No One To Defend Tressel? I Will

I have a question for all you holier-than-thou types, you ax-grinders. All of you claiming to have a corner on the integrity market. What exactly would you have done had you been in Jim Tressel’s shoes last April? What would your course of action have been when e-mails began crossing your desk regarding your players and a federal drug trafficking investigation?

Would you choose to try and protect your players – as well as yourself and your program – or would you immediately inform your athletic director and compliance office knowing full well that by doing so you expose those players and that federal investigation to unwanted (and perhaps illegal) publicity?

I know the easy (and somewhat lazy) answer. In a nuanced world filled with shades of gray, maybe you would have informed Gene Smith and the compliance office and maybe you wouldn’t have. Maybe, just maybe, you would have met with the players in question and held an investigation of your own. Maybe the answers you received were satisfactory and maybe they weren’t. Maybe you would have meted out some form of punishment of your own at that time. Maybe you wouldn’t have.

We now know Tressel’s decision on how he thought best to handle the situation. We also know that decision will forever provide a blemish on his impressive coaching résumé. But did it really have to turn out this way?

Some things in this whole sordid mess simply don’t add up.

At first blush, the Yahoo! Sports report seemed flimsy at best. Knowing his players were selling memorabilia in defiance of NCAA regulations and then purposely covering up that knowledge was completely out of character for the Jim Tressel I have come to know over the past decade. Now, after listening to the university’s explanation of how things transpired between the e-mails Tressel received in April and the NCAA investigation in December, I’m not convinced I was wrong in my judgment of Tressel’s character.

Could it be that Tressel is falling on his own sword? There was an instance during last night’s news conference when a reporter asked the coach if he forwarded the e-mails to anyone. Tressel began to nod his head before Smith quickly interrupted to say the coach couldn’t answer the question due to the ongoing NCAA investigation.

Tressel could have simply been acknowledging the question or he could have been nodding in affirmation as prelude to an answer. That is total conjecture on my part but it seems at least plausible that the coach took the initial e-mail he received in April and forwarded it to the university compliance office. If that was indeed the case, and the compliance office failed to act on the e-mails, Ohio State would have been looking at “lack of institutional control” – the dreaded four words no NCAA member institution wants to hear.

Lack of institutional control to the NCAA is like running away from a cop. No matter what else you may have done, they really don’t like that. Whenever a school is penalized for lack of institutional control, it is looking at loss of scholarships, vacated seasons, postseason bans and jobs lost.

If your coach simply takes the fall, he gets the sanctions, the scrutiny and the criticism – but your program moves on.

A wacko conspiracy theory? Maybe, but I would contend it’s no more wacko than the overheated cacophony coming from the sanctimonious ESPN crowd today that believes Tressel should be fired and the entire 2010 season vacated. That’s ridiculous. Why do you think Smith – who knows the NCAA Committee on Infractions inside and out – immediately contacted the NCAA for consultation on the matter?

Look, defending the indefensible is pointless. Even before yesterday, we all knew Jim Tressel wasn’t perfect. There was the Troy Smith suspension, the Maurice Clarett fiasco, the NCAA violations the coach purportedly committed when he was at Youngstown State, and now this. There is no use trying to defend those incidents although they do seem rather minor – even in their totality – to any number of others committed elsewhere by other programs and other coaches who did not receive similar penalties.

Nevertheless, whether Tressel withheld information, failed to tell the whole truth or out-and-out lied – and for whatever reason, noble or otherwise – he is the one who will have to live the consequences.

He is the one whose legacy with be forever changed, and knowing him just a little bit, I’m guessing that will be the toughest sanction of all for him to bear.



  1. i’ve been following osu and the big 10 for decades. every so often the nat’l press gets their erection over finding something wrong with the way these teams play or compete or win ugly. osu and the deal with tressel will go away quickly because the press will have nothing new to say about it, unless the ncaa fans the flames over “love to hate ohio state” it will be back to frenentz bashing or it’s time for jopa to move on. living in alabama, all we have to talk about is football. someday we might get a life and have to meet the same standards as the big 10

  2. Thank you so much for this article. I have been trying to find those words but you said them exactly. It is Jim Tressel himself who will punish himself the most. I feel for him and how disappointed he must be in himself.

  3. Coach Tressel was in a no win situation. If he came forward initially, and the individuals involved were seriously hurt or worse. Who would get the blame? Would the NCAA step up and tell the parents, don’t blame Jim Tressel, this is all our fault and his compliance was necessary? If by him comning forward, could he have interferred with a Federal Investigation and been charged for his inteference? I believe Jim Tressel’s first insticnt was to lookout for his players well being and safety. And for that I applaud him.

  4. “the overheated cacophony coming from the sanctimonious ESPN crowd today that believes Tressel should be fired and the entire 2010 season vacated. That’s ridiculous.”

