During the fall of former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel last offseason, the specter of former Buckeyes star Troy Smith was raised as an early indicator of the corruption in Tressel’s program. Now, Smith—the 2006 Heisman winner who was suspended early in his career for accepting benefits from a booster—has some comments of his own about Tressel, his former school and his own role in the scandal.
Speaking to the Omaha World-Herald, Smith, now a QB for the UFL’s Omaha Nighthawks, said “I want to tell the truth about what I think of my school, but the last time I spoke my mind, I got ripped for it.”
He added that he can’t tell the full story of his suspension that truly "had nothing to do with a $500 thing between myself and a booster" because he “took the rap for a lot of people so a lot of people wouldn’t get in trouble.”
Smith’s suspension—which cost him a relatively minor postseason appearance in the Alamo Bowl, plus one regular-season game the next year—was hardly a devastating punishment. In that context, it’s not hard to believe that he agreed to keep his mouth shut to avoid further penalties for a program that appears to have had any number of potential transgressions to hide.
Then, too, Smith speaks very admiringly of Tressel, who “jump[ed] on his sword for somebody else’s kids” by accepting the blame for the rampant violations uncovered in the Buckeye program. Adding, "Without Jim Tressel, I wouldn't have had a chance to play quarterback in the Big Ten."
He sounds like a man who would make the same choice in Tressel’s place, and probably did make a similar one (with lighter consequences) in his own career.
At this point, it’s hard to fault Smith too much for protecting his teammates (and, in all probability, coaches), though, obviously it would’ve been better for all concerned if there hadn’t been so much protecting to be done in Columbus.
Should Smith have spoken up at the time? Ideally, yes, though that’s a pretty severe burden to place on a college sophomore.
Is there anything to be gained by his naming names this late in the day? No.