September 02, 2011
Former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, who lost his job in the wake of Ohio State's version of the NCAA's latest round of impermissible benefits scandals, has landed in the same NFL that recently agreed to take his former quarterback, Terrelle Pryor(notes). While Pryor will see his first time on the NFL on Friday after getting a third-round look from the Oakland Raiders in the supplemental draft, Tressel will work for the Indianapolis Colts as a "gameday assistant." Tressel will serve as a replay consultant, freeing up other Colts coaches to deal with strategic and personnel matters.
"He's a guy I have known for quite some time and have a good relationship with," Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell said on Friday. "We have hired him as a gameday consultant. He was around last night and will be working with us next week."
It's an odd title for a man who spent most of the last decade pretending he didn't see what was going on right in front of him.
In March of 2011, Tressel was suspended two games and fined $250,000 by the NCAA for failing to report recruiting violations that at least partially involved a local tattoo parlor. Five players, including Pryor, were suspended for trading championship memorabilia and gameday gear for tattoos. Just over a month later, the NCAA revealed that it believed Tressel had lied to keep athletes that would otherwise have been ineligible on the field.
Pryor and the other four players were suspended five games by the NCAA, and Tressel requested that he be suspended the same number of games for the 2011 season. However, when Pryor left school and applied for the supplemental draft, he had to accept the NFL's ruling that he serve that five-game suspension to start his rookie regular season because he had somehow violated the spirit of the supplemental draft. This despite the fact that other suspended players (such as Kentucky defensive lineman Jeremy Jarmon) had used that same method to enter the NFL without punishment.
With Tressel's hire, the motivation seems to become a bit clearer — though Tressel has no specific NFL experience, he's obviously a league pet, and it's certainly easy to argue that Roger Goodell was using his matchless skill for selective prosecution to settle a score, as opposed to doing what was best for the league. It's reasonable to assume that Pryor was going to have to pay a price solely because he got in Tressel's way.
Yahoo! Sports' own Mike Silver may have put it best on Aug. 18, when Pryor's five-game NFL suspension was announced:
If and when Tressel, whose lying and cheating ultimately led to his resignation last May, tries to slide into the NFL in any capacity — coach, personnel executive, assistant to the regional manager — I expect to see Goodell announce a (minimum) one-year unpaid suspension for making "decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL draft." That's the rationale, under the broader authority of Article 8.6 of the NFL Constitution and Bylaws, which the league gave for giving Pryor the spanking that the NCAA wanted to but couldn't.
I wouldn't hold my breath. While Pryor was doing and agreeing to anything possible — even sacrificing the possibility of an NFLPA-mandated appeal of his suspension — to get to the next level, Tressel was being welcomed as a conquering hero at training camps for the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. Tressel's move to the NFL isn't really a surprise; the only possible aspect to give pause is that he's got the guts to put himself out there as any sort of administrator of anything after committing what Ohio State head goon Gordon Gee once called "mistakes of the heart."
At best, it's borderline offensive to think that Tressel will be allowed to enter the NFL without some sort of equivalent punishment. At worst, it's a pure violation of the supposed ethical equity that is supposed to exist between players and coaches. Because if anyone violated the spirit of what the NFL claims to hold dear -- if anyone in this tawdry little scenario refused to (as Goodell always likes to say) "protect the shield," it was the coach who made millions of dollars off the backs of his players, lied to the NCAA to insure that those players would continue to benefit his employment when they clearly should not have been doing so, and kept lying to cover his butt even after the fact.
This is not a man I would want in charge of my replay challenge system. This is not a man I would want taking my car to be washed, but apparently, the Colts feel differently. And that means that the NFL, by proxy, feels differently. Perhaps Tressel will be allowed to suspend himself as he did at Ohio State — and to complete the farce, maybe he can come back to the replay booth, as Bobby Valentine once did to the dugout, in disguise.
Valentine did it as a joke. One gets the feeling that Tressel would have no issue excusing his own attempts to return to the game under any guise or pretense.
After all, he's the expert.
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