Notice of Allegations Come for Ohio State, Tressel

Posted by Vico in Buckeye Football, Shenanigans |

The body language is about right

So, you probably heard by now that the NCAA has sent its notice of allegations to Ohio State, along with a cover letter to E. Gordon Gee.  Here is the long and short of it.

  • Ohio State’s athletic department was not tagged with “lack of institutional control” or “failure to monitor”, indicating that the investigative wing of the NCAA determined this to be Tressel’s fault and Tressel’s fault alone.
  • The NCAA will want some more answers as the process is ongoing.  Interestingly, they will want to know more about Chris Cicero and Ted Sarniak.  Cicero is the lawyer who tipped Tressel about the matter.  Their relationship appears to be mostly collegial, an artifact of their time in Buckeye football in the mid-1980s when Jim Tressel was an assistant coach and Cicero was a walk-on.  The NCAA also wants a reason why Tressel decided to forward Cicero’s information to Ted Sarniak.  Sarniak is a Jeannette businessman whose name emerged during the recruitment of Terrelle Pryor, especially emerging among Penn State’s and Michigan’s fan base when Pryor decided to go to neither school.  Ohio State’s position is that the relationship with Sarniak is not improper.  It is unlikely that will change as a result of the process.

  • A seventh player has emerged in Tat Gate.  I understand that this is a minor detail in what has essentially become Tressel’s saga, but I find this fascinating.  The Dispatch named seven “current and former” players identified by the NCAA during their investigation.  We knew six of the seven: the Tat Five + Jordan Whiting.  There is now a seventh, presumably a “former” player if we understand the Dispatch correctly.  In the Dispatch’s write-up, they redact the names but list the transactions.  Adams, Herron, Posey, Pryor and Whiting are listed as Players A through E, alphabetically.  Player G is the mystery player.  His transgressions are pretty impressive, occurring between November 2008 and May 2010.  Read the transactions.  I am automatically very curious.

Player G: Sold Big Ten championship ring ($1,500), two “Gold Pants” awards ($250 each), helmet ($150) and pants ($30) frm Michigan game and Rose Bowl watch ($250) for $2,430. Received $55 discount on two tattoos. Paid $100 to obtain team autographs on two helmets. Received $2,420 discount on purchase of used vehicle and $800 loan for vehicle repairs.

  • We have a timeline now.  A written response on Ohio State’s end is due July 5th.  On August 12th, Tressel, Smith and Gee will appear before the infractions committee in Indianapolis, Indiana to state their case.  That may be no indication of a prompt final decision on behalf of the NCAA, especially if Ohio State asks for more time to fully respond.  A final decision may come some time during the middle of the season.
  • The NCAA threatened Ohio State could be reclassified as a repeat offender, given the Troy Smith $500 hand shake and the Jim O’Brien saga.  It seems odd that they would, especially if the athletic department was not charged with any malfeasance.  Troy Smith’s $500 hand shake was caught immediately, self-reported, and resulted in a bowl game suspension and suspension for the first game of 2005.  O’Brien’s misdeeds were in a separate sport entirely.  Along the Olentangy also questions why the NCAA would threaten this if it found no misconduct on behalf of the university or the athletic department.
  • By reaffirming ethical misconduct on Tressel’s part and limiting the NCAA limiting its charges to Tressel in particular, Ohio State avoids broader systemic charges but opens the possibility of additional penalties for Tressel.  I think this is what the athletic department wanted to get when they self-reported, but it does increase the probability of a show-cause penalty levied by the NCAA.  This is a worst-case scenario and, in practice, amounts to a blacklisting of a coach by the NCAA.  It remains as such for Jim Tressel and Ohio State, but its probability likely increased as a result of the notice of allegations.  By admitting to unethical misconduct, the NCAA could levy additional penalties against Ohio State if they choose to keep him employed.  This, in turn, may be too much for Gene Smith to tolerate, resulting in Tressel’s dismissal.
  • A whole spectrum of potential penalties exists between show-cause and the NCAA accepting Ohio State’s self-imposed punishment.  When the NCAA’s notice of allegations charged that Tressel willingly used then-ineligible players, it opened the very real probability that the 2010 season (sans the Sugar Bowl win) would be vacated.  Ohio State could also get a bowl ban and scholarship reductions of unknown severity.  Still, if the NCAA is convinced this is Tressel’s cross to bear, Tressel-specific punishments are possible.  For example, the NCAA could add to his game suspensions for 2011 and/or could restrict recruiting privileges.
  • We all have hunches about what the NCAA will do, mine being that the NCAA will add to Ohio State’s self-imposed punishments.  The NCAA is cross-pressured.  Namely, it wants to accomplish two things here.  One is appear tough on those that cheat, as Tressel was found to have done.  The second is to have athletic departments take care of things in-house.  The NCAA has a broadly negative image it needs to improve by coming down hard on someone like Tressel, who was walked out by his athletic departments with wrists out.  However, it lacks the resources to police the litany of schools that constitutes its membership.  So, it would want to create incentives for athletic departments to self-report.  Otherwise, no athletic department would self-report and the NCAA would only have innuendo as evidence under most circumstances.  The NCAA, logically, needs to signal to other schools that the expected utility for self-reporting is strictly greater than the expected utility for a school choosing to cover-up or remain obstinate.  If not, even risk averse schools would have incentive to obfuscate.  This is only thinking through the strategic dilemma of the NCAA and how that might mollify our punishment, certainly with respect to program killers like extensive scholarship reductions and multiple bowl bans.  I cannot profess to know what the NCAA will do at this stage.  No one can.

