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Need to Know

The N.C.A.A. Moves Fast on O.S.U.

There’s nothing more heartwarming than good, old-fashioned newspaper reporting, particularly when it involves public-record requests. We saw this coming in March, when news first broke of Jim Tressel’s failure to inform his superiors at Ohio State that he was aware of several instances of misconduct involving members of the football team. Reporters at The Columbus Dispatch have nailed shut the case that Tressel violated the terms of his contract in doing so, however, thanks to documentation unearthed in an article released earlier today.

There’s nothing we didn’t know in this article, at least in the big picture. We knew that Tressel kept damaging news under his hat. We knew that in doing so, he did not live up to his contract with the university. We knew that the strong relationship he previously held with Gene Smith and Gordon Gee seems to be irreparably damaged.

We know far more of the specifics, thanks to The Dispatch, and have a better grasp of the timeline involved. Among the new details:

Three hours after he received a tip about player misconduct from Christopher Cicero, a Columbus-area attorney and former O.S.U. player, Tressel called Ted Sarniak, a Pennsylvania businessman close to Terrelle Pryor. According to The Dispatch, the first call “lasted less than a minute. Two minutes later, Sarniak called Tressel’s cell phone. That call lasted 15 minutes.”

Tressel than emailed Sarniak Cicero’s original tip, creating a deeper paper trail of correspondence not involving the university, the first party Tressel should have contacted once he became aware of the misconduct — again, we knew this already.

Four days after speaking to Cicero, Tressel reached out to F.B.I. agent Harry Trombitas, the father of a former O.S.U. walk-on. Tressel called Trombitas at home, ostensibly to speak on a different matter, and Trombitas called Tressel on his cell phone again that evening.

More from Cicero: after two weeks of “no documented contact,” he emailed Tressel with advice:

My suggestion is to tell (blacked out name) and any other current player . . . tell them that BEFORE they talk to anybody, or respond to anybody that they MUST contact you first . . . especially if some stupid media would get wind of this.”

Tressel’s response:

I told (blacked out name) to steer clear. Is there any way I could get all the ring names? I have a little plan once this year’s rings arrive.”

This report was simply a precursor to the bigger news out of Columbus. Last Friday, the N.C.A.A. sent Ohio State a “notice of allegations,” which alleges that:

Tressel was guilty of ethical misconduct when he knowingly provided false information to the NCAA in certifying that he knew of no potential violations by his players and failed to inform OSU officials.

Ohio State fielded ineligible players last season when starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor and others competed despite Tressel’s knowledge of their misconduct. NCAA bylaws call for immediate suspensions.

The Dispatch nails the entire situation with the following statement:

The best-case scenario for Ohio State is the NCAA accepting the university’s self-imposed sanctions on Tressel, which include a $250,000 fine and five-game suspension. The worst-case scenario is a range of sanctions that could prevent the Buckeyes from playing in the Big Ten Championship and a bowl game next season and strip OSU of last year’s victories and Big Ten title.

Also of note in the second Dispatch article is the verbiage used by the N.C.A.A. in its release. There’s no “lack of institutional control,” the phrase most often used when the N.C.A.A. finds the type of rampant misconduct — see U.S.C. — that typically leads to probation and the loss of scholarships.

It’s impossible to avoid the elephant in the room: Tressel’s future in Columbus grows cloudier by the day. His greatest hope is that the N.C.A.A. opts for that “best-case scenario,” which would sully the program but perhaps allow Tressel to remain in place. If the “worst-case” does occur, however, it’s hard to imagine O.S.U. maintaining the status quo.

A final, parting touch from The Dispatch:

The allegation that Tressel lied to the NCAA is significant. Since 2006, the NCAA has sanctioned 28 schools for violating the ethics bylaw that Tressel did. Of the 13 head coaches involved, only one kept her job. The others either resigned or were fired by their schools.

If any coach would survive such a trial, it would be Tressel. Then again, Ohio State might not have a choice in the matter — those who laughed at the idea of Urban Meyer in Columbus by 2012 might stand corrected.

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  1. schedule nit says:

    How on earth this does not show a lack of institutional control is beyond me. Looks to me like the institution has no control whatsoever.

    Fireable offense should get coach fired, as has been obvious for several months now.

  2. Uberd says:

    behind the glasses & sweater.

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