Friday, March 11, 2011

The media and Jim Tressel

There's not a whole lot that I can say regarding the Jim Tressel TatGate/LieGate situation that you don't already know: Tressel, after receiving e-mails in April that said several of his players may be ineligible for selling memorabilia in exchange for goods, failed to notify his supervisors or the NCAA, and on three separate occasions, either withheld information or lied about what he knew. The school eventually uncovered the e-mails and, after a leak in the athletic department, the public got a hold of the information. In response, Ohio State, seemingly without acknowledging the gravity of the situation or taking note of precedent, thought a two-game suspension (against cupcakey cupcakes) and a $250,000 fine was sufficient punishment.

To say that the media has fallen in two groups regarding the punishment isn't even accurate. It's nearly unanimous that these penalties are a gross miscalculation. But the two sides of the argument fall on either side of the "Tressel is a good guy" line. Count me on the side that's currently lined up outside Torch and Pitchfork'R'Us like it's Black Friday, anticipating the NCAA's eventual ruling on the matter.

After living in Ohio for two years, I have a fair amount of friends that are both Ohio State sympathizers or worse, fans. When these allegations broke, I suggested that this is going to be very bad for the school, to which they all responded "h8r" and laughed when OSU announced their self-imposed penalties. My best guess as to the NCAA's punishment--3-5 years probation, vacating 2010's wins, a show-cause penalty on Tressel, and, depending on whether or not the Lack of Institutional Control, Failure to Promote an Atmosphere of compliance, and Failure to Monitor charges stick, possibly also scholarship reductions--appeared far fetched at best. But as the media snowball continues to grow, those feel ever likely.

The strangest part of all of this has been the response of the media. Some people are already calling for Tressel's head and others are saying that stronger penalties are in order but Tressel should keep his job. Those in defense of The Senator, however, seem to rely on only one piece of "evidence" as means for dismissal of these charges: "B...but he's such a good guy." This, however, is also a crock.

As MGoBlog laid out on Wednesday, throughout Tressel's entire career, he's had multiple high-profile players declared ineligible because of improper benefits but somehow managed to skate by without any penalties whatsoever. And that's not to mention the 375 secondary violations that Tressel's program has self-reported between 2000 and 2009. Six: the number of secondary infractions that "sleazeball" Lane Kiffin committed at Tennesse. Thirty-seven: the average number of secondary infractions that Tressel's program commits every year for the last decade. Because Tressel is generally reserved and speaks Lloyd Carr levels of cryptic gibberish when he's asked anything specific, he's avoided being thrown under the bus the way media whore Kiffin was*.

Have you read a single defense of Tressel in this whole mess that didn't try to justify Ohio State's lenient penalties with anything other than "But he's such a stand-up guy"? Tressel and Ohio State don't have a leg to stand on here. Your reputation as a quality coach and good guy--however tenuous that actually is--don't hold up when you commit a flagrant violation of the rules** that took a near inquisition to unwillingly uncover.

The NCAA will make a mockery of itself if it doesn't come down hard on Ohio State and Tressel. I'm not sure if the show-cause penalty, which would essentially terminate Tressel, will come to pass, but if it doesn't, significant scholarship reductions and a long probation will be necessary, as will other serious penalties when/if the NCAA finds more infractions during their ongoing investigation of the school. Tressel finally got caught with his hand in the cookie jar he's so frequently dipped into. This was bound to happen, which makes it all the more enjoyable.

*I'm not standing up for Kiffin here. That idiot deserved everything that he received. But when you hold compare the two's relative adherence to NCAA law, Kiffin comes out ahead.
**Aside from the massive penalties that the NCAA should levy against Ohio State, Tressel's violations did one very important thing for Michigan fans: it ostensibly stopped Michigan State from winning an outright Big Ten title. Even if OSU has to vacate its 2010 record, it doesn't forfeit the games it won leaving MSU and Wisconsin to share the title. This is funny.


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