Dear ESPN B1G Blogger Brian Bennett,
Hi, Ted Glover from OTE here. What? Off Tackle Empire...I-R-E...yeah, you got it. First off, let me say I think you're doing a pretty good job at the WWL so far, but dude, I think you're way off base on your latest little rant about Ohio State.
I'm not here to defend Jim Tressel and what he did, but I am here to try and diffuse that bomb of an article you dropped, because I think you were off base on some key things, and if I can be frank, you pissed me off with what I would call mail it in journalism.
No, no I never went to journalism school, but both my mother and father in law had long and distinguished careers in the Post Office, so that counts for something, right?
Anyway, my rebuttal, after the jump
First, Brian channels his inner Madame Cleo:
I can envision the following conversation during Ohio State's hearing before the NCAA Committee on Infractions next month.
"So, you vacated your wins from 2010?" an infractions committee member says.
"Yes," Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee says. "It was the least we could do."
"You're right," the committee member responds. "It was technically the least you could possibly do."
Yes, yes, let's assume that Gene Smith, Gordon Gee and company just cavalierly walk into the NCAA meeting in August with a 'screw you, we're OSU' attitude. That is the last thing that's going to happen. Nice try, though.
The Buckeyes didn't impose penalty reductions. They didn't implement a bowl ban, not even for one year. Nothing new that would harm the future of the program in any significant way was put on the table. Ohio State did place itself on two years' probation, which is essentially a slap on the wrist.
Why would they? Let's review the NCAA Notice of Allegations. It involves five players (OSU reported a 6th) receiving improper benefits and the coach lying about it. Those players have been suspended and the coach has resigned, because OSU has maintained that it was isolated to the coach and those players. The two years probation is significant, because if any of the other stuff that allegedly happened (Pryor getting money for autographs) it's automatically the double whammy of major infraction and repeat offender. There is no loss of institututional control, nor is there an allegation that the University knew. If those allegations hold true, there isn't a school that I can think of that was given scholarship reductions and/or bowl bans for isolated incidents like OSU says this is. If they impose harsh penalties that the NCAA historically not imposed for the types of allegations that OSU is in trouble for, people like you would be screaming that they're trying to cover up even dirtier behavior. For OSU, it's lose-lose.
But vacating wins was already an automatic outcome from the NCAA, which would have surely erased the Buckeyes' 2010 victories because of those ineligible players. The best way to appease the infractions committee, as USC learned, is to appear as contrite as possible and get out ahead of the sanctions by imposing your own harsh conditions.
Instead, Ohio State has tried to half-step it, again, just as it did in its 10-day sham investigation last December and just as it did when it originally announced that Tressel would be suspended for only two, nonconference games. The school's response, predictably, tried to lay all the blame at the feet of the departed and disgraced coach.
Again with the USC comparisons. Not necessarily you (well, yeah, you actually did there), but just about everyone else has done this, and it's just yellow journalism at this point. OSU and USC is an apples and oranges comparison, for a number of reasons. First, your 10 day investigation is simply not true. OSU had self reported and been cooperating with the NCAA prior to the news about TatGate becoming public, and when they learned about Tressel's lying, they immediately turned that in to the NCAA. OSU contends the problem was confined to the head coach and those players, and they turned over every document that the NCAA asked them to. USC's problems were across three sports, two coaches, and two very high profile players, all at the same time, and USC AD Mike Garrett did everything he could to impede the NCAA investigation. Ohio State has not done any of that, and they have been out in front of this, at least behind the scenes, where it really matters, from almost the very beginning.
Of course, OSU laid the blame at Tressel's feet, because it was...wait for it...Tressel...who lied and covered it up. If OSU had self-imposed a three year bowl ban and scholarship reductions, I bet a lot of people would have said that they're trying to impose harsh restrictions on themselves because there's a lot more dirt and they want the NCAA to quit digging.
Look, I give you that OSU's initial reaction and overall handling of this has been atrocious, you'll get no argument from me there. But at the end of the day, they imposed five game suspensions on the players and the coach resigned in disgrace. They got to that point in a clumsy, and at times comical fashion, but they got there.
Yes, Ohio State is so mad at Tressel that it waived the $250,000 fine it levied at the coach when it became aware he lied to his superiors about the NCAA scandal. You remember that fine, the one Gee assured the Columbus Dispatch in June that "he will pay it." Well, instead, now the school will pay Tressel $52,250 as part of what now will be known as a "retirement," rather than a resignation. That will surely show him!
Maybe Tressel falls on the sword here and accepts all of the blame. He certainly appears to do so in his own response to the NCAA. (Very convenient how his fine was dropped by the school and he takes full responsibility on the same day, huh?)
I agree with you here. Tressel disgraced the program and the conference. I would have still let him retire as opposed to resign, but would've kept the fine. Oh, nice conspiracy theory hand grenade you threw at the very end there. Tressel has taken full responsibility for the whole thing since it broke, it's not like he was pointing fingers and then changed his story. Again, his public comments have been clumsy and defiant, but he never said 'I didn't do anything', nor has he ever tried to say it was someone else who did it. I mean, he really couldn't, because he was caught red handed, but he could have made it even worse by proclaiming innocence from the beginning.
But the truth is that Ohio State has not handled this situation well from the beginning, from its flimsy investigation to its insistence on playing rule-breaking players in the bowl game to its initial lame suspension of Tressel. This smells of another half-hearted and even arrogant attempt to try to make this go away as painlessly as possible.
You're right about the PR stuff...OSU took a bad situation and made it worse by looking flat out bad when they were in front of a camera. But half hearted and arrogant? No, they were just obtuse to how serious the sanctions were from the very beginning.