Uh-oh: Jim Tressel could be in major NCAA hot water

49 Comments

If you are an Ohio State fan and thought, with the exception of serving the five-game suspensions, the imbroglio involving multiple Buckeyes receiving impermissible benefits was over, you may be very, very wrong.

And the school’s head coach may have bought himself a world of NCAA hurt.  Allegedly.

According to a report by Dan Wetzel and Charlie Robinson of Yahoo! Sports, “coach Jim Tressel was informed that several Buckeyes players were selling memorabilia more than eight months before the school claims it was made aware of the scheme.”  That startling accusation stems from a two-month investigation by the website.

Sources told the website that Tressel was informed in April of 2010 that some of his players were selling/bartering Buckeyes memorabilia and mementos to the owner of Columbus tattoo parlor.  At a December press conference announcing the suspensions for “The Buckeye Five” — quarterback Terrelle Pryor, offensive lineman Mike Adams, running back Boom Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas — athletic director Gene Smith stated that the school did not become aware of the violations until Dec. 7, a full eight months after Tressel allegedly learned of potential violations committed by members of the football program.

If in fact Tressel knew of what his players were doing and did not inform the athletic department, the football program in general and Tressel specifically could be in for significant repercussions from the NCAA and the school itself — up to and including Tressel being dismissed for cause by the university.

If Tressel failed to inform Smith or the Ohio State compliance department about the players’ dealings with Rife, he could be charged with multiple NCAA violations including unethical conduct, failure to monitor and a failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance. In general, a coach is required to act on, or pass along reasonable information about possible rule violations for further investigation.

Section 4.1(d) of Tressel’s contract with Ohio State stipulates that he “supervise and take appropriate steps to ensure … members of the Team know, recognize and comply with any such laws, University Rules and Governing Athletic Rules and immediately report to the (Athletic) Director and to the (Athletic) Department’s Office of Compliance Services in writing if any person or entity, including without limitation, representatives of Ohio State’s athletic interests, has violated or is likely to violate any such laws, University Rules and Governing Athletic Rules.”

Section 5.1 (m) of his contract also states that failure to promptly report “any violations” could lead to “termination by Ohio State for cause.”

Ohio State itself could be cited with playing ineligible players and forced to vacate its 2010 season, when it won a share of the Big Ten championship and finished 12-1. It could also face further sanctions for major infractions.

Obviously, if it can be proved that Tressel had prior knowledge of the violations and did not report it — or that it was reported to the athletic department but they did not act on it — the ramifications could be monumental for both the coach and the program.

Given what’s known publicly about Tressel and the kind of man he is, it’s hard to believe he would have this type of information on his players and just squat on it.  However, Wetzel & Company have a tremendous track record of nailing stories such as this, so it’s highly doubtful they would run with something as major as this has the potential to become without  having every “i” dotted and “t” crossed.

And that should be very, very sobering news for both the head coach and fans of the football program.

UPDATED 9:02 p.m. ET: Both Ken Gordon of the Columbus Dispatch and Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer report that Ohio State will have no comment on the report tonight.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson frowns upon Group of Five playoff idea

AP Photo
2 Comments

The chances a team from the Group of Five ever gets selected to play in the College Football Playoff range from slim to none. As such, talk from within the Group of Five has kicked up from time to time, especially over the last year, about a possible Group of Five-only version of the College Football Playoff. The reactions to that idea has been mixed, but add Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson to the group of people who thinks that idea should be tossed aside.

While attending meetings for the College Football Playoff, Benson told reporters he would prefer to see conference champions from the Group of Five (American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt) receive better bowl bids instead of playing in a minor version of the College Football Playoff.

It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of 5,” NIU athletic director Sean Frazier told Brett McMurphy, then of ESPN.com, back in December. “Why not?”

Well, there are a number of reasons. First, not everybody seems to be on board with playing the college football version equivalent of the NIT. Sure, it would be on TV and would get ratings, but the reward at the end of the JV playoff would mean little. Nobody would consider it a national championship. That’s what the FCS is for.

