Tressel Out: Ohio State Left to Face The Music
Contrary to the well orchestrated image of a fine citizen and leader with integrity and outstanding moral character, Jim Tressel was a liar and a fraud. The Ohio State football coach just had to go.
This raises two specific questions:
Will the Ohio State president, E. Gordon Gee, and athletic director, Gene Smith, soon follow their coach and resign as Tressel did last Monday?
As a result of Tressel’s actions and the university’s attempts to downplay those misdeeds, will the National Collegiate Athletic Association heed the wishes of its new president, Mark Emmert, and impose stiffer penalties against cheats and liars and come down hard on Ohio State, one of the three or four most powerful big-time college athletic powers?
Buckeye fans revered Tressel just as they once idolized Woody Hayes. Tressel had a record of 106—22 in his 10 seasons at the helm, including one National Championship team in 2002 and the all-important 9-1 record over Michigan.
Those devoted Ohio State fans admired Tressel very much because he had them believing this rather quiet gentleman on the sidelines in the red or gray vest sweater oozed a calm, professorial demeanor that eventually led to him earning the nickname of “Senator”. How ironic.
In reality, Tressel reminds one of those politicians who campaign by extolling their righteous family values while their second or third wife stands beside them and they hide their adulterous conduct. The names Gingrich, Edwards, Schwarzenegger, McGreevey, Lee, Ensign, Spitzer, Craig, Foley, and many more come to mind when thinking of Tressel as “Senator”. All were liars.
And then there is a famous golfer who fashioned a false image of himself just as Tressel and those politicians did. That all evaporated when Tiger Woods was caught cheating on his wife. He has lost his wife and not been the same man or golfer since.
Tressel will probably never coach a major college team again because, under NCAA rules, any punishment that involves rules violations by a coach follows that coach if he or she takes another college coaching position.
Tressel’s sins include the fact that he lied to his superiors at Ohio State when he denied knowing anything about NCAA rules infractions being committed by five of his football players, including the team’s star quarterback, Terrelle Pryor. They had been trading Buckeye memorabilia for favors such as tattoos and, according to some reports, drugs such as marijuana.
The NCAA considers lying to superiors and/or NCAA investigators to be among the most serious of violations within the intercollegiate athletic community.
As their coach leaves in disgrace, Ohio State fans must ponder what truly smacks of fraudulent behavior and blatant hypocrisy by “Senator” Tressel.
Tressel has lectured on upstanding, moral behavior and repeated to his players every day the values of decency, honesty and all those good things that will get you through life as a wonderful person.
The 58-year-old coach published his third book last February. Each of these tomes is loaded with do-good ideals that any fine person should live by.
His latest book, “Life Promises for Success”, is a compilation of Bible verses and other such inspirational readings. What a phony!
A lengthy Sports Illustrated article this week claims many more Ohio State football players than the original five were involved in trading for favors in downtown Columbus. The magazine also reported these activities were going on for years while Tressel coached Ohio State.
Yet the university president and athletic director stood behind their coach even after he admitted last March that he did not inform his superiors of what he knew more than a year ago about trading autographed shirts, sweaters, magazines, etc. for tattoos and other favors.
E. Gordon Gee has bounced around the country as president of West Virginia University, University of Colorado, Ohio State University, Brown and Vanderbilt. Since 2007 he has been in his second term as president of Ohio State. He is famous for putting his foot in his mouth when talking about intercollegiate athletics.
Asked in April if he would fire Tressel for withholding information, President Gee replied jokingly that he hoped Tressel would not dismiss him, the CEO of Ohio State.
In recent major NCAA penalty actions, the University of Southern California was put on probation and handed other serious penalties following a four-year investigation involving expensive gifts and housing given to the Trojans’ former tailback, Reggie Bush and his family, plus improper gifts to O.J.Mayo, a basketball player.
As a result, the USC athletic director, Mike Garrett, was fired; the head football coach, Pete Carroll, resigned to become head coach of the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL; the head basketball coach, Tim Floyd, was replaced and the USC president, Dr. Steven Sample, retired in what amounted to a major house cleaning.
The NCAA Infractions Committee has scheduled hearings on the Ohio State situation for August. If the Buckeyes are penalized heavily, as should be the case, one might expect Gee and Smith to be history.
After all, Ohio State has run afoul of the NCAA because of football and basketball infractions a few times during the past decade so that Tressel’s current misdeeds are not the first bad mark against Buckeye athletics in recent years. Also, the NCAA is currently investigating whether or not the quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, has been given such things as cars and other gifts in addition to his swapping mementoes for tattoos.
Pryor was caught on camera driving a Nissan sports car during the past week even though his Ohio drivers license is currently suspended.
The former Ohio State athletic director, Andy Geiger, retired in 2005 following the basketball troubles that culminated when Geiger fired the head coach, Jim O’Brien, in June of 2004 because of NCAA rules infractions.
Geiger was the AD and Tressel the head coach when Maurice Clarett was the star freshman tailback who led Ohio State to the National Championship in the January 2003 title game. Then it was disclosed that Clarett received gifts and favors and was improperly assisted in his academic work, all of which were breaches of NCAA rules. He never played another game for the Buckeyes.
That was just the beginning of misconduct under Tressel at Ohio State.
But when the goody two-shoes coach was the head coach at Youngstown State in Ohio, 1986-2000, that Division I-AA school was penalized by the NCAA because Youngstown players received improper gifts such as cars. Tressel claimed at the time, as he did for months at Ohio State, that he knew nothing about any wrong doing by his athletes.
Despite that history of misconduct under his leadership, Tressel, an Ohio native, was hired by Andy Geiger in 2001 to lead the Buckeyes football.
When confronted with a lengthy string of non-compliance and misconduct, the NCAA is less prone to be lenient. But it is not likely to level the “death penalty” on Ohio State. That punishment was handed out only once to a major college football program when Southern Methodist was punished by having its 1986 football season cancelled by the NCAA.
It has taken SMU a quarter century to recover from that setback. The NCAA does not feel such a penalty should be handed out again. But a multi-year penalty against Ohio State that includes a prohibition against post-season bowls and a severe cut in football scholarships plus loss of some former victories may be among the NCAA punishments. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving institution.
Also, the hunt for a top notch coach may be difficult if Ohio State suffers a lengthy and severe punishment that would negatively impact recruiting football players.
Ohio State’s athletic program, estimated to be about a $100 million per year big business, is in shambles and has been for years despite headline-catching victories on gridirons and basketball courts across the nation.
Eventually more heads will roll along the banks of the Olentangy River.
Gordon White served 43 years as a sports reporter for The New York Times. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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