I have no idea when Jim Tressel first discovered six of his players had sold game-used memorabilia in violation of NCAA rules.
I also don’t care.
Most of today has been spent hand-wringing over last night’s revelation from Yahoo! Sports that “a concerned party” told Tressel last April that several players including quarterback Terrelle Pryor had sold such items as jerseys, Gold Pants charms and MVP trophies. That was eight months before Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith claimed the university first learned of the incident.
For argument’s sake, let’s say the allegation against Tressel is true. Who is this so-called “concerned party”? That matters because if the coach was made fully aware of what was going on and purposely covered it up, he’s in trouble.
If, however, the “concerned party” is one of the hundreds of e-mails, snail mail letters and phone calls the Ohio State head coach receives on a daily basis, well, then, there seems to be plenty of plausible deniability on Tressel’s side.
Plausible deniability is a phrase used in the recent NCAA investigation into recruiting violations committed by the University of Connecticut men’s basketball program. At the crux of that investigation was more than $6,000 in improper recruiting inducements by a former team manager as well as 150 impermissible phone calls and 190 impermissible text messages from coaches to recruits between April 2007 and February 2009.
For all of that, UConn head coach Jim Calhoun will have to sit out the first three Big East games of the Huskies’ 2011-12 season. In other words, the tiniest of wrist slaps even though money changed hands and recruiting violations occurred.
And you’re telling me that Tressel is going to face some sort of stiff penalty like termination?
I have heard the argument that Smith will have little choice but to fire his head coach because Tressel lied to him. That is such a leap of logic you would need a rocket ship to cover the distance.
In my little picayune job, I get a ton of e-mails and phone calls from folks claiming to have inside knowledge about this player or that coach. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to chase down everyone’s story. After having been in this business for awhile, you get a certain feel for what is plausible and what is not. Obviously, this story has legs or there would be no need for tonight’s news conference with Smith and university president Dr. E. Gordon Gee.
But let me let you – and them – in on a little secret. In the big picture, what Tressel knew and when he knew it doesn’t amount to a tick on the rear end of a dog. If the coach knew in April and deliberately covered it up, it would be so out of character for the Jim Tressel that I know I couldn’t even begin to describe it.
That means that someone – that “concerned party” – sent Tressel a message in April and whether or not he received it and whether or not he acted upon it remains up for conjecture.
As I wrote in the opening, I really don’t care. Knowing the way college athletics operates these days, knowing that nearly every program bends/breaks the rules – either knowingly or not – I have a hard time getting myself lathered up over this.
Worst case scenario: If Tressel knew in April and purposely withheld the information, he should be fined and/or suspended by the university. And that’s it.
If Tressel somehow loses his job over this, it’s a slippery slope to a college football world I’m not too sure I want to be part of anymore.