Inside the Tressel Press Conference
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tuesday’s press conference with Jim Tressel brought with it as many questions as answers.
We know that Tressel will continue to lead the Buckeyes into the foreseeable future, but what that future looks like is bit hazy at the moment. On the surface, Tressel and Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith said most of the right things to turn a potentially program-destroying blow into a minor bump in the road.
A two-game suspension and $250,000 fine are not inconsequential, but the biggest blowback from the whole thing will be the damage done to Tressel’s reputation. Not only did he break the rules, but even his explanation leaves the door open for doubters to question Tressel’s truthfulness.
With the dust temporarily settled, we take a look inside Tuesday’s press conference at what we know, and what still needs to be answered.
Things We Know (Based on What We Were Told)
* Yahoo! Sports did not level the hammer on Ohio State football the way they did to USC with the Reggie Bush piece, they simply broke a story about violations that were already in the hands of the NCAA as of Feb. 3. That’s not to say that what they did should be ignored, because by publishing their findings, Yahoo! effectively took the power out of Ohio State’s hands as to when and how to break the news.
* The “concerned party” in Yahoo’s report (not the same as their source) perpetrated himself as a lawyer who met with Edward Rife to offer legal advice at least twice during the time of his communication with Tressel.
* The source used for Yahoo’s report is likely someone inside the OSU athletic department or the NCAA Enforcement Staff who knew about the NCAA’s ongoing investigation.
* A federal investigation into Rife was already underway when Tressel received the first email back in April. Tressel said he did not report the email to the university because he did not want to break the confidentiality of that investigation.
* Tressel also said he did not share the email because he was worried about the safety of the players involved after learning that Rife was a convicted drug trafficker and potentially violent criminal.
“Your No. 1 critic is yourself,” he said. “I don't think less of myself. I felt all the time as if I was doing the right thing for the safety of our young people.”
* Despite information that two of his players might be selling Ohio State memorabilia to Rife, Tressel allowed them to play out the 2010 regular season. He said that sitting down eligible players without cause would raise too many questions, and again, he did not want to interfere with the federal investigation.
* When the U.S. Attorney’s office contacted Ohio State officials in Dec. about the memorabilia Ohio State launched an internal investigation. Tressel still did not come forward about the emails he received back in April, even after Terrelle Pryor and four others admitted to selling Gold Pants, Big Ten championship rings and jerseys.
* Instead, Tressel said he was relieved to hear that none of them were implicated the in the drug sting by the federal government.
* Ohio State claims to have learned about those emails on Jan. 13 “while reviewing information on an unrelated legal issue.” They came to Tressel with the information and he finally shared the emails with them. According to Tressel, that was the first time he realized he done something wrong by not passing on the information.
* Tressel and Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee had a three-hour conversation at Gee’s home about the issue, during which Gee heard all he needed to hear in order to back Tressel 100-percent of the way.
* Ohio State self-reported the violation to the NCAA on Feb. 3, proposing sanctions that included a 2-game suspension and $250,000 fine for Tressel.
* If the NCAA accepts these proposed sanctions, Tressel would miss the first two games of the 2011 season against Akron and Toledo. He will be allowed no contact with his assistant coaches during the games.
What We Don’t Know
* Did Tressel forward any of those emails to anyone? When asked that same question Tuesday, Tressel started to nod yes before Gene Smith cut him off, saying that they couldn’t talk about things pertaining to their conversation with the NCAA.
* If he did forward the emails, to whom did they go and when, and why was it covered up?
* If he didn’t forward them, what “unrelated legal case” would have led Ohio State to Tressel and his emails if he had never told anyone about them?
* Are there more emails than the ones made public on Tuesday? If they were willing to redact parts of these emails, what would stop them from leaving out entire emails altogether?
* Assuming Tressel did address the team as a whole about staying away from shady characters and not selling memorabilia, why did he not confront the two players in question specifically, especially if he felt their lives might be in some sort of danger?
* Why was Tressel willing to respect the confidentiality of a lawyer who was breaching the confidence of his own client in order to tell Tressel about the violations?
* Was this an honest mistake by an honorable coach who was just looking out for his players’ best interest, or was it a deceitful plan executed by a powerful man who did not want to see his entire season ruined by the foolish mistakes of a few young kids?
* Is everything out in the open and this story over, or is there more?
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