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It is time to go

April 27, 2011
By MIKE MATHISON - Sports editor (mm) , The Herald-Star

A little more than a year ago Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel was the keynote speaker at the 43rd-annual Franciscan University of Steubenville's Century Club Awards Dinner.

About that same time, Tressel was in the beginning stages of the mess that has him serving a five-game suspension at the beginning of the 2011 season.

And, that mess got worse when university President E. Gordon Gee received a "notice of allegations" accusing the football coach of lying to investigators when he failed to mention a tip that some of his players had received free tattoos in exchange for signed Ohio State memorabilia.

It has been widely reported that after Tressel received an e-mail a year ago regarding the players' actions, the coach did not forward said information to any member of the university administration, instead choosing to contact others about the situation.

The NCAA folk are not big fans of being lied to, and that's what Tressel did.

And, it seems, more than once.

So, the NCAA is accusing Tressel of dishonesty and knowingly using ineligible players throughout the 2010 season.

Don't forget, that is the same NCAA which allowed those same players to participate in the win over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.

A number of things could be done if the NCAA finds Tressel guilty - losing all the wins from 2010, a ban on postseason play, the reduction of scholarships or a longer suspension of Tressel.

None of those are good.

The coach has already been fined $250,000 and been suspended for the first five games of the upcoming season. The original suspension by Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith was two games (a joke in itself), but Tressel gallantly fell on the sword to match the number of games the players were to be out.

That was all imposed by the university.

The NCAA has yet to speak.

From writer Andy Staples:

An study of the past 177 NCAA infractions cases involving violations of Bylaw 10.1 revealed that coaches accused of such violations rarely retain their jobs. The cases in the NCAA's Major Infractions database dated back to 1989, and included schools from each of the NCAA's three divisions.

Offenses ranged in severity from a coach providing free T-shirts to recruits to former Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss encouraging others to lie to the NCAA about the habits of a murdered player. Of the 177 cases, 172 involved coaches or athletic administrators accused of committing unethical conduct.

Of those, 159 resigned or were terminated. Eighty-one cases involved coaches or athletics administrators accused of providing false or misleading information to NCAA investigators or encouraging others to lie to investigators.

Of those, 78 resigned or were terminated.

In many of the cases, the coaches accused of lying to investigators also were accused of other violations.

One intriguing aspect of Tressel's case is that it does not - at this point - include any other violations on his part.

Ohio State can hope that the NCAA will accept its punishment for the coach and go on its merry way. That won't happen.

One reason is that the Buckeyes very well may be viewed as a repeat offender because of Troy Smith and former men's basketball coach Jim O'Brien.

From a report in the Columbus Dispatch:

Ohio State's problems began in November 2008 when an unidentified football player sold memorabilia to tattoo-parlor owner Ed Rife.

During the next 17 months, seven players sold five 2008 Big Ten Championship rings, four "gold pants" trinkets, a pair of cleats, a pair of pants, a game helmet and a 2010 Rose Bowl watch for a total of $9,480 in cash and $555 in free or discounted tattoos.

OSU officials learned of the violations in December when they were contacted by letter by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has been investigating Rife in a drug probe. The agency raided Rife's home and seized players' items.

Ohio State refused to make that letter public yesterday, citing the NCAA investigation. However, Ohio's public-records law does not recognize the NCAA as a law-enforcement agency and therefore does not prevent the letter's release.

The FBI, the U.S. attorney's office and Columbus lawyer Stephen Palmer, who represents Rife, said they could not comment on the case because no charges have been filed against Rife.

So, what needs to happen?

Tressel must no longer be the Buckeyes' coach.

He must resign or be fired.

And, after he goes, Gee and Smith can go right behind him.

The two administrators have already dug their heels in the ground about Tressel leading this program.

That's not a good place for the administrators to be.

Buckeye fans, take the emotion out of this.

If another coach of another program had done this, you guys would think he should be fired.

But, since it's Mr. Vest and his 106-22 record and domination over Michigan, you have a blind devotion and want him on the sidelines until he calls it quits.

Well, he needs to do so now.

Tressel didn't make mistakes. He made choices. And most of them were bad ones.

He didn't go to his administration.

He lied. He played ineligible players.

The numbers say that if Ohio State cuts bait its punishment would be lessened.

The Buckeyes have Luke Fickell in place as interim coach while Tressel sits his mandatory games. Just give him the job for the year and then go search nationally for a new coach.

And, please, the name Urban Meyer should never come out of anyone's mouth.

He will eventually hold Ohio State hostage like he did Florida.

The bottom line while Tressel still has a job is his 106-22 record and 9-1 mark over the Wolverines, including seven wins in a row.

John Cooper was 111-43-4 at OSU, but was 2-10-1 against the hated rivals.

If Cooper were in Tressel's position right now, he would have been carried out of Columbus and the fans and administration would have packed his bags.

Another reason why Tressel needs to go is institutional control of the remainder of Ohio State's coaching staff.

If Tressel stays, how in the world could Smith look any coach in the eye and fire them?

That's right, he can't.

The coach could simply say, "I guess it would have been better if I won all my games and committed NCAA violations than play by the rules and have a couple of bad years."


Good message there.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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