Jim Tressel: A Case for Show-Cause in Violation of NCAA By-Law 10.1

"I look at this as a watershed moment," said R. David Ridpath, assistant professor of sports administration at Ohio University and a critic of big-time intercollegiate athletics. "This is the case where either the NCAA investigative process gets its act together, or sends a message that it's OK to lie to the NCAA."

Indeed.

Without knowing it, both PB and I set to work on commenting upon the Tressel situation.  We know how PB comes out on this, but let's conclude this discussion with a closer look at the specific details which gave rise to the controversy.

In following up to PB's questioning of BON readers on their thoughts as to Jim Tressel's future and the seemingly apparent inconsistency in NCAA sanctions applied to the haves and haves not, we now see the sordid lying details which have spilled into the Columbus gutters.

In those posts, there were many comments supporting the notion the NCAA has created an environment of enablers with their no-teeth punishments the last several years. Others deride the institutions themselves claiming the problem is systemic given the gobs of money at stake and the brand protection. Regardless of your position, something must be done to right this stinking hulk of a ship for the good of all CFB in spite of Buckeye Nation's unequivocal support for its beloved brand.

And unequivocal it is. A Quinnipiac poll conducted shortly before the annual tOSU football spring game found 83% approval for Tressel!

Meanwhile, the NCAA has handed down it's Notice of Allegations (NOA). Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, this NOA has teeth. tOSU is now on the clock and must decide to what extent they support Tressel. Upon learning of additional omitted information, tOSU and Big 10 administrators are starting to remove the springs for the trap door that will isolate Tressel as the primary fall guy.

Our good friends at SBN's Along the Olentangy posit that tOSU is safe from institutional penalty and the NOA isolates Tressel as the primary culprit in this affair. It will be interesting to see if tOSU escapes any probation penalty as a result.

The NOA reports a litany of inquiries surrounding Tressel's violation of Unethical Conduct Rule 10.1. Additionally, tOSU will be fighting to avoid loss of scholarships, vacated contest wins, and post-season contest participation.  tOSU is perilously close to being a repeat violator (19.5.2.3) given these current improprieties occurred during the schools probation period stemming from it's basketball program violations.

Given the litany of charges levied against Tressel, will the NCAA hand down a show-cause decision?

Show-Cause

A show-cause penalty is an order saying that a coach involved in major rules violations at a university's athletic program may not be hired by any other NCAA member institutions without permission from the Infractions Committee for a set period of time. If a university seeks to hire such a coach, they must "show cause" as to why they should not be penalized for hiring him. Most schools will not even consider hiring a coach with a show-cause penalty in effect; hence the show-cause order effectively blacklists him from the collegiate coaching ranks for the duration of the penalty. The penalty is intended to follow a coach for violations that he had a role in committing.

The majority of show-cause cases are directly related to lying, most specifically lying to NCAA investigators. Most of the notable coaches hit with a show-cause penalty include Todd Bozeman, Clem Haskins, Dave Bliss, and Kelvin Sampson. Ex-Tennessee Volunteer men's head basketball coach Bruce Pearl is possibly facing a show cause penalty. Note that all of these coaches have one thing in common: basketball.

Head football coaches appear to have remained above the fray given their "arms length" relationships with players. However, former USC running back coach Todd McNair, who was cited with violating Rule 10.1 due to his lying and misleading statements about phone calls to Lloyd Lake, lost his appeal according to the NCAA release issued 4/29. The NCAA specifically pointed to McNair's lack of credibility in its ruling, "As the committee considered the former assistant coach's arguments, both written and oral, it became clear that the most pertinent issues devolved to matters of witness credibility."

McNair was a football position coach.

Will Jim Tressel be the first D-1 head football coach to earn a show-cause penalty?

Investigation

"I understand college football, not from X's and O's, but I understand from the way that they operate. The integrity of this program, and the integrity of this coach, is, uh, is, uh, absolutely superb. And so, I feel very confident in saying that we have followed the rules."

"Because this is a man, who (in) my every fiber and my every action, believes in the law of integrity."

"We would not be confident in what we've done (internal investigation and resulting self-imposed punishment) if there was a smoking gun."

"Is there another shoe to drop? Absolutely not."

- E. Gordon Gee / March 8, 2011 Press Conference

Ooops. I bet he wishes he had a rewind button for those comments.

In following up to PB's questioning why Buckeye Nation is not storming the Columbus Ramparts, a few details to get everyone caught up to speed with the evolving story.

It had been widely reported the NCAA Notice of Allegations (NOA) submitted to tOSU did not shed light on any new information that hadn't already been reported by tOSU. Not so fast.

The Columbus Dispatch, through a FOIA request, obtained a copy of the DOJ letter sent to tOSU president Gee in which inventory purchased by the federally investigated Rife was itemized.

A source close to the investigation stated the fact that "the NCAA NOA did not cite OSU for ‘failure to monitor' or ‘failure of institutional control' was a good sign." Not so fast. A Sports by Brooks post reveals the NCAA is seeking more information from tOSU that was not conveyed in their initial internal gear-for-gain investigation report.

Brooks surmises that as a result of the additional swapped gear included on the DOJ itemized list, but not appearing in tOSU's internal report to NCAA, tOSU either purposefully misled the NCAA or at the very least was negligent in its initial report.

