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Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith still backing Jim Tressel

Ohio State University head coach Jim Tressel directs his team against Marshall University during the fourth quarter of their NCAA football game in Columbus, Ohio, September 2, 2010. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

For those wondering if Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has been distancing himself from Jim Tressel because he may eventually fire the embattled football head coach, Smith has made it clear that that’s not the case.

From ESPN.com:

“Oh, definitely, no question,” Smith said. “I haven’t changed, I haven’t changed. But I’m not talking about the case beyond that.”

Smith noted last month in an interview with The Associated Press that Tressel should have apologized at the infamous March 8 news conference, where Tressel acknowledged he failed to notify Ohio State officials of emails he received about some of his players receiving improper benefits.

Smith has also talked about the high legal costs Ohio State is dealing with, calling the ongoing NCAA situation “a nightmare,” and confirmed Wednesday that Tressel is responsible for his own lawyers. Tressel, who makes around $3.5 million per season, has hired Gene Marsh to represent him before the NCAA’s committee on infractions on Aug. 12 in Indianapolis. Marsh, a member of the NCAA’s infractions committee for nine years and chairman for two, is an Ohio State graduate. He has said he never attended a Buckeyes football game during his years as a student.

I’m not sure if this is considered “newsworthy” but look around – there’s not much going on these days in football (thank you, NFL).

My question is, did Tressel just get the dreaded vote of confidence? The, “Hey big guy, we’re still behind you 100%,” right before the axe falls? I may be naive, but I still don’t think he’ll get fired over “Tattoogate.” I reserve the right to change my opinion if Ohio State suffers even more embarrassment over these next couple of months (like, you know, if players were caught buying cars for $0 or something), but I tend to believe Smith when he says he still supports Tressel.

We’ll find out soon enough.

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Report: Tressel forwarded e-mails to Pryor’s mentor

Ohio State University athletic director Gene Smith (R) speaks during a news conference as head football coach Jim Tressel (L) listens in Columbus, Ohio, March 8, 2011. Tressel was fined $250,000 and suspended for two games for violating NCAA rules, according to reports. REUTERS/Jay LaPrete (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

When asked earlier this month whether or not he forwarded e-mails that warned him that some of his players might be violating NCAA rules, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel nodded his head. Athletic director Gene Smith then prevented him from elaborating, but we now know at least one person whom the coach forwarded those e-mails to.

According to a report by the Columbus Post Dispatch, Tressel forwarded the e-mails to Ted Sarniak, a mentor to quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

When asked whether Tressel had passed the information to Sarniak, OSU officials said, “We are not discussing any issues relative to the case until it is resolved with the NCAA.”

In a public-records request, The Dispatch asked Ohio State officials for emails involving Tressel and Sarniak, and the university is reviewing its records. So it remains unclear when Tressel forwarded emails to Sarniak, whether the businessman received them and, if he did, what happened as a result.

The Dispatch made numerous attempts to reach Sarniak for comment, both by phone and in person. His wife said the family would have no comment.

The problem for Ohio State and Tressel is that the NCAA will certainly look into Sarniak’s connection to Pryor. I’m not suggesting that Sarniak has done anything wrong, but this situation brings someone outside of the program into the equation, which may or may not be a good thing.

Why Tressel decided to forward the e-mails to Sarniak and not anyone at OSU is unclear. Pryor’s high school coach, Ray Reitz, told the Dispatch that “Teddy has done a lot for Terrelle, and Terrelle has done a lot for Teddy,” so maybe Tressel thought Sarniak could help. Either way, he didn’t notify OSU officials and that’s obviously what has gotten him into the mess he’s currently in.

As if it even were a question before, this report only confirms the notion that this situation for Tressel and Ohio State is far from over.

Could Urban Meyer eventually take over for Jim Tressel at Ohio State?

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor (2) talks with head coach Jim Tressel during the second quarter of their NCAA football game against Purdue in Columbus, Ohio, October 23, 2010. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

While drawing a connection to Bruce Pearl’s firing at Tennessee, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel predicts that Jim Tressel will eventually resign as head coach at Ohio State and none other than Urban Meyer will replace him.

Let’s face it, Tressel has lost all credibility and could face massive sanctions once the NCAA is done investigating his role in covering up violations by his players. If the NCAA hammer falls and the Buckeyes struggle this year (and you know they will with quarterback Terrelle Pryor and Tressel suspended for the first five games), the pressure will mount and Tressel will ultimately resign.

That’s when a refreshed Meyer will be ready to return to coaching and take over a program he rooted for as a kid. It’s common knowledge Meyer idolized Woody Hayes and grew up a huge Ohio State fan in Ashtabula, Ohio. His intense, conservative, no-nonsense approach to the game is a perfect fit for the Big Ten powerhouse Hayes built.