Benson is not alone in his anti-Group of Five playoff stance. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher also has been on record saying he is not interested in such a plan, and he oversaw a member from his conference go undefeated last season and play in the Cotton Bowl (Western Michigan).

My initial reaction is that’s not something I’m interested in,” Steinbrecher said, according to MLive.com in December. “We’re part of the (College Football Playoff) system, and it’s done a lot of very good things for the Mid-American Conference.”

Without the support from two of the Group of Five commissioners (and you can almost be guaranteed you can add Mike Aresco of the American Athletic Conference to the list given the conference’s push to be considered a power conference), this idea is pretty much dead on arrival.

LSU’s Arden Key: I am not sitting out my junior year

Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
2 Comments

After taking a little time off from the LSU football program this spring, Arden Key calmed the nerves of Tigers fans on Wednesday with a simple message on his Twitter account.

Key announced to his Twitter followers he will be on the field for the Tigers this fall. Back in February, LSU released a statement saying Key would be stepping away from the program “for personal reasons.” What those personal reasons were is unknown, but he did so with the support of head coach Ed Orgeron and the entire football program at the time.

Key earned second-team All-SEC honors last season after leading LSU with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, a school record. With news, he would be stepping away from the program and the age of top NFL Draft prospects opting out of bowl games, the mere thought that Key might become the first potential NFL Draft pick the following season sitting out the entire football season was difficult to completely ignore. Fortunately, especially for LSU and not so much for LSU’s opponents, Key is choosing not to break that barrier at this time.

Texas A&M removes WR Kirk Merritt from roster

Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Leave a comment

After being charged for allegedly exposing himself to tutors at Texas A&M, wide receiver Kirk Merritt is no longer an Aggie. Merritt has been removed from the Texas A&M football program, according to a report from The Eagle. Though there has been no official statement confirming such news, Merritt’s name has been wiped off the team’s online roster.

Merritt pleaded not guilty to a pair of indecent exposure charges against him stemming from an incident last October. Merritt allegedly exposed himself to female academic tutors. Merritt was suspended by Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin a few days after the alleged incidents. The suspension was expanded to indefinite status following Merritt’s arrest on November 8. The suspension has since been lifted after the university’s conduct process wrapped up in January.

It has been a bit of a bumpy year for Merritt. Merritt left Oregon for Texas A&M last summer due to family reasons. He participated in Texas A&M’s spring practices but did not play in the spring game.

Big 12 revenue eclipses $300 million mark

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File
1 Comment

When it comes to revenues, the SEC and Big Ten continue to set the pace and leave the rest of the competition in the dust. That said, the Big 12 saw a second straight sizable revenue bump, according to recent tax returns.

As reported by USA Today, the Big 12 recorded a revenue of $313 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 on its tax return. The figure is up roughly $40 million from last year’s revenue, and the conference has now doubled its revenue since the 2012 fiscal year amid conference realignment changes. As for the revenue shares for each Big 12 program, the numbers ranged from $28 million to West Virginia to $28.9 million for Oklahoma. This marked the first time West Virginia and TCU were eligible to receive their full conference revenue shares as Big 12 members.

The biggest reason for the big jump in revenue came from increased bowl revenue. The Big 12 pulled in $114.5 million in bowl revenue in 2016, which was just $74.5 million in 2015. The 2015 season, which was included in the fiscal year outlined by this tax return, saw Oklahoma advance to the College Football Playoff and Oklahoma State be selected to play in a New Years Six bowl game (Sugar Bowl), which led to a larger bowl game distribution for the Big 12. The previous year saw no Big 12 team in the College Football Playoff (TCU, Baylor).

The Big 12 still lags well behind the SEC. Most will, of course. The SEC announced a revenue of $584.2 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with each SEC member receiving a revenue share of $40.4 million. The SEC and Big 12 are the only conference revenue numbers currently on record for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but expect the Big Ten to be a solid second in the pecking order, with the ACC likely to come in front of the Big 12 and the Pac-12 to be toward the bottom of the pack.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had a pay increase as well. Bowlsby reportedly earned a little more than $2.6 million in 2015, earning more than $70,000 than the previous year.