In the interim, Buckeye fans should know that ostensibly nothing has changed.  Beyond the emergence of this seventh player, there is ultimately nothing new (certainly no bomb shells) to emerge in the NCAA’s report and notice of allegations.  No additional punishments were levied against the Tat Five and nothing was added to Jordan Whiting, whose transactions were meager by comparison.  The notice of allegations list the extent of the violations.  A punishment for those violations comes next.

All that has ostensibly changed as a result of this is the amount of trolling you will find on ESPN or on your Twitter feed, or, especially, with respect to Kirk Herbstreit who oddly finds himself being praised more and more for starting a feud with a college athlete and mirroring Twitter’s lowest common denominator.  However, you should be used to this by now, and the fact that college football punditry degenerated to the worst elements of Fox News and MSNBC long, long ago.  So, yes: this sucks and the punishments will not be pleasant for fans.  It also sucks being bombarded with Pat Forde’s one sentence paragraphs, but this might be old hat for you by now.

Ohio State fans should be critical of what Tressel did, lest we collectively add nothing to the discourse here.  It was particularly idiotic and blatantly unethical, especially for a violation of bylaws by six players on the team that were fairly minor.   Since fans, in many ways, suffer the consequences too, we should be critical and prying.  Even Chris Spielman, perhaps the second most beloved figure in Columbus, was very critical in his evaluation of someone he repeatedly called his friend.  So, be critical and disappointed and don’t pretend that what Tressel did was anything other than bold-faced wrong.  But, don’t be surprised when you read or hear dumb shit that will make you roll your eyes.  We’re going to hear it for a while, so just get used to it.  It has not negatively effected the football team, whose responses looked more like a “rally ’round the flag” effect that all sitting Presidents would envy and whose available veteran leadership is making strides towards compensating for the suspensions to begin the 2011 season.


Written by: Vico | full bio

Vico is the nom de guerre of the founder and current website chair of Our Honor Defend. He is currently living in exile in Alabama.


7 Responses to “Notice of Allegations Come for Ohio State, Tressel”

  1. 1 MaliBuckeye

    Thoughts on “the player who was named later”.

    Initially, the Dispatch included Ray Small’s name as a former player who’s memorabilia was found in Rife’s collection-

    The Outside the Lines story reported that Cicero’s unredacted e-mails showed he had said memorabilia had been found which originally belonged to Downing and former wide receiver Ray Small.

    This might fit, given that Small would have had the items in question (although not playing in the Rose Bowl, he may have received a watch as a part of the team).

    Again, at this point, pure speculation.

  2. 2 Vico

    Honestly, Small was the first person I thought of, even forgetting that his name had come up in previous accounts from the Dispatch and others. It just sounds like something he’d get mixed up in.

