The Fall of Jim Tressel

Sporst Illustrated's cover this week

Jim Tressel is done as Ohio State’s football coach. In case you’ve been living in a cave, or in Columbus and living in flat out denial, the Vest has been under some heat for many months. Here is article detailing the situation and where we called him a liar, in case you missed it. Back on March 8th Tressel said, “Obviously, I’m disappointed that this happened at all.” He also said on that day that he never considered resigning. Apparently, he thought he was above the idea of being forced out. That was before Ohio State University realized they could possibly go down with him. How things change.

The first question that came to mind when I heard the news was, “why now?” And the answer came in the form of an article posted by Sports Illustrated Monday evening with some pretty damning evidence. If you haven’t checked out the SI piece, I highly recommend. It’s long, but it’s pretty awesome. It’s got cheating, lying, felons, drugs, tattoos, forced beatings, and free cars. Basically, everything but hookers. Lucky for us, the writer of the piece, George Dohrmann, says he’s not done investigating.

The thing to know is that this is not just about tattoos. Jim Tressel was forced out mainly because he lied to the NCAA. As everyone knows, and as you’ve probably heard a million times today on ESPN and sports talk radio, the cover-up is always worse than the crime. And while that’s certainly true here, the crimes seem to be pretty extensive. Turns out it wasn’t just six guys, but rather 28. And it wasn’t just last season, as it dated back to at least 2002. And it wasn’t just tattoos, as players were also receiving money, marijuana, and cars.

Kudos to SI for pulling no punches on this article. They could have taken the non-confrontational route, and helped Tressel by reiterating his claims on how he had no direct knowledge. But they went right after him. They basically opened fire on his entire career, and tied together an overwhelming amount of evidence on how he has cheated for years and always claimed ignorance. Here’s an excerpt from the article right before they laid down the mountain of evidence:
For more than a decade, Ohioans have viewed Tressel as a pillar of rectitude, and have disregarded or made excuses for the allegations and scandal that have quietly followed him throughout his career. His integrity was one of the great myths of college football. Like a disgraced politician who preaches probity but is caught in lies, the Senator was not the person he purported to be.

They went on to describe Tressel’s dealing with boosters at Youngstown State regarding star-player Ray Isaac, to the tune of $10,000 in benefits. They bring up his dealings with Maurice Clarett, a player Tressel claimed to spend more time with than any other, yet he had no idea of what Clarett was involved in. Tressel knew of implications into a certain booster paying players, yet he introduced that booster to Troy Smith, who was later suspended for accepting $500 from that booster. There are even allegations that Tressel rigged raffles at his camps so that star players would win. Now add in the tattoo scandal, and the fact that numerous players have received deals on cars from a local dealer. Terrel Prior alone has driven eight different cars from the dealership.

There is no doubt in my mind that OSU forced Tressel out to get ahead of the NCAA and incoming sanctions. This was definitely a “quit or be fired” type of situation. The university is going to do their best to say that this was all Tressel, and they had no part in the loss of institutional control. It’s pretty comical how fast they went there. It was only a few months ago when OSU Prez Gordan Gee was asked if he would consider firing Tressel, and he replied, “I just hope that Coach doesn’t fire me.” But on Friday, SI notified OSU of the violations and then OSU wanted no part of Tressel. They told SI to contact Tressel’s attorney. By Sunday evening, it was all over for the Vest.

OSU’s position now is quite simple: it was all the Vest, and now the Vest is gone. Problem solved. Except for that fact that USC tried the same argument and failed miserably. Where was the institutional control from the compliance department at OSU? With the amount of players involved, everyone knew damn good and well what was going on. They simply decided to turn the other way. And AD Gene Smith is going to be out soon, too; mark it down. My seven year old nephew could have handled this situation better. Back in March, Smith said the university was fortunate that the scandal was limited to these six players. Way to go, genius. Was your head in the sand, or just too far up your coach’s ass to realize there was no way this hadn’t been going on for years? Not only did you make yourself look completely ridiculous, but you made your institution appear too incompetent to handle its own investigation into the matter. He couldn’t even keep his mouth shut long enough to realize the vultures were out, and they were going to find some meat.

The vultures, of course, are the media. And God bless them. If it weren’t for the press doing the work of the NCAA for them, most of this would have never been discovered and the Vest would still have his job. OSU would still be bullet proof and players would still be getting free rides. Literally. But thanks to Yahoo and SI, the Vest turned out to not be made of Kevlar after all. OSU will prove to be anything but bulletproof also, as sanctions are going to come down in a manner that will make USC give thanks for the mercy they received. Nothing is too big to fail. And no one is above the law. Tressel finally learned his lesson. OSU and their fans are about to learn it, too.

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