UPDATE- The University has scheduled a press conference for this evening (3.8.11) at 7:00 pm. Coach Tressel, AD Gene Smith, and President E. Gordon Gee will be speaking, according to the press release.
As I’m sure you’ve probably heard, Yahoo (no, I’m not going to do the exclamation point) Sports released a story on Monday regarding December’s “Tat-5″ situation. As you remember, Ohio State players were found responsible for selling or exchanging gear or memorabilia, which is in violation of NCAA rules regarding improper benefits for student athletes.
At the time, Athletic Director Gene Smith stated that the University became aware of the matter on December 8, and responded with a swift investigation that resulted in the players being eventually suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season. One of the factors stated was that the student athletes were initially unaware that their actions would have been a violation, and when they were educated of this matter they chose to remain silent.
In the press conference, the statements from Coach Tressel and AD Smith resonated a theme of responsibility, of owning up to a mistake once it was made. In fact, Coach Tressel said that the responsibility fell on the shoulders of he and his staff-
Ultimately as coaches we feel that the buck stops here. We’re the ones that need to make things ever more crystal clear. . . . There’s a gut-wrenching feeling when you lose a game and you could have done better, and then there’s one that goes beyond, when you don’t feel you did what you should do as people.
Today’s report indicated that Tressel may have not done as he should have; that he was informed by a “concerned party” in April of 2010 regarding this situation and that he did not respond or investigate appropriately,
Tressel received information that players were selling items to Edward Rife – the owner of Fine Line Ink Tattoos in Columbus – as early as April 2010, according to a source.
According to a source, a concerned party reached out to Tressel last April, alerting the coach that memorabilia transactions had taken place between Rife and a handful of Buckeyes players, including Pryor. The selling of items violates NCAA eligibility rules. The source said Tressel was troubled by the information, and the coach indicated that he would investigate the matter and take appropriate action
If accurate, this creates a significant problem for the Ohio State athletic department and for Coach Tressel. It means, if true, that at minimum he either did not investigate or report as required and that the timeline presented by Gene Smith was not accurate. It may also imply that the University and Coach Tressel chose to disregard the matter, turning a blind eye until the Federal Investigation of the buyer involved dropped the details into the lap of the Athletic Department in early December.
The Plain Dealer’s Bill Livingston posits that this latter option may be possible, due to a blind spot that Coach Tressel has for the actions of his star players. At any rate, the implications of this are pretty damning if true, including sanctions for Coach Tressel, the program, and might cause vacating the results of the 12-1 season. Again, the Yahoo report outlines what might be some of the worse case scenarios as well as rehashing the initial concerns. Stewart Mandel at Sports Illustrated also talks about the impact that this situation would have if accurate, although he starts his article with a sentence that is meant to drive readers and seems sensationalistic.
So, as Buckeye fans how do we approach this situation? Unfortunately, we’re in “wait and see” mode- the University stated that there would be no official word on Monday, and Coach Tressel was at a book signing when the story hit the wire. Yahoo said that they gave Ohio State three hours prior to publishing, so it’s very likely that whatever response that comes will be early tomorrow morning.
It’s interesting that Coach is in the middle of a book tour as this broke. On my bedside table are currently two books that I’m reading (or re-reading). The first, The Winner’s Manual, is a text that I’ve given to people and has shaped my perspective on life and on football, particularly football at The Ohio State University. It also speaks volumes to the character of Jim Tressel, in my opinion, which makes this current set of allegations so difficult to believe. Combined with what we’ve heard from former players, coaches, and other members of the Ohio State family and community, being dishonest or covering up for player in the way implied does not seem like something that Coach Tressel would be guilty of.
The other book is Dan Wetzel’s “Death To The BCS“, a book that I’ve just started but one that’s based on articles and research that I’ve read many times. While I disagree with Wetzel’s “solution” to the college football championship issue, his writing has influenced my thinking on the magnitude of the issue. Wetzel is the writer and investigative force behind the Reggie Bush investigation and the co-author of the Yahoo story mentioned above. The other writer, Charles Robinson, was responsible for the current investigation into the recruiting practices of the University of Oregon. They are the folks I was referring to earlier when I said,
Before we give you a bit more coverage after the break, we need to recognize the fantastic work done by independent bloggers and Yahoo Sports to bring this story to light. In a media climate where “investigative journalism” is being done by networks that may be hampered by significant conflict of interest due to television contracts and revenue, it’s good to see that there are still entities that look to find the story behind the story. As you might remember, it was Yahoo Sports that were the driving force behind the coverage of the Reggie Bush story which led to USC’s current probation.
They’re not exactly bloggers from certain Chicago websites- I doubt that they would publish this without some sort of evidence to support their claims. While their source is currently unnamed (different than anonymous), it would make sense that there’s something bigger beneath the surface; they’re not the type to base their reputation on what would amount to one person’s word against another’s. In this, I’m with Vico.
So where does that leave us? Again, we wait and see. Several thoughts come to mind, though, as we play the waiting game. Our initial thoughts still hold (mostly) true, particularly that
Because this involves several, high profile, student athletes, it would be easy to conclude that this situation is indicative of a larger problem in the football program or the athletic department. We think that this conclusion is unfounded and unwise. Based on the University’s response thus far, it is more logical to believe that they take these issues seriously and seek to respond as is required.
Again, this is the institution which has a ton of NCAA violations on record in the past 10 years, mostly because they choose to self report everything (a lesson learned from the Clarett and basketball scandals of the early 2000′s). Cover up or willful oversight does not seem to be the style. And yet… And yes, we’re honest enough to know that we have scarlet and gray glasses, so our vision might be a bit skewed.
So we wait. We know that trustworthy people can look at information and make faulty conclusions. We know that, sometimes, what looks pretty concerning can end up being something completely different.
So until tomorrow, we wait.
Obviously, we’ll keep you updated as this situation develops.