Friday, July 15, 2011

Past reprimands of Tressel darken the clouds

The Columbus Dispatch and AP are reporting that documents released by The Ohio State University on Friday show that there was somewhat of a pattern of admonishments from the University to head coach Jim Tressel throughout his tenure. This should both surprise and worry OSU fans dramatically, as the problems with the football program, and by extension, the athletic department and university, have been put squarely on the shoulders of Jim Tressel by Gene Smith and the rest of the school up to this point. But positioned as a rare blemish on a pristine record.

Geiger and Tressel before any reprimands. LaPrete/AP
However, between 2001 and 2005, Tressel received six letters of admonishments for various recruits, including one letter that deemed him "unacceptable" about self-reporting rules violations. Before looking at a calendar and declaring this all ancient history, the truth is that when Gene Smith replaced Andy Geiger in April 2005, Smith shifted from letters of admonishment to verbal reviews.

Seem suspicious?

Well, the university couldn't even confirm whether verbal reviews are acceptable or common behavior, or if it were done for any other employee this way. It does look like Andy Geiger (to his credit?) was overly cautious in reprimanding coaches for violations large and small. But other employees like Thad Matta have written evaluations right through 2010 at least.

Seem odd? Yes. And not only that, but Tressel's lawyer responded with an unusual rebuttal--pointing out that OSU praised Tressel earlier this year, claiming that the current violations were way out-of-character.

Asked to comment on Tressel's behalf, his lawyer, Gene Marsh, this morning pointed to a section of Ohio State's March 11 report to the NCAA formally notifying the organization of the coach's violations.

Tressel's "behavior in this situation is out of character for him and is contrary to his proven history of promoting an atmosphere of NCAA compliance within the football program," says the document signed by Smith, President E. Gordon Gee and faculty athletics representative John Bruno.

"Since his hiring as the head football coach in 2001, he and his staff have attended NCAA rules education sessions on a consistent basis, regularly sought interpretations and self-reported secondary violations," the document says.

Not sure who Tressel and his lawyer are arguing against today--it's not Ohio State bashing Tressel--it's his own performance reviews in the past. Add all this up and it's getting harder and harder to claim that Jim Tressel was some lone bad nut on the Buckeye tree, and the small violations got lost in the shuffle. It's turning more and more into a "what did they know, and when did they know it?"

The appearance of impropriety is just growing. And if it turns out there is some sort of athletic department conspiracy to avoid records of internal violations...

...I don't want to finish that sentence.

LINK: Dispatch article