    The incident when made public in December was deemed serious enough to lead to a 5 game suspension in 2011. Had it been known in April (when Tressel knew) it is very reasonable to assume that the suspensions would have occurred in 2010. Following that train of logic, how is the expectation that wins from 2010 be vacated ridiculous?

    • Because OSU performed the Tressel investigation with NCAA consultants. I’m guessing they ran the proposed sanctions by them and asked, “Satisfied?”

      • While the NCAA may be “satisfied” by those sanctions, my question was why is it ridiculous for media members to expect retroactive/harsher penalties given the fact that information was not shared in a timely manner?

      • In that narrow context, it is not ridiculous. You must also remember, this is my blog which contains my opinions only.

      • Wow, this may be your blog, but you could still stand to be a little more gracious toward detractors. Especially ones that have a point, in consideration of previous punishments the NCAA has levied on schools and individuals.

      • If you think I’m being ungracious, you must not read many blogs. Everyone is welcome to an opinion here, but if you don’t back it up with something, prepare to be called on it.

  5. I expected a backlash from the outside media like ESPN, but to hear it from our own newspaper and talk radio is dishearting. The fan radio talk show host, Bruce Hooley, practically called Tressel a criminal. I will never listen to that show again, as long as he is employed there. Rob Oller and Bob Hunter of the Dispatch, were pretty harsh as well.
    I feel Tressel spared those kids being crucified in the media, because most assuredly, they would have been linked to drug dealing, which was not the case.
    I support Jim Tressel 100%

  6. So it is okay that the head coach was involved in a cover up knowing that some of his players were possibly involved in violating NCAA rules. He was trying to protect his players. Come on. It is all about winning to him at all costs. Look at the man that he molded Clarett into. Let him play in order to win the title then cast him aside. What is wrong is wrong and there should be accountablilty. Funny how the Buckeye fans loved to get all over Rich Rod but now that it is their head coach and program it is ok. Tressel’s NCAA violations go back to his YSU days. Wait there goes Pryor in a loaner SUV. Oh that is not a NCAA violation, just a perk that the head coach allows to occur. Don’t keep trying to down play it. Accept the disgrace that he and his bosses have brought to OSU. Tough sentence, missing the first two gimmies on the schedule while the players were suspended for five games.

    • 1. You’re going to have to point out to me anywhere in the piece where I said what Tressel did was OK.
      2. Clarett was a lost soul when he got to OSU. Tressel gave him more chances than I would have.
      3. Rich Rod was a poor choice at Michigan. You would do well not to compare him to Tressel.
      4. Not trying to downplay anything; any disgrace is accepted.
      5. Now, time to go sharpen that ax you just ground to the nub.

  7. IF he did what he was supposed to do and inform someone at the university, he did the right thing.

    If he sat on it and did nothing he should be fired. There is no gray.

  8. Thank you for defending Tressel.

  9. Because either Tressel, Smith or OSU handled this so poorly, it is now out of their control and the NCAA will have the final word. The NCAA will deal wiith this based on any precedence that alreadly has been established or will rule in such a manner so this behavior will be discouraged in the future. OSU will do everything to protect Tressel because his success has meant millions to the University. He will only be dismissed if the NCAA requires it. I don’t think they will go that far but look for punishments that go beyond 2 games and $250k.

  10. I would hope that your conspiracy theory is far more wacky than any other theory out there. If the OSU administration and Jim Tressel are are crazy enough to participate in such a conspiracy and further entangle themselves in lies to the NCAA, OSU deserves the death penalty and Jim Tressel’s judgment is even more flawed than anyone could possibly imagine.

    Sorry, but it is not wacky or ridiculous to believe that OSU should fire Tressel for failing report improprieties that may have severe consequences to OSU. The mere suggestion that others may have acted the same way is absolutely no excuse. Jim Tressel is head coach of a top 5 football program and making millions of $ per year. Anyone holding such a position should be held to much higher standards than the average joe. The message that OSU is sending by not firing him is simply disappointing.

  11. Tressel should have immediately gone to the AD and informed him of what was going on, PERIOD!! For people to act like Tressel did not know what to do is a joke. He played an entire season with players who HE knew where ineligible, he lied to OSU and NCAA and people still defend him. He wrote a book about the virtues of honesty and living your life in an honest way and he does the complete oppisite. This blog is a joke and the author needs to take his OSU glasses off .

    • Rich Rod? Is that you??

