I'm a fake doctor, not a lawyer, and odds are most readers haven't passed the bar exam, either. Maybe a few of you have served on a jury. But if you've been keeping even one eye on the cover-up scandal slowly engulfing Ohio State coach Jim Tressel over the last two-and-a-months, you don't need a J.D. to put together a straightforward case based on the evidence: No one disputes that Tressel learned about possible NCAA violations involving multiple players from an e-mail tipster last spring, failed to notify anyone in the school's administration or compliance department, signed a form in September affirming he had no knowledge of possible violations, allowed the potentially ineligible players to play the entire 2010 regular season, lobbied to keep them on the field for the Sugar Bowl after news of the violations broke last December and still concealed his prior knowledge until the e-mails were discovered on the coach's computer earlier this year. That's Ohio State's version of events (not to mention the NCAA's), and even OSU didn't see any choice but to levy a fine and suspension against its head coach in response.
Case closed? Maybe. If you're the kind of person who makes judgments solely based on, like, evidence, then yeah. But facts and stuff aren't the only factors the NCAA is interested in, according to Tressel's new attorney, former NCAA Committee on Infractions chair turned NCAA consultant-for-hire Gene Marsh, who's seen these kinds of cases from every angle and told the Columbus Dispatch that the school's all-important appearance in front of the committee on Aug. 12 will more likely come down to Tressel convincing members that his heart was in the right place:
"The exchanges that matter most when it comes to coaches who are the subject of a serious inquiry like this are the ones that come directly between the committee and the coach, not the exchanges from the committee to the coach's lawyer," Marsh said.
Marsh said the real value in such hearings is when committee members look into a coach's eyes when he answers questions that cut to the heart. Tressel, he added, can be expected to expand on his admission that he did not forward information, as is required by NCAA rules, about some of his players possibly receiving improper benefits from a tattoo-parlor owner.
"'What were you thinking? What motivated you to do this?'" Marsh said. "If that didn't matter, you wouldn't have a hearing. ... The body language, and how sincere the individual is, it matters a great deal. It is the show."
If there has ever been a show written specifically for Jim "The Senator" Tressel, it's one that calls on him to look middle-aged bureaucrat types in the eye and convince them that they can still trust Jim Tressel. As Marsh continues, "what really matters to committee members is to try to get an understanding for the coach, their ethic, their lifelong work, their reputation, and whether their institution believes in them."
Clearly, the institution still believes in him — or, at the very least, is committed to demonstrating to the rest of the world that it still believes in him. If loyalty and remorse qualify as a standard of proof where the NCAA is concerned, the Buckeyes have nothing to worry about.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.