The idea certainly isn’t far-fetched. Despite his wise move to take a five-game suspension over the original two-game ban that he received from OSU, the situation with Tressel is far from over. And this isn’t the first time Meyer has been linked to Columbus.

That said, unless there’s more to “Tattoogate” on Tressel’s end, I doubt he would resign. I could see him doing so if more embarrassing facts come to the surface, but at this point I think he’s ready to take his medicine after admitting to making a very poor decision.

But what do you think? Do you agree with Bianchi’s prediction or do you think hell would have to freeze over for that scenario to take place?

NCAA denies OSU’s appeal for suspended players, Jim Tressel also chooses to serve five-game ban

Ohio State University head football coach Jim Tressel speaks during a news conference in Columbus, Ohio, March 8, 2011. Tressel was fined $250,000 and suspended for two games for violating NCAA rules, according to reports. REUTERS/Jay LaPrete (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL HEADSHOT)

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel will no long have to worry about the public asking him why he received lesser punishment then the five Buckeye players involved in “Tattoogate.” That’s because now he too will serve a five-game suspension.

On Thursday night, the NCAA finalized its ruling that OSU players Terrelle Pryor, DeVier Posey, Daniel Herron, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas will be suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season after swapping memorabilia for free tattoos with a parlor owner in Columbus. Ohio State had appealed the suspension on behalf of the players, but the NCAA upheld the punishment.

Despite being handed a two-game suspension in a separate investigation by the university, Tressel decided that he too would serve a five-game ban along with his players.

“Like my players, I am very sorry for the mistakes I made. I request of the university that my sanctions now include five games so that the players and I can handle this adversity together,” Tressel read in a statement. “Throughout this entire situation, my players and I have committed ourselves to facing our mistakes and growing from them; we can only successfully do this together. I spoke with athletic director [Gene] Smith, and our student-athletes involved, and told them that my mistakes need to share the same game sanctions.”

It’s a pretty slick move by Tressel. He would have never been able to live down why he only served a two-game suspension for lying to the NCAA and to the university while his players served a five-game ban for committing a similar infraction. Granted, it doesn’t change the fact that he made a poor decision and embarrassed the program, but his decision will no doubt win the respect of his players and OSU fans (or at least some of them).

I’m sure Tressel truly does feel bad about what he did. Everyone makes mistakes and as long as they’re willing to (eventually) own up to them and seek to rectify the situation the best they can, what more can you ask of them? (Besides not committing the infraction, that is.) I’m not excusing what he did but there are good guys in the college football coaching ranks, and there are bad guys. Tressel is a good guy.

RichRod defends Jim Tressel

Former Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez recently appeared on Colin Cowherd’s ESPN radio show and wound up defending Ohio State coach Jim Tressel in the wake of “Tattoogate.”

From the Detroit News:

Cowherd told Rodriguez he no longer trusts Tressel; Rodriguez responded by defending Ohio State’s coach.

“If you run a program at Ohio State or at Michigan or something like that, so much of what you do is public,” Rodriguez said. “There’s not all this crazy cheating and things like that going on that people think. There are some guys out there that bend the rules a little bit or they get around the rules and try to get a competitive advantage. I don’t think that was the case in this at all. There were five guys who sold items who shouldn’t have sold it. And they were wrong for doing it. Did that give Ohio State a competitive advantage? I don’t think so.”

Rodriguez continued: “There’s coaches out there that are trying to get a competitive advantage the wrong way, a handful, and they seem to get away with it. And there are other coaches that are really trying as hard as they can, doing everything in good faith, and they seem to get nailed. I think that’s the thing that frustrates coaches, like, ‘Geez look at what these guys did, and they’re winning and they did all that.’

“How do we fix that?”

Rodriguez’s overall point is correct. The NCAA has a much, much bigger problem on its hands than what Tressel did. He broke rules, made a poor decision and deserved to be punished. But he’s not in the same stratosphere as the coaches who are flat out cheating when it comes to signing recruits. I think it’s safe to say that there are a lot of coaches out there doing a lot worse.

But even though I agree with some of what he said, I think RichRod is missing the bigger picture when he talks about how there are coaches out there that “bend the rules a little bit or they get around the rules and try to get a competitive advantage.”

Rules are in place so that everyone has a fair playing field. The fact that some coaches have done far worse than what Tressel did isn’t the point: If you break rules, you should be punished. Granted, there are different degrees of punishment but nobody should be “bending the rules a little bit” or “getting around the rules” to try to get a competitive advantage. Play within the rules and then you won’t wind up embarrassing your program like Tressel did.

Now, if the NCAA decides to crack a stronger whip and terminates Tressel’s contract, then that’s a whole different can of worms. But until then, it would be nice if college coaches made wiser decisions when it came to running their programs and then something like “Tattoogate” wouldn’t be an issue.

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