    • As an OSU Alum I am absolutely amazed with the extent some Fans will Go to Defend Tressel under this veil of deceit. Tressel in all his pompous spewing doubletalk always said “No One Person is Bigger than The Program” but that obviously didn’t apply to Him. Tressel single handedly dealt The University one of the Biggest Blows in it’s storied history. In one respect He did resurrect a Program that was clearly on the decline, couldn’t beat UM or win a Bowl Game for crap, but at what cost did it take place? A school such as OSU should be Above The Rules. No exception. Some people like to think of the Buckeyes as the Yankees of College Football…… either Love them or Hate Them. Today The Haters are having a Field Day thanks to Jim Tressel. When One has the Audacity to write Books on Honesty and Integrity, You sure as hell better Live by what You Preach…….otherwise You are going to be crucified and rightfully so. I can’t see him lastling longer than 2011. The damage has been done and OSU hasn’t even heard what the NCAA will rule on the matter. Yes, Tressel won many Games but most of Us still hated his style of play as much as his doubletalk and talking in circles. And a Change is Needed.

  12. Steve, I for one appreciate your position. Personally, I think that Tress was protecting a friend who asked him to keep things in confidence. Tress is loyal to a fault. This time it led to an error in judgment. I also think that his track record should afford him the benefit of the doubt. I’m in his corner and I’m glad that you are to!!

  13. When one happens upon an upright man with decency and caring as his guardians, and most of the sports world respects him, how can you vilify him when he seeks to protect his own boys while offering his own livelihood and future in exchange? He has made a mistake, not a grievous error. He has asked forgiveness ( no doubt shadowed by clemency). And he has not taken money, hurt his lads, or done many of the other very questionable things that many other coaches have done. He does instill character and faith in the human endeavour when dealing with boys on the way to becoming men, and he does it most properly. If a few fall by the wayside he is no more to blame than his parents, his previous schools or the churches. Yes, there are rules, some of which are so obscure in the NCAA that it seems ludicrous even to bring up the possibility they were there. IF he knew the rules and delayed any purposeful following of them because of the threats from a villanous tattoo man, a curious informer, and the federal drug enquiry, then how is it we can forgive others for accepting monies through gifts to their parents? being paid large sums of money and not being discovered until after graduation? doing horrid things in Tenn & Conn and never having to pay the piper with ONE’S OWN PROFESSIONAL FUTURE? Be fair.
    Walk in his shoes. Forgive him and get on with playing the game of life and doing what is best for all concerned. “Ley him without blemish cast the first stone!”

  14. Thank you for your article, but you fail to see the pattern of dishonesty that has developed through this situation. Gene Smith lied in December when the report to the NCAA claimed that players were not made aware of the rule regarding the selling of memorabilia. However, just a few weeks later during the week leading up to the Sugar Bowl, Terrell Pryor himself stated that he had known for two years that it was.wrong and that he even sat in compliance meetings and in his head was checking off the violations he committed. Jim Tressel has been lying and only came clean to the university after he got caught. Then he proceeded to lie and insult the fans and the public with the “I didn’t know what to do” defense. He was an athletic director at YSU. His program has been the subject of previous investigations. He knew what to do, he chose to cover it up to preserve the season. If anyone else in any other job lied to their bosses three times, they would be fired. I hope Tress will finally do the right thing and resign and regain his dignity and integrity. The time for lying is over. The irony is that had he reported the violation back in April, OSU still may have won the games that players would have been suspended this season (maybe not Miami, but who knows). Instead we will lose our Sugar Bowl, and probably a bowl next year.

  15. Yall are crazy that are putting down Tressel & are saying things that are false & have no proof to back them up. Clarett went on his own ruining path & it had nothing to do with Tressel & no NCAA rules were broken (fact). Any person in the USA (unless you are a criminal) would not interfer with an criminal investagation (I know I wouldn’t) cause thats a crime that is more punishable than any NCAA one plus I totaly agree with what one person said about protecting the players from media who would of smeared the kids rep’s by reporting they were part of a drug investagation when they weren’t even part of that at all but that would not stop the media from writting that they were & for the haters to start dogging on OSU & theplayers that they were part of it when they weren’t cause we’ve seen it a hundred times before. All of the USA (except OSU fans) love to hate on OSU with out much proof or even if it is a very small thing just as this is. Its not like OSU paid players, did some recruiting vialation or had kids selling or doing drugs or comitting crimes. They sold their OWN items, yes that is wrong, & yes Tressel maybe should have said something sooner but to protect his kids (& not the program as most of you suggest which there is no proof) is not a hugh offence that should get penalized any more than has already been done & especialy not a death peniality type of thing thats only HATE talking there & if thats the case all but a half dozen of schools would be still around if any cause then all would be on death peniality. So get a life don’t hate on OSU or talk crap & please try & back it up or STEP OFF!!!!!! GO BUCK’s !!!!! We’re with you Tressel!!!!! OH——-

  16. […] Mark Rea with an article in support of JT. […]

  17. First I’m only defending tressel because I think the offenses of the players is spilled milk.

    I’m really not sure Tressel did anything wrong IF it’s true that he only knew of these facts due to the ongoing federal drug prob. He was in no position to tell anyone of an ongoing investigate. I’d rather piss of the NCAA then the FEDs!

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