Ohio State Stands Behind Tressel Despite Misconduct
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jim Tressel did something wrong—at least in the eyes of the NCAA—and for that he will have to pay the price.
How steep that cost will be for committing a major violation is up to the NCAA, but it will not affect his status as the head football coach at Ohio State.
“Wherever we end up, Jim Tressel is our football coach,” OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith said Tuesday at a press conference with Tressel and university president E. Gordon Gee.
“He is our coach, and we trust him implicitly.”
Yahoo! Sports broke the news Monday that Tressel committed a violation of NCAA Bylaw 10.1 when he failed to notify the university about information he received last April involving two football student-athletes.
According to Smith, however, Ohio State has been working with the NCAA since self-reporting the violation back on Feb. 3.
“The university has responded as rapidly as possible and worked with the NCAA to ensure full cooperation,” President Gee said.
“Coach Tressel has acknowledged he has erred and takes full responsibility for his actions. During the past decade, he has devoted his life to the university, the students on his team, and so many others in the larger community. As an NCAA member school, we are committed to doing everything possible to comply with the NCAA rules and bylaws.”
The university became aware of the violation back on Jan. 13 while reviewing information on an unrelated legal issue. They have since self-imposed Tressel with sanctions that include a public reprimand and apology, a two-game suspension to begin the 2011 season, attendance at a compliance seminar and a $250,000 fine.
Tressel was visibly shaken over the incident, which involved him failing to notify the university of E-mails he received in April alleging that two of his players were involved with trading or selling Ohio State memorabilia to Edward “Eddie” Rife, the owner of Fine Line Ink Tattoos and Piercing.
“Obviously I’m disappointed that this happened at all. I take my responsibility for what we do at Ohio State tremendously seriously and for the game of football,” said Tressel, who wiped his eyes a number of times during the press conference.
“Obviously, I plan to grow from this and I’m sincerely saddened by the fact that I let some people down and didn’t do things as well as I could possibly do.”
Tressel claimed he did not report the e-mails to anyone because he was worried about the safety of his players and the confidentiality of the federal government’s investigation into Rife, who had been convicted nine years earlier of felony forgery and possession charges.
After doing nothing with the emails for eight months, Tressel learned in Dec. of 2010 that there were actually six members of his team involved in selling or trading memorabilia that included Gold Pants, jerseys and cleats and Big Ten championship rings.
Because he failed to act on the information he had back in April, Tressel will join five of those players—Terrelle Pryor, DeVier Posey, Daniel Herron, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas—in missing the first two games of the year (the players will miss the first five).
He said Tuesday there was never a time he considered resigning over the incident. There was also never a time where Gee considered letting him go.
“Are you kidding me,” Gee asked in his squeaky voice.
“I’m just hopeful coach doesn’t dismiss me.”
Gee said he spoke with Tressel about the incident for three hours at him his home and asked him “things you wouldn’t dare to ask.”
“There is a great deal of grief in this man,” said Gee, who has been the president at Ohio State for a total of 12 years, including the last four.
“He feels very sorry about this and it has been very difficult for him because this is a man who by every fiber and every action believes in the law of integrity and has also lived that way.
"I know that you have heard him say that he made a mistake and indeed he did. He has learned from that mistake, as we all have.”
While his job is safe, Tressel could face further sanctions from the NCAA if they decide Ohio State’s self-imposed penalty is not strict enough punishment to fit the crime. The Buckeyes also considered precluding Tressel from all spring practice and summer camp activities, but decided in the end that was not appropriate.
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