Jim Tressel: An Albatross Around Ohio State

Joe CollegeCorrespondent IMay 1, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Head coach Jim Tressel of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on before the Allstate Sugar Bowl against the Arkansas Razorbacks at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Coaching tenures at Ohio State don’t end well.  Woody Hayes was fired.  Earle Bruce was fired.  John Copper was fired.  Now, Jim Tressel is looking for a lifeline to save his job after his cover-up of the “Tattoo Five” violations.

His situation is similar to that of Bruce Pearl, who was recently fired at Tennessee.  Both Tressel and Pearl were basically honest coaches.  Both devoted a lot of time and energy to their communities. 

Both were winners on the field and the court.  Both were liars and dishonest with the NCAA and their schools.  It doesn’t matter which of these men had greater violations.  Neither deserves to coach again.

Tennessee did the right thing by firing Pearl.  It remains to be seen what Ohio State will do with Tressel.

The situation with Tressel involves six significant misdeeds that collectively reveal the severity of his actions.  They show a man who panicked at first and then needed a cover-up to hide his indiscretions.

First, Tressel received an email from Columbus attorney Chris Cicero, who informed him of wrongdoing by two of his players.  This was Tressel’s opportunity to inform his compliance department and reprimand his players. 

They most likely would have been suspended for four games by the NCAA.  But one of the players was Terrelle Pryor, and Tressel wasn’t sure how long the suspension would be.  The loss of Pryor could have cost Ohio State a shot at the Big Ten Title and the National Championship. 

So Tressel remained silent.  This is violation number one.

Second, Tressel contacted Pryor’s “mentor,” Ted Sarniak, a businessman from Pryor’s hometown to help “protect” his players.  Now, Cicero, “who has always looked out for us,” and Sariak were communicating with Tressel by email or phone trying to diffuse the impending scandal.

In effect, they were in a conspiracy to conceal the rule-breaking.

Third, in September, Tressel signed a compliance form that he submitted to the NCAA certifying that he knew of no violations.  He was in too deep and had to lie to preserve his season and reputation.  This was violation number two.

Fourth, in December, when Ohio State compliance officers questioned Tressel, he told them he received a tip but no specific information and he did not recall who sent him the information.  He lied again.

This may be his biggest violation of all, since the “Tattoo Five” had been exposed and Tressel could have easily benched the players for the Sugar Bowl.  He would have been viewed as a man of honor.  But winning was more important to him.

Fifth, in January, the compliance department discovered emails that showed Tressel was involved in a cover-up.  The good news for Ohio State is the compliance department found the emails, which should help with its case that indicates its head coach acted on his own without university knowledge. 

The fact that Tressel did not reveal the cover-up after nine months clearly shows the intent of his of his actions.  He broke NCAA rules and hoped he wouldn’t be discovered.

Sixth, at the March news conference with the athletic director and president, Tressel did not apologize and stated that he was okay with himself.  He did not consider resigning.

The NCAA most certainly will take into account Tressel’s lack of remorse.

Sports writers across the country have called for Tressel’s resignation.  Even prominent Ohio State alum Kirk Herbstreit climbed on the bandwagon stating the scandal was a “black-eye” for Ohio State and that he couldn’t see how Tressel could continue to coach. 

The cries for Tressel’s resignation will become more frequent and more demanding.  Only Tressel’s stubbornness will keep him from stepping down.

Tressel is an albatross around Ohio State.  President Gee and Athletic Director Smith haven’t shown the fortitude to remove Tressel because of his popularity. But they could change their position any day now as the pressure on Ohio State grows.

They will probably try to convince him to resign, reminding him the reputation of Ohio State is at stake.  There’s no doubt the sooner Tressel leaves, the better for Ohio State.

If Jim Tressel remains as the Buckeye coach, Ohio State will be a symbol of what’s wrong with college football.