    The are two questions that come to mind, not knowing if he is Player G. First, the violations occurred between November 2008 and May 2010, though Small’s last game for Ohio State was in November 2009. His eligibility exhausted, it should not matter what he did between January 2010 and May 2010. I say that, but then I remember that Tressel got scolded by the NCAA for flying Stan White Jr and Anthony Gonzalez to Atlanta for the 2007 Final Four. White had used his eligibility and Gonzo had declared for the NFL Draft. Again, it should not matter what they did afterward, but apparently it did. This is a gray area for me as I don’t know the particulars of what the NCAA says about stuff like this.

    Also, as you mentioned, he was ineligible for the Rose Bowl. So, I’m not sure if he got any Rose Bowl swag to hock.

  3. 3 CaliBuckeye

    No opinions, since as mentioned players were listed alphabetically, on if this player is Doug Worthington?
    Seeing as his Gold pants were on pawn stars *sigh*

  4. 4 Michael

    I really hate that this process is going to drag into the season. There could conceivably be a scenario where Tressel comes back for Game 6 and then the suspension gets extended so he’s back for one game and has to sit some more. Also, what if Ohio State is undefeated? It’s possible the NCAA might decide Ohio State needs more punishment if things are going too well on the field. My head might explode between now and the first kickoff of the season.

  5. 5 CaliBuckeye

    If additional penalties for Tressel come down they will be enforced in the 2012 season. Like with Calhoun and UConn

  6. 6 Nick M

    If OSU joins the SEC, this will all just go away. My comment to the Pat Forde article is, “I think ESPN should fire Pat Forde”.

  7. 7 Idahobuckeye

    So what if Tress lied? The NCAA lies and perpetuates a nasty reality where athletes, some of whom can barely read, are taken advantage of to put out a product for the teeming masses. These kids are born and brought up in a society that has evidently placed entertainment first, and the dream of playing professionally is pushed on them. It becomes distorted because that dream, if it actually comes true, involved millions of dollars. The NCAA is more than happy to milk this dream for all its worth because they know the athletes will push themselves beyond their limits, endure any hardship, and take any damage and pain to make that dream happen. They know they can get away with not sharing any wealth because all the athlete wants is to play in the big leagues. They tell these kids that if they don’t go pro, at least they’ll have a degree, and that is ample compensation. But what if that degree is worthless because they barely did any school work? There’s little to no accountability on part of the athlete, the school, and the NCAA because the players were given gimmie classes in a questionable degree that requires as little schoolwork as possible so they can focus on the sport and their dream. They don’t care about the athletes. They care about money. If they cared about the “student” portion of the “student-athlete”, they would criticize the degrees these kids are getting. Too many athletes are getting degrees in communications, exercise science and sports management, because it’s easier to push gimmie classes in those than it is in history, physics, biology or something concrete than can actually help our United States of America.

    If the NCAA cared, they’d split some of those billions of dollars with the athletes that break themselves (literally) for our entertainment. If they cared, then awards, jerseys and rings and the like should be allowed to be sold. Yeah, it hurt like a bitch when I read that some of highly prized pieces of Ohio State Football were sold off like a used hooker. I looked at AJ Green funny when he sold his jersey for 1k. But I realize it’s their right and his right. They earned it, they can do whatever they’d like. And if there’s a market for that (and with the hyper-nationalistic legions of sports fans, there always will be), go ahead. I’m sure if American and Soviet soldiers exchanged medals, hats, and pieces of uniforms at the end of WWII when they met up in defeated Nazi Germany, we can be ok with kids selling their stuff. Granted, if the NCAA cared and decided to share the ****ing wealth, this wouldn’t be a problem. I guarantee that.

    As far as I’m concerned, what the NCAA thinks is of little consequence because they are nothing more than a corporation that milks our gullibility and obsession with sports, they take advantage of athletes with a dream to make up for the shortcomings in society (by fault of society’s and of their own) by making millions playing professionally, and they know nobody will do anything about it despite the whining from the people. Forget a playoff system, that’s only going to make the stakes higher and worse.

    Tress is ok by me. Realistically, he should serve his punishment. But that’s it. No more dragging the man who has been decent 95% of the time through the mud.

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