published Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Greeson: Lies again take down a top coach

  • photo
    Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel, left, sits next to E. Gordon Gee, Ohio State University president, during a news conference Tuesday, March 8, 2011, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State suspended Tressel for two games and fined him $250,000 for violating NCAA rules by failing to notify the school about information he received involving two players and questionable activities involving Buckeye memorabilia. Tressel also will receive a public reprimand and must make a public apology. (AP Photo/Terry Gilliam)

Don’t spit into the wind. Don’t complain about your mother-in-law’s cooking. Don’t play poker with anyone who has a nickname of a city. And don’t ever lie to the NCAA.

Jim Tressel hung up his scarlet sweater vest Monday, resigning as the head football coach at Ohio State. Tressel stepped down amid a growing controversy that started with players selling and trading gear and memorabilia and mushroom-clouded almost weekly with details about lies of omission and cover-ups.

Tressel, who became aware of the players’ NCAA violations last spring, did not inform his bosses or the NCAA of the events when he learned of them, and he later lied and covered up the acts. There have been more accusations and allegations since — from previous players saying they sold items to reports of car dealers giving OSU football players and their families extra benefits — but the dishonesty cooked Tressel’s goose.

This was the only way this could end, of course — yet another Ohio State coach leaving in disappointing circumstances. For all the success the Buckeyes have enjoyed, no football coach since the 1940s has left there without being fired or being asked to leave or resigning amid controversy.

Tressel had to go, regardless of the asinine assessment by Ohio State president Gordon Gee, who originally joked about Tressel’s job status that he hoped Tressel would not dismiss him.

Ohio State adamantly defended Tressel when the allegations were first reported, not unlike how Tennessee originally supported basketball coach Bruce Pearl.

As with Pearl, as more details became known about Tressel’s loose association with the rules and with the truth, a highly successful coaching career was finished. In each case, the weight of facing the NCAA with Pearl or Tressel still on staff seemed too daunting.

Tressel left, hoping his resignation would be one final act that showed his devotion to Ohio State. His resignation letter, which ended with “We will be Buckeyes forever,” though, will not serve the Buckeyes as well as a pink slip would have.

The timing of Tressel’s resignation has been linked to possible allegations and news in an upcoming Sports Illustrated story on Ohio State’s recent troubles. It also could have been linked to the recent NCAA ruling that denied an appeal from Southern Cal and upholding the penalties levied against the Trojans that include 30 fewer scholarships and a postseason ban this year.

College sports in general and college football in particular have been assailed by negative PR in the last year. Bowl game officials who are morally bankrupt and recruiting stories that make fathers look like street agents and street agents trying to be fathers have become so common that the increasing concerns revolve more on proof and evidence more than on guilt or innocence. It’s becomimg less about whether rules are being broken and more about whether the people within the program know about the violations.

“There are no other NCAA violations around this case,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said last December when the school divulged the misgivings of five Buckeyes, including start quarterback Terrelle Pryor. “We’re very fortunate we do not have a systemic problem in our program. This is isolated to these young men, isolated to this particular incident. There are no other violations that exist.”

What he may have meant to say was that he knew of no other problems. And that’s where corrupt programs walk the dotted gray line of ambiguity in regard to NCAA rules. There is no place where ignorance is more blissful than the world of big-time college football.

Until the coaches and/or administrators know, the violations most often are secondary against the program and more stringent against the player. That is unless there are lies being issued to the NCAA — then all bets are off and no one is safe.

Seriously, if a year ago someone asked you to name the most job-secure college football coaches in the country, Tressel had to be at or near the top of that list. This morning his career is finished.

The truth hurts.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6273.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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hcirehttae said...

"The truth hurts"?

Not me, it doesn't hurt. I'm glad this lying liar and his lies have been found out, and his lying, cheating program will be penalized. Lying cheaters should have to wear jerseys with a big red X each week for the term of their penalty.

What hurts us all is the ridiculously high stakes we put upon collegiate athletics, which is supposed to be a GAME played for FUN by boys and girls. This is just another predictable -- no, inevitable -- example of what happens when people involved in activities that pay too much money relative to their social benefit begin to be consumed by greed and self-importance.

Then they begin to think: "The rules don't apply to me." "I'm a special case." "I'm God's gift to (insert field of endeavor here)."

When's the last time you heard of a college's academic dean resigning because a National Merit Scholar had accepted cash under the table from Microsoft or Google? I didn't think so. (Although I admit that OSU Prez Gordon Gee sounds like a moral lightweight.)

"The love of money is the root of all evil," says the Apostle Paul, and he sure got that right. Coaches and players make too much money, by a factor of 10 or more, compared to the social utility of their work. Nobody's saying to eliminate sports, collegiate or professional; they're great and a lot of fun and they have their place. But when you pay a college coach $4 million (you know who I mean) and you pay a player right out of college over a million dollars a year to play professionally, they will do anything to win... because that means they get more money. That's what happened here, and it will continue to happen with such absurd sums of money on the line. Nobody loves money more than the rich. "Show me da money!"

May 31, 2011 at 6:33 a.m.
Livn4life said...

To me this underscores the casual way much of our society looks at lying and deceitfulness. Just look around and you will find the truth toyed with in so many ways. We often joke about it in politics and telling lies can become an art in that arena. But it is not just there that lying is common. If we buy into "a little lie hurts no one", before long the lie multiplies and grows. For much of what I do not like about the NCAA, I appreciate how they come down on lying to them. As for Coach Tressel, I had a lot of respect for him prior to this. Now he looks like any old coach willing to try anything to keep winning. I wish him well as he moves on. I am no fan of Ohio State but know they will move on as well. I would love for this to be a lesson for ones out there on slippery slopes with deceitfulness. I am not, however, holding my breath believing many will heed the word on telling the truth. Maybe we are like the Colonel played by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, we "CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!"

May 31, 2011 at 7:02 a.m.
jsgood35 said...

If you bring your company and/or college the most money with your efforts, then you will expect and should be compensated very well. End of discussion. Players should be compensated for playing, just like interns get paid to work in school for the possible future job/degree. Players get scholarships, but that does not keep them in food, clothes, miscellaneous...

May 31, 2011 at 12:24 p.m.
Atruefan said...

Very well-said. I appreciate your reporting ability and more importantly your near-genius analysis skills. Keeping us informed and entertained is no small feat...you do both and do them very well indeed.

May 31, 2011 at 1:39 p.m.
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