCAA sanctions will be based on what can actually be proved, not what we all feel (or even some honest OSU alums feel) must have been going on.

For that reason, it’s practically guaranteed that many of us will find the sanctions disappointing, even if they are quite severe (i.e., USC-level, or even a bit more than that). We want OSU to be punished for what we are certain they did, but what the NCAA can prove—although very damning—will be much, much less.

bigmc6000

June 3rd, 2011 at 5:20 PM ^

So you're saying Cicero was the stupid one for not picking up the phone while Sweatervest isn't the stupid one?  I'm pretty sure e-mailing Tress to tell him wasn't in the least bit stupid - he trusted that the coach would DO HIS JOB.  Expecting someone like Tress who had built up this reputation of being a squeaky clean coach who did everything by the rules to, ya know, follow the rules isn't Cicero's fault - it's tressel's.  Had Tressel acted on this the moment he found out he'd still have his job and the players would have been suspended for a few games last year and they'd all be coming back for a full season this year.

 

The stupid one?  The stupid one is Tressel and that's where it ends on the Cicero vs Tressel argument.

Tater

June 3rd, 2011 at 5:42 PM ^

Did you ever consider that Cicero did call Tressel, but Tressel was too "busy" to call him back?

As for what the NCAA will eventually prove, go to the WTKA podcasts and get the pod where Dan Patrick interviewed George Dorhmann.  Listen to the incredibly smarmy and confident tone in Dorhmann's voice when he tells Patrick, "Yeah: there's more."  Dohrmann's tone of voice was a lot like someone's would be if he knew that the most attractive woman in the world was going to be knocking on his door in ten minutes with amorous intentions.

We may have been a bit disappointed with the original article, but the sequals are probably going to be all we were hoping for and more.  And it would be really funny if it stretched out over the entire summer, being "dripped" into the public consciousness one embarrassing episode at a time.

The FannMan

June 3rd, 2011 at 9:05 PM ^

You are right.  He should have texted him.  Those things are always secret.

/s Kwame Kilpatrick

I think the e-mail was a bit of ass covering.  This is not something you e-mail unless you want to be able to prove that you reported it.  I don't know why Cicero would need to cover his ass, but it seems to me that he wanted a record that he reported this to Tressel.  It just backfired on him and OSU.

m1jjb00

June 3rd, 2011 at 9:25 PM ^

Tressel declined to make the info known b/c hea wanted to maximize (not preserve) his chance at a national championship.  Do you really want guys like Cicero making those deicions?  Heck., there's a good chance that the info would have gotten out before the end of the Big 10 season.  All 5 could have been declared ineligbe in the last several games.  Who can say?  Yeah, I suppose that there was less of a possibilty that OSU gets cauthg otherwise, but so what?  There's a group of people charged with doing the right thing.  Leadership is not making the easy decisons.  It's about making the best of a bunch of bad ones. (Parapharsing DeGualle).  There's no reason to exercise yourself otherwise.  If it wasn't Cicero, then it would have been someone else at some other time.

 

 

m1jjb00

June 3rd, 2011 at 9:25 PM ^

Tressel declined to make the info known b/c hea wanted to maximize (not preserve) his chance at a national championship.  Do you really want guys like Cicero making those deicions?  Heck., there's a good chance that the info would have gotten out before the end of the Big 10 season.  All 5 could have been declared ineligbe in the last several games.  Who can say?  Yeah, I suppose that there was less of a possibilty that OSU gets cauthg otherwise, but so what?  There's a group of people charged with doing the right thing.  Leadership is not making the easy decisons.  It's about making the best of a bunch of bad ones. (Parapharsing DeGualle).  There's no reason to exercise yourself otherwise.  If it wasn't Cicero, then it would have been someone else at some other time.

 

 

WestSider

June 3rd, 2011 at 9:35 PM ^

that it would have happened, eventually. You are right about Tressell's motivations, obviously. I appreciate your post, genuinely.

Why are so many over-intellectualizing Tressell? He is the classic conflicted man, soothed when he sits with the universal ideals of Christianity, selfish when considering the success related to his ego needs, and how those manifest in his everyday life as coach and administrator. I know others with such conflicts, just different flavors and circumstances. However, I have a special contempt toward those who use God's word in such a perversion of reality. If you're going to cheat, quit acting like a preacher. If you break the rules, give a good apology and be transparent. Tressell has demonstrated he is neither capable or willing to be accountable. And that is disappointing on a simple human level.