Item #34 shows where one 2010 Rose Bowl fossil watch was traded for a 2003 Tahoe, which was originally purchased by tattoo parlor owner Rife, who is the central figure in the federal investigation for drug trafficking, for $3,500.00. Further, this player (who is speculated to be Ray Small) was provided a discount toward the purchase of another vehicle ($2,420.00 value). Why wasn't this reported by tOSU in their findings submitted to the NCAA in December? File this under gotcha.

tOSU either willingly, or through negligence, did not come clean on all violations in its report to the NCAA. I find it interesting that in the initial NCAA statement on the self-imposed violations, the NCAA stated that all further actions against players were closed. But that was only for the five players mentioned. In reviewing the DOJ inventory list, there is a substantial amount left unassigned in the initial report. Brooks suggests there are further players left to be implicated in this affair given the additional tOSU awards and equipment not reported by attorney and former tOSU football player Christopher Cicero as well as statements and reporting by former players that are not itemized in the DOJ letter. This in and of itself provided a crack in the door for the NCAA to pursue the matter in greater detail and leads to a much larger problem for tOSU with all the markings of a "look the other way" policy in regard to oversight and policy education.

The line of questioning on this specific matter will be at the heart of the August 12 hearing and will be central to determining the future of tOSU football, as well as Jim Tressel's coaching future, assuming he has not already been terminated or resigned.

The process has pretty much evolved as per NCAA regulations. The NCAA has been involved in the investigation per tOSU's request since the university discovered the potential infraction. The university further provided to the NCAA

We now have also heard from Big 10 commissioner Jim Delany with an obvious statement to start the "distancing from Tressel process" if ever there was one.

Delany told reporters Thursday (April 28) at the BCS meetings in New Orleans that knowing what he knows now, he wouldn't have supported the Buckeyes players participating in the bowl game.

"[Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith], myself, the NCAA all would have handled things differently," Delany said.

Delany said coaches should be held to higher standards than players, telling reporters, "They're the adults and teachers. They're very different than the kids."

Knowing what he knows now? This is an interesting comment given that the NCAA ruled only on the six players in question. They were still ineligible for the games played and in violation of several NCAA by-laws. Why did he offer any type of endorsement at all? Was he helping the Big 10 flagship brand smooth the NCAA ruffled feathers? I'm not sure anyone believed, save for Buckeye faithful, that this matter was settled. Why then did Delany insert his opinion on the matter in the first place? That was not a smart move. The arrogance of power in this instance is beyond the pale.

Granted, tOSU deserves credit for conducting an internal investigation and imposing disciplinary actions on players and Tressel once the details came to light. And I suppose Tressel deserves credit for extending his punishment to match that of the players, not to mention the fact his intentions from withholding the information from tOSU enforcement officials were possibly in the best interests of the current and unfolding federal investigation and his players relationship with Rife. We'll assume this is all true.

However, the fact that tOSU either willingly, or negligently, omitted information from its internal findings does not provide sanctuary from pursuit of the whole truth. Just like the recent disciplinary actions taken at USC, try as it might, tOSU cannot shield itself between it and the NCAA with Tressel.

Contrition?

Tressel Publicly Apologizes

March 14, 2011 - Tressel arrived..at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club (in)..Canton (OH). He was greeted with a standing ovation and polite applause from the crowd of nearly 400..

"I can't talk to you a whole bunch about what has recently gone on because of the nature of our situation, but I can tell you this, I consider all of you a part of the Buckeye Nation. I sincerely apologize for what we've been through in this recent time," Tressel said. "I apologize for the fact I that wasn't able to find the ones to partner with, perhaps handle our difficult and complex situation. I also apologize because I'm going to have some sanctions and that's the way it is, and as it should be.

"But the mission doesn't change. That's what's most important. That's the pledge I have to you. The mission we've always had is to make sure we help young people change their lives."

Tressel referred to a conversation he had with former player Kirk Barton on the drive from Columbus to Canton. Barton, a Massillon Perry product, is now a quality control coach at Ohio State and is working on his master's degree in business administration.

"Our young people have so many more challenges than they had seven or eight years ago," Tressel said. "The interest in what they're doing, the interest in their recruiting, the number of people who are talking to them and touching them and telling them how wonderful they are, it's made it a lot more challenging for our young people."

Jeff Boswell sums it up quite nicely with his Liar, Liar, Sweater Vest on Fire piece posted at Sports Central:

Tressel looked to be in the clear. That is, until OSU decided to appeal the players' suspensions. That's when, remarkably, and as the result of what was likely the easiest NCAA investigation in history, the communications between Tressel, Cicero, and Sarniak were found. Tressel was given a five-game suspension and fined $250,000, or roughly $10,000 for every lie and $5,000 for every half-truth.

Where does this leave Tressel? Firmly in the NCAA's doghouse and owner of a tarnished legacy. Should he retire? Yes, but not until he has a clear understanding of the difference between "volition" and "violation." There is really nothing Tressel can say, short of "I resign," that would right his many wrongs. Just as his sweater vest has no arms, his excuses and explanations have no legs.

Tressel continues to construct a storyline that shows his number one concern was, is, and always will be the welfare of the players. Regardless of the honorable intentions, questioning Tressel's integrity is legitimate. He should do the right thing and step down for the good of tOSU and for the good of CFB. But something tells me this will not happen.

Resources:

- Timeline of Events

- NCAA summary of infractions - March 11, 2006

- Department of Justice letter to tOSU

- Jim Tressel's emails

- NCAA tOSU player suspension news release

- tOSU internal investigation letter to NCAA

- NCAA Notice of Allegations cover letter to tOSU president E. Gordon Gee

- NCAA Notice of Allegations

- NCAA Enforcement Process

- 2010-11 NCAA Division I Manual; Constitution, Operating By-Laws, Administrative By-Laws

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