Jim Tressel, Ohio State Football Under Fire from Tat-Gate

David ThurmanCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2011

IOWA CITY, IA - NOVEMBER 20:  Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel looks on from the sidelines during first half action against the University of Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Iowa City, Iowa. Ohio State won 20-17 over Iowa. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
David Purdy/Getty Images

Last night, Yahoo! Sports reporters Charles Robinson and Dan Wetzel published a story claiming Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel was made aware of the "Tat Five" situation in April.

The university made it clear they became aware of the matter early in December and acted swiftly in handling it, but according to an unnamed source cited in Yahoo! Sports' article, Tressel had knowledge long before.

"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.

"However, neither Ohio State nor the NCAA investigated the transactions or the players’ relationship with Rife until December 2010, when the school claims it was informed of the situation by the local United States Attorney’s office."

The article goes on to say:

"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.

"Whether the coach initiated an investigation of the accusation is unclear, but all five players remained on the field in the coming months, playing out the 2010 regular season."

If you're like me, there are at least a few questions running through your head.
How did Yahoo! Sports have the connections to break this story before the local Columbus media? Do Robinson and Wetzel have hard proof that actually back up this story as they go under fire?
Was this just some passing accusation that Tressel heard, or was it really someone coming forward with hard evidence at the time? Did Tressel turn his back on the situation because it involved star players until it couldn't be ignored any longer?
This is a complex situation, and the coming weeks should provide more information. As much as we would like to think this is akin to the rumor about Tressel retiring, it is not.
Yahoo! Sports has a good reputation, and neither of these guys would stick his neck out on the line for some passing rumor.
"Secondly, it is highly unlikely that either Charles Robinson or Dan Wetzel would risk their reputations on a piece of investigative journalism that they didn't believe was accurate and authentic.

"Yahoo! Sports is a legitimate reporting organization, and whatever you think about either Wetzel or Robinson, no editor with a shred of sanity or professionalism would allow such a damning story to go live without at least something behind it.

"Some OSU fans have pointed out that the story cites only one anonymous source, which is fair criticism, and if that source continues to be unnamed and the only supplier of information to this story, then its credibility should be put in doubt.

"But keep in mind that Yahoo's track record with regard to investigative sports journalism is anything but shaky, and that it is probable that Wetzel and Robinson have not played every card in their hand."

It will be interesting to see how the university responds, and how it handles things going forward. This is a very serious accusation, and one that, if proved true, could leave Gene Smith and OSU no option but to let Tressel go.

"If Tressel failed to inform Smith or the Ohio State compliance department about the players’ dealings with Rife, he could be charged with multiple NCAA violations including unethical conduct, failure to monitor and a failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

"In general, a coach is required to act on, or pass along reasonable information about possible rule violations for further investigation.

"Section 4.1(d) of Tressel’s contract with Ohio State stipulates that he 'supervise and take appropriate steps to ensure...members of the team know, recognize and comply with any such laws, University Rules and Governing Athletic Rules and immediately report to the (Athletic) Director and to the (Athletic) Department’s Office of Compliance Services in writing if any person or entity, including without limitation, representatives of Ohio State’s athletic interests, has violated or is likely to violate any such laws, University Rules and Governing Athletic Rules.'

"Section 5.1(m) of his contract also states that failure to promptly report 'any violations' could lead to 'termination by Ohio State for cause.'"

Scary stuff for sure.
Now we have to sit and wait for news, hoping Tressel is truly the guy we have come to know and love.