Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Some thoughts on the Tressel mess, missing names, and .... punctuation !!

Jonathan Quilter | DISPATCH
Well now everyone knows the gist of the story. Some things happened. Jim Tressel knew about some of these things. He didn't tell some important people about some of the suspicious things that some of his players were doing for some other, really bad people. And because of that, he's being fined $250,000 and suspended for a couple huge games against incredible competition a couple MAC teams.

Naturally, this is a black eye on Tressel, his holier-than-thou reputation, and on the university, and the tone of the press conference did not help at all. President Gee and AD Smith were effusive in their compliments of Tressel, "Are you kidding?" remarked Gee, "I'm just hopeful the coach doesn't dismiss me. His integrity and the body of his work is quite remarkable." Settle down, sir.  At this moment his integrity is not remarkable at all.  That's what is justifying the suspension and the outrage.

A couple thoughts from the emails that came out. For reference, WTVN Radio has put the emails up on their webite here.  And the entire self report from Ohio State, in the Columbus Dispatch, can be found here.
  • First, Coach Tressel notwithstanding, I want to make it very clear that some players giving/selling their championship rings/cleats/jerseys away in exchange for (hundreds to thousands) of dollars or services (like tattoos) is not a "high crime." One could even argue (as Ohio State did in December, however hard-to-believe it might be) that a player may well have been confused on whether it's his right to sell his own rings and old jerseys for whatever he may want. Certainly after they leave school, it's their right. Of course, the players should have known better, but at least it's comprehensible that they didn't think they were breaking any rules.
  • But this infraction by the players is not even in the same LEAGUE as a school's booster giving players money to attend a school, or a player shaving points, or other acts that directly influence the game. The reason players can't sell their things lends itself to this point; it could easily lead to abuse, like a booster giving a player $20,000 for his jersey. (As you might guess, I have the same opinion on drug abuse vs. gambling in pro sports. Gambling threatens the very legitimacy of the competition, and that's why Pete Rose is right to be banned.)
  • To play devil's advocate, it may at least be possible that Jim Tressel, upon receiving emails from a Columbus lawyer who was directly involved in a case with the tattoo shop owner and whom at one point asked Tressel for confidentiality, felt that he was not in the legal position to report what he had learned.  
  •  However, that doesn't hold up. Any coach in the NCAA, especially one as high profile as this, knows full well the NCAA obligations for self-reporting. If the players named in the emails had missed time in 2010, that would have hurt the team, which adds further doubt to Tressels denial of self-interest in keeping the news quiet.
  • Ohio State self-reported that Tressel "violated provisions of NCAA Bylaw 10.1 when he failed to notify the university about information received involving two (Emphasis added) student-athletes." Interesting that there are three (apparent) player names blacked out in the email. The Lawyer inserts some personal commentary about "no surprise" about one of the players giving merchandise and perhaps the same player's championship ring being part of the haul.  Since that would mean 2002, what player would arise this sort of cynicism, I wonder.. Hard to figure that one out.

  • In the press conference, Tressel explains that he was "scared" and didn't want "to interfere" in a federal investigation. But the whole fact that a lawyer involved in the case emailed Tressel, and the tone of Tressel's email responses were almost those of a surprised outsider, or an "oh brother" exasperated parent, rather than someone who should be alarmed by this, questions the very "institutional control" that really hurt university programs.
  • Jim Tressel's punctuation usage is very curious !! I mean ....what's with all the ....unnecessary spaces and four dot-ellipses ?? (Fortunately I don't think this is an NCAA violation. But I still have my writing guide from Ohio State, and I'm pretty sure that's not proper usage of punctuation.  Gordon Gee might want to talk to his highest-paid employee about this.)