Bad times for Tressel, Ohio State

April 30, 2011 

This has been a bad week for Jim Tressel, and his chances of remaining coach at Ohio State are waning with each new development in the Tattoogate crisis.

Last weekend, the NCAA sent Ohio State a formal notice of allegations listing 14 items that players Terrelle Pryor, Daniel Herron, Mike Adams, Devier Posey and Solomon Thomas sold or traded to tattoo-parlor owner Ed Rife, who is the focus of an ongoing federal drug investigation.

The NCAA letter discloses that the largest transaction involved a player giving Rife four tickets to the 2010 Rose Bowl game and two Rose Bowl watches in exchange for a 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe.

On Monday, Ohio State made public the NCAA charges against Tressel, who knew since last spring about his players selling memorabilia but failed to report the violations to his bosses. It charged that Tressel "knowingly provided false information to the NCAA" by signing a compliance form last September stating he knew of no potential violations by his players.

The Tressel transgressions could lead to the five players being declared ineligible to play last season and result in all 12 of Ohio State's victories being taken away.

The NCAA has summoned Tressel, Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee, athletics director Gene Smith, faculty representative John Bruno and compliance director Doug Archie to a hearing on Aug. 12 in Indianapolis.

On Thursday, it was revealed that transactions between Buckeye players and the tattoo-parlor owner are far more extensive than previously made public by Ohio State officials. A letter sent by the U.S. Department of Justice on Dec. 7 shows that Rife bought or traded for tattoos 36 different football-related items totaling more than $14,000 since 2008.

These revelations were enough to convince Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany that he was wrong in supporting a decision to allow the five Ohio State players to compete in the Sugar Bowl game last January.

According to USA Today, Delany said if he knew last December what he knows now he "would have handled it differently."

Now that it is confirmed that Tressel withheld information and lied to keep players on the field, Delany said: "I would have done something differently, but that's not the information I had at the time that we were talking to the NCAA."

Delany went on to say that coaches should be held to higher standards than their players, "just because they're adults, the teachers, they're very different than kids."

Sounds ominous for Tressel, doesn't it?

Kirk Herbstreit, a well-respected ESPN college football analyst and former Ohio State quarterback, also weighed in on the scandal this week, calling it a "black eye" for the school and saying fans are willing to overlook Tressel's mistakes because he wins.

"The Ohio State fan base is just blindly supporting Ohio State and Jim Tressel," Herbstreit said. "It's almost gotten to the point where he has beaten Michigan, he wins 10 games, he goes to BCS bowl games and they'll support him no matter what he does.

"The bottom line is he broke the rules by the NCAA, and it's very difficult after you do that to go into future homes of recruits and say 'Hey, we're going to try to do things the right way' when you have this in your background."

Herbstreit, who has lived his entire life in Ohio, most recently in Columbus, said that a "vocal minority" of Buckeye fans drove him from his home state last month. He and his wife and children moved to Nashville.

Herbstreit is the best objective college football analyst in the business and I hope he keeps doing his job the way he has in the past, rather than the way of colleague Lou Holtz, who proclaims Notre Dame the national champion every August. Blind loyalty and bias marginalizes everything people like Holtz have to say.

As for Tressel, he and the five players in question have been suspended for the first five Buckeye games this fall.

Is that penalty enough to satisfy the NCAA?

More importantly, will Tressel still be the Ohio State coach when the NCAA gets around to making its final ruling on the case?

I think the noose is getting tighter.

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