I have leveled more than my fair share of criticism toward Mark Richt over the last few years, but I must say this in his defense: Thank God he’s not Jim Tressel.
For those of you who don’t keep tabs on the goings-on in the world of college football, here’s the brief rundown on this story: Five Ohio State players sold memorabilia to the owner of a tattoo parlor. (By the way, this tattoo parlor owner is under investigation for charges of drug trafficking and money laundering.) They were suspended for five games, but reinstated in time for last year’s Sugar Bowl. They will serve their suspensions during the first five games of 2011.
Ohio State appealed this suspension. As they were conducting the investigation for this appeal, it came out that Jim Tressel knew all about the whole thing. He had received an email about the players’ little tattoo parlor jaunt well before the start of the 2010 season, and had even responded to it, saying “I’ll look into this.” As we would later find out, he never did.
When Tressel’s role in this thing was exposed, Ohio State gave him the equivalent of a slap on the wrist: a two-game suspension for the first two games of 2011. Tressel voluntarily upped his suspension to five games.
Now, the heat has apparently gotten to be too much for Tressel, and he has made the decision to get out of the kitchen. Good thing. There was no way this could have ended well for Tressel; in all probability he beat Ohio State and the NCAA to the punch. He would have gotten fired anyway, and the NCAA would have hammered him and the Ohio State program with massive amounts of sanctions for, among other things, knowingly playing several ineligible players for an entire season.
No chance of Tressel wriggling out of this thing by defecting to another job (see Pete Carroll, Lou Holtz, and countless others).
If you read the ESPN article, you noted that Tressel is not out of the woods yet just because he is no longer on the payroll at Ohio State. The NCAA could impose sanctions against him which would attach to his next collegiate job (that’s assuming he ever coaches in collegiate athletics again, which is highly unlikely).
Finally, a cheating coach pays the price for his wrongdoing.
Tressel released a statement: “After meeting with university officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as football coach.” Nothing here that even remotely resembles an admission of guilt or wrongdoing.
Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee issued a statement too: “The university’s enduring public purposes and its tradition of excellence continue to guide our actions.”
Wow. Do these guys have the same speechwriter, or what?
Gordon Gee has been one of Tressel’s most vociferous defenders throughout this process. For those of you who are familiar with the college football scene here in the Southeast, that name should evoke some hazy shroud of recognition. Let me clear things up for you: In 2003, while he was president at Vanderbilt, he abolished the athletic department, exuding massive amounts of pomposity in the process.
When Tressel was first implicated in the investigation of the five Ohio State players earlier this year, Gee exuded even greater amounts of arrogant pomposity. He was asked if he would consider dismissing Tressel. His response? “No, are you kidding? Let me just be very clear: I’m just hopeful the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”
All together now: Dut-dut CRASH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Can anybody out there tell me why this doofus still has a job?
I did a little research on this guy’s background, and I found that prior to serving as president at Vanderbilt, he was president at Brown. He lasted only four years, the shortest tenure ever for a Brown president. He was so well-liked up there that every year at their Spring Weekend they honor him with the “E. Gordon Gee Lavatory Complex”.
I think the peeps up at Brown have just about got it right.
Turns out Tressel has some skeletons in his closet too: Prior to coaching at Ohio State, he coached at Youngstown State and led them to four Division 1-AA championships. Ray Isaac, his quarterback during one of those championship runs, was taking money from a booster and close friend of Tressel’s named Mickey Monus (not to be confused with Mickey Mouse). The NCAA would investigate belatedly and cite Youngstown State with a lack of institutional control.
While he was at Ohio State, there has been no shortage of players with NCAA issues. Maurice Clarett, the running back who fueled Ohio State’s 2002 national championship run, was declared ineligible by the NCAA. Troy Smith and Terrelle Pryor also had NCAA issues. Seems Tressel hasn’t yet had a high-profile player in his program who did not run afoul of the NCAA at some point. Ray Small, a wide receiver, also admitted to selling championship rings and offered the quote that some Ohio State players “don’t even think about (NCAA) rules.”
There is even an investigation into a car dealer who reportedly sold 50 cars to Ohio State players and their families. In the ESPN story he offers this quote with regard to the Tressel situation: “It’s fair. He would have been fired anyway….You had a coach who knew about and covered up a scandal about memorabilia and tattoos.”
Pot, meet kettle.
There are some people running around out there–including Tressel himself–who will say that Tressel did what he did in order to protect the interests of his players. I think it is clear that Tressel only cared about protecting his own interests, and about winning at any cost.
Columbus has not known anything remotely close to this level of embarrassment since Woody Hayes punched a Clemson player back in the day. To all my friends out there who are Ohio State fans: My condolences.
AJC sports columnist Jeff Schultz agrees with me. Read his take here.