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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