March 09, 2011
Making the morning rounds.
• Smoking gun. The email chain that served as Exhibit A in Ohio State's decision to slap coach Jim Tressel with a two-game suspension and $250,000 fine on Tuesday is in the public domain, thanks to a pair of local outlets in Columbus, and the information therein is what Ohio State said it was: An attorney (name redacted) alerted Tressel last April that a federal investigation into a local tattoo parlor had uncovered jerseys, championship rings and other memorabilia apparently purchased from Ohio State players, and that players may have received free tattoos; Tressel replied, "I will get on it ASAP," and the emails stop after three messages from both men in early June.
But Tressel did not get on it until the same story surfaced in December, resulting in the suspension of four offensive starters for the first five games of the 2011 season. Tressel now joins them for the first two of those games, per school sanctions. But the NCAA is yet to weigh in on The Senator's silence, and there are three reasons it could add more pain to OSUs self-flagellation:
1. Tressel was clearly aware of potential violations before the 2010 season. The emails are primarily concerned with two players (names redacted) who had sold memorabilia to the tattoo parlor. In June, Tressel wrote the tipster, "[O]ur rings arrive this week for [the] 2009 Big Ten [championship] ….. any names from our last discussion?? I would like to hold some collateral if you know what I mean ….. jt" In September, though, Tressel signed a compliance form affirming he had no knowledge of possible violations, and both players played the entire season with Tressel's knowledge that they could be ineligible. That knowledge puts all 12 Buckeye wins and their share of the Big Ten championship in real jeopardy of being retroactively stricken from the record.
2. Tressel kept the emails quiet after the violations became public. He specifically denied prior knowledge of violations to reporters in December, and lobbied to keep the offending players eligible for the Sugar Bowl. The time for "confidentiality" about the federal investigation had passed – Ohio State officials only learned about the violations because the feds came to them with information as the case was wrapping up. Still, it wasn't until OSU counsel discovered the emails on Tressel's computer in January that he was forced to confess that he had been tipped off months in advance of the season and the postseason reckoning.
3. Tressel has a history of high-profile players receiving improper benefits on his watch. Before Terrelle Pryor and his classmates, there was Troy Smith; before Troy Smith, there was Maurice Clarett; before Maurice Clarett, there was Tressel's star quarterback at Youngstown State, Ray Isaac. Tressel was able to successful distance himself from each of those cases, but they demonstrate a pattern that undermines any appeal to an honest, one-time lapse of judgment.
A multi-game suspension and $250,000 fine is hardly a slap on the wrist. But the NCAA didn't enjoy the bullet it took for allowing the offending Buckeyes to play in the Sugar Bowl, and if its recent verdicts against USC, Bruce Pearl and Dez Bryant have taught us anything about the way the association operates, it's that the perceived cover-up is always worse than the crime. And cover-ups don't come much clearer than this. [610 WTVN, @kgordonosu, Columbus Dispatch]
• Rest of country: Take note. Notre Dame has officially banned hydraulic lifts from practices, opting for remote-control cameras instead after a student videographer fell to his death when one of the lifts toppled in high winds last October. The Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration's investigation into the death is ongoing. [Associated Press]
• Storm Troopers. California Golden Blogs and Uni Watch have independently uncovered the existence of a white Cal helmet, apparently on tap to replace the traditional navy blue lids for at least one road game this fall. Judging from the results of the CGB poll, fans have already deemed the look a white-on-white crime. [California Golden Blogs, Uni Watch]
• Get well soon. USC defensive lineman Armond Armstead has been released from the hospital, where he spent five days after being admitted with an unknown medical condition last week. (Leading rumors include a heart condition or some kind of virus.) His availability for the start of spring practice in two weeks is undetermined, leaving the Trojans surprisingly thin along the front four. [Orange County Register]
Quickly… A look at Washington's use of recruiting services. … Ringers in the Iron Bowl, circa 1895. … Someone actually compiled a stat sheet from Auburn's "pro day." … Ryan Mallett is slow. … And even Uncle Luke is trashing that Sports Illustrated cover story on criminal records in college football.
- - -
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.