'Bama Hawkeye has done a great bullet point rundown/prediction of what's going on along the banks of the Olentangy, and so I'll leave my predictions for any additional punishment, if there's going to be any, over there. I want to get to the heart of what's going on in Columbus, and there are really only two possible answers that can come out of this if you're being intellectually honest with yourself.
Neither one is good for the Ohio State football program.
As I was watching the press conference last night, and the facts started coming out, I listened with great interest as the story unfolded:
Jim Tressel was notified in April of 2010 that there was a federal investigation in drug trafficking, and his players might be involved. Wh-wh-WHAT?!?!?!?!
You didn't run full speed like someone was chasing you to Gene Smith's office to let him know? A federal drug trafficking investigation, and it was ho-hum, just another day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Complex??? That's another story in and of itself, if that was his genuine reaction.
But okay, let's play along.
So, Tressel's excuse is that he didn't notify the NCAA because the Feds trump the NCAA. Fair point. Okay, so far, I can buy this. And if there's no proof of wrongdoing, do you sit guys without anything other than a single email?
Debatable, but I can see both sides of the argument here. But then, it's revealed that the drug investigation isn't about your players, but the tattoo shop that the investigation was centered on has given OSU players that have gone there ink for some of their memorabilia, the players sold them other memorabilia, and well, that story is well published.
Whew! That's all? That's almost cause for celebration, baby!!
I can buy the argument that the Feds take precedence over the NCAA...hell, I'm one of the few non-lawyers on this site and even I know that, and if the Feds tell you something (and by looking at the emails, it wasn't a US attorney that gave him the info, but a guy that knew about the investigation) and tell you to keep it quiet, one would think that you would.
Now here's where Tressel's creditability goes in the tank. I understand not picking up the phone and calling the NCAA when you get this bundle of joy, but not calling...anyone?
Because what Jim Tressel wants us to believe, near as I can tell, is that he got an email that said:
"Coach, you have players that are under federal investigation for drug trafficking because they're also getting free ink and selling memorabilia at this place we're investigating. Just thought you might want to know, but keep this under wraps.
And all Tressel did was send an email back that essentially says:
"okay, thanks for the info. Keep me posted."
In Tressel's defense, my first reaction wouldn't be to call the NCAA, either. But I sure as Holy Hell would call, at a minimum, the legal department and the AD to see how to proceed. For the legal minds on here, please weigh in if I'm off base, but even if it was a Fed (which I don't think it was) that was telling him to 'keep it quiet', he would still be well within his rights to reach out to the University legal office and the AD, his immediate supervisor. I would go even further and say he has an obligation to, would he not?
So with that, there are only two logical conclusions that we can come to reagarding Tressel's decision making in this matter.
1. He thought he was genuinely doing the right thing by not saying anything about players that he knew were violating NCAA rules, because it was part of an ongoing federal investigation...that the OSU legal department and AD Gene Smith didn't need to be bothered about.
2. Jim Tressel is no different than any other coach, and all his talk about doing the right thing even when no one is looking can be trumped when you have a team many people think are serious national title contenders and you have an overriding desire to win.
Well, it isn't #1.
I was exchanging emails with a Michigan friend of mine, and he asked me how I felt about the whole thing, and if I was surprised. And I have to say the cynical side of me isn't. He said he was 'stunned' that this happened to Tressel, because he really thought he was different, but "I guess no one is without vulnerability, even the well respected and straight shooting Jim Tressel."
As much as we like to think we're different in the Big Ten, it's still big time college football, and the pressure to win means that you could probably go to 115 DI schools and find some kind of violation, recruiting or otherwise, but make no mistake, I'm not saying that to try and minimize what happened here.
I'm just saying that to say that no, I'm not stunned, and I'm not even surprised.
But I am very, very disappointed.
In the end, winning apparently does trump doing what's right.
When I was in the Army (Oh Jesus, here we go) we had a saying that one 'aw shit' cancels out 1,000 'attaboys'.
I can't think of a more appropriate application of this saying than right here, right now.