Tressel’s Case Is Now Up To NCAA

Coach Jim Tressel is full of crap. Then again so is major college athletics.

After more than 10 years of doing so, Stanford, according to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle, finally decided to discontinue its “Courses of Interest” handout that highlighted easy classes. The list, available only at the Athletic Academic Resource Center, was halted after reporters started asking questions.

So no one should be surprised that Tressel withheld information about six of his Ohio State players who sold or traded memorabilia for cash and other considerations, even if said actions are in clear violation of NCAA rules.

Five of the athletes, including starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, will be suspended for the first five games of the season. Tressel, for his efforts in trying to cover up the misdeeds, was hit with a two-game suspension by the university and fined $250,000 – which amounts to less than one month’s pay. The suspension will mean the Buckeyes coach will miss traditional tomato cans Akron and Toledo.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith did say he considered even more drastic measures, but decided to let Tressel participate in spring practice and the lucrative summer camps. Good thing, too. The last thing OSU needs is a band of 11-year-olds writing angry Facebook notes about their ruined summer.

Tressel’s excuse for not reporting the violations to Smith or the NCAA would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. Not that his “I felt at the time I was doing the right thing for the safety of the young people and the situation” wasn’t moving. I mean, the guy does wear a WWJD bracelet on the sideline.

Sidebar: So what would Jesus do? I am no expert in ecclesiastic studies, but I’d bet a man so profound that he helped inspire such fashionable and ethical wrist wear wouldn’t purposely withhold information regarding possible illegal activities. Then again Jesus was never asked to do anything as critical as win football games.

Back to the subject at hand. Tressel’s flaunting of the rules shows not a lack of personal accountability but the systematic disregard for the very terms of employment the school and NCAA require. Why should Tressel apologize and admit to any wrongdoing when university leadership remains willing participants?

Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee defended his coach, saying, “The integrity of this program and the integrity of this coach is absolutely superb.” This about the coach who supervised two other recent rules violators, Troy Smith and Maurice Clarett. And Ray Isaac. The Youngstown State QB entered campus with empty pockets and was quickly introduced to businessman Michael Monus, who was on the search committee that hired Tressel. Monus also was a regular on the sidelines at Penguins games. In a 2004 ESPN story, citing sources and court documents, the network reported Tressel put the pair together to find a job for the freshman. The NCAA was not able to prove the coach had knowledge of the reported $10,000 in payments, and for the Columbus-based university, that was good enough.

So why should Tressel accept blame when the university won’t? So unconcerned over the issue was Ohio State leadership that Gee said, when asked if he considered firing Tressel, “No, are you kidding me? Let me be very clear. I’m just hoping the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”

Gee said he was joking. Was he? University presidents are easier to find than football coaches who win 106 games in 10 years while taking home seven conference titles and, most importantly, beat their rival in nine of those 10 contests. Still, this was hardly the time to be cavalier.

Tressel still faces an NCAA investigation. But why should he worry? The organization has already proven pliable to powerful influences. The Ohio six were outed long before last year’s Sugar Bowl but the players were allowed to compete following phone calls from bowl officials and Big Ten offices. So why should he worry about future repercussions even if he knowingly played ineligible players for an entire season?

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