NCAA: Jim Tressel lied to hide violations

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel pauses while speaking during a news conference in Columbus, Ohio March 8, 2011. REUTERS/Jay LaPrete (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

The NCAA has sent Ohio State a “notice of allegations,” which accuses head coach Jim Tressel of lying to hide violations committed by the players who were suspended in December of 2010 for trading memorabilia for cash and tattoos.

In the notice, the NCAA says that Tressel “falsely attested” that he reported all knowledge of NCAA violations to the school. Ohio State is now set to go before the NCAA’s committee on infractions on August 12, which could lead to a stiffer punishment for Tressel down the road.

On March 8 of this year, Ohio State suspended Tressel for the first two games of the 2011 season and fined him $250,000 for failing to notify the school of the NCAA violations. But he requested that OSU AD Gene Smith extend his two-game suspension to five games, so that it coincided with the punishment levied to his players.

When you get right down to it, there really isn’t anything new here. Tressel already admitted that he lied, which is why the school suspended him. But the NCAA obviously has to conduct its own investigation, so the real story is whether or not Tressel will face further punishment. OSU has already made it clear that it’s standing by its head coach, so I wouldn’t expect Tressel to be fired regardless of the NCAA’s findings. But whether or not he could miss even more than five games next season is up for debate.

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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.

Under Brady Hoke, the focus is now clear again in Ann Arbor: Beat Ohio State.

Whether you’re a Michigan fan that despised what Rich Rodriguez did to the program or one of the few who thought he would eventually right the ship, you have to at least appreciate what new head coach Brady Hoke is trying to do in Ann Arbor.

He’s trying to find a kicker? Well, yeah. He’s trying to find a kicker. He’s also trying to make it as seamless a transition as possible for quarterback Denard Robinson, who is currently learning Al Borges’ pro-style offense after running RichRod’s spread option for the past couple of years. Hoke needs to fix the mess that Rodriguez left him on defense as well.

But above all that, Hoke’s focus is simple: Beat Ohio State.

The Buckeyes are currently in a hell of their own making. Unlike their rivals in Ann Arbor, they have the players on both sides of the ball to win Big Ten championships. It’s just that some of those players decided it was a okay to trade memorabilia for free tattoos and, along with their head coach Jim Tressel, will be suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season.

But Hoke’s message has nothing to do with kicking an enemy while it’s down. Despite the hatred, the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry has always been about mutual respect. (The latest example of that was in Friday’s Detroit Free Press when Hoke referred to Tressel as “a good man.”) Hoke doesn’t want to just take advantage of the Buckeyes’ predicament: he wants to beat Ohio State because that’s what Michigan coaches have to do. It should be priority No. 1 and if that happens, then everything else should fall into place.

Among other things, that’s something Rodriguez never fully grasped. He never beat Ohio State or Michigan State, which is unacceptable in the eyes of Wolverine fans. You’re not going to beat OSU every year, but you damn better well make it a focus regardless.

While reading this NBC Sports article, I found it interesting that Hoke has two clocks near his office at Schembechler Hall. One of the clocks is ticking down the time until Michigan plays Michigan State again. The other clock ticks down the time until the Wolverines face the Buckeyes. In between the two clocks is a red number that goes up every day. That number represents the days it has been since Michigan last beat Ohio State, which is now more than 2,600 and counting.

It’s going to take some time for Hoke to turn things around in Ann Arbor but at least the man has his priorities straight.

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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