Jim Tressel, DSCC speech, NCAA Violation, Brandon Castel,

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Last updated: 03/16/2011 3:28 PM
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Football
Tressel’s Words Leave Room for Speculation
By Brandon Castel

It has been nearly 10 days since Jim Tressel stood in front of the world to admit he had violated NCAA rules by not reporting the emails he received back in April of 2010. Since then, it has been discovered that the author of those emails was attorney Christopher Cicero, a former walk-on linebacker at Ohio State.

After an initial uproar, the national buzz has started to subside—at least for the time being—but that doesn’t mean things have slowed down for Ohio State’s Head Coach.

Despite the fact his reputation as an ethical and principled man coaching in a den of iniquity has taken a serious hit since the scandal broke, Tressel did not cancel his scheduled speaking engagements around the state of Ohio this week.

He simply tweaked his message.

The 58-year old Tressel first appeared in Canton at a luncheon sponsored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Monday where he spoke about handling adversity. He also apologized to “Buckeye Nation” for “what we’ve been through.”

Tressel also made an appearance at the Defense Supply Center in Columbus on East Broad Street. There he spoke primarily about leadership and servant-hood.

“It’s our task to grow future leaders in a time that is a little bit more difficult,” Tressel told those at the DSCC Tuesday.

“This will be my 37th year of college coaching. It’s changed. Young people haven’t changed too dramatically. They still want to know that you care for them. They still want to know what you expect of them. They still want to be evaluated. I think at this point in time, they want to know ‘why’ a little bit more than they used to.”

Much like his first public appearance, Tressel was greeted with nothing but applause from the group, which included mostly active military, federal contractors and members of the Defense Logistics Agency.  

He did not speak much on his personal situation because of the ongoing NCAA investigation, but what he did say left plenty of room for speculation.

“We are in a situation right now that I didn't get as wise of counsel as I should have,” Tressel said Tuesday.

“And so I am accountable for a leadership action that I took. But that's part of being a leader. And when you are a leader, and you are a servant, you look it right in the eyes, you learn, you know what you should do, you are reminded that you should always seek wise counsel, and then you go forward.”

The idea that Tressel faces a two-game suspension and $250,000 fine because he received poor counsel runs contradictory to the assertion that he failed to inform anyone of the potential violations contained in Cicero’s emails. During his initial press conference Tressel was asked whether he forwarded those emails, which specifically mentioned Terrelle Pryor and DeVier Posey. He began to nod his head ‘yes’ before he was cut off by Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith. Tressel even went as far as to say “mmhmm” before Smith intervened.

“We can’t get into that right now,” Smith said back on March 7th.

“That’s a detail in the case, I’m sorry, he can’t answer that one. That’s still a part of the NCAA case.”

If he did forward the email to someone, or share its contents, it may very well be the person who offered poor counsel to Tressel on how to handle the situation. Dating back to the initial press conference, Tressel has never directly admitted to keeping the information a secret for eight months.

“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,” he said on March 7th.

“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. And obviously I planned to grow from this.”

At the very least, Tressel’s words open the door for plenty of questions. 

Did Tressel share the information, but with the wrong person or persons? That would fit the description of "not doing things as well I possibly could do"?

If Tressel did forward the email to legal counsel, was it his own personal counsel, or that of the university? Or did he forward it through the "chain of command" within the University?

Did the poor advice come from someone at Ohio State—whether it be his boss, the compliance department or a university lawyer—or was it an outside source?

Is it possible that he forwarded the email to one person, then, if they sat on it, he sought counsel and got poor advice on how to proceed from someone entirely different?

If he did seek advice, exactly when did he seek it. Was it after the first email exchange, during the two-week gap before Cicero mentioned confidentiality, or was it after the final email exchange in June?

Whether he forwarded the email or not, it is obvious that Tressel intends to bear all responsibility for the wrongdoing.

“You've got to take responsibility and you've got to move forward. That's what being a leader and a servant is,” Tressel said Tuesday.

“And if you really are a leader, you will never quit. I don't care if there is 30 seconds left in the game and we're down by 10 points, a leader will never quit.”

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