Tressel’s punishment far from fitting the violation

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Something’s rotten in Columbus.  And the stench is bordering on the overwhelming.

In October of 2009, Dez Bryant was ruled ineligible for the remainder of what turned out to be his final season at Oklahoma State for lying to the NCAA.  And Bryant hadn’t even committed a major violation; the fact that he fibbed led to the ultimate sanction.

Almost exactly 17 months later, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel has been found to have committed a major violation and was slapped with a two-game suspension and fined $250,000 for, in essence, lying to his employer.  On three different occasions.  And you wouldn’t have to stretch very far based on his Herbie Hancock on compliance forms to make the case that his lies to the school were lies to the NCAA as well.

And he’s slapped with a two-game suspension?  There’s that odor again.

Tressel’s defense of why he knew in April of 2010 — a full eight months before OSU was made aware by elements outside the university — that at least two of his players were possibly receiving impermissible benefits and didn’t inform anyone at the school was wrapped in one word: confidentiality.  In an email dated April 2, Tressel was first informed by an unnamed attorney that federal agents had raided the house of Eddie Rife, owner of a Columbus, Oh., tattoo parlor frequented by Buckeye players, and that the raid yielded “a lot of Ohio State Memorabilia, including championship rings.”  The coach was further informed that “[name redacted] and other players have taken… signed Ohio State memorabilia to Eddie who has been selling it for profit.”

Tressel’s confidentiality defense is obliterated by the fact that the unnamed attorney had not asked for the information he was revealing to be kept in confidence during the first email.  It wasn’t until the second one sent on April 16 that Tressel was told “What I tell you is confidential.”  That means the head coach had a full two weeks between exchanges to inform his university that potential violations had possibly been committed and avoid violating some informal, trumped-up “confidentiality agreement”.

Instead, Tressel sat on the information.  Throughout April, into summer camp and through the regular season, he squatted on information that he knew at the time could contain potential violations of NCAA bylaws.  Hell, even as he was excitedly telling the world in late December that the players suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season would be returning for their senior years, he was still two weeks away from being forced to admit his cover-up.

Just as damning is the fact that the school acknowledged in its report to the NCAA that Tressel had three opportunities to come clean about having prior knowledge of the potential of impermissible benefits.  In September, Tressel signed the NCAA Certificate of Compliance Form indicating “he has reported any knowledge of possible violations to the institutions.”  There was another opportunity in early December, the school cited, as well as one on Dec. 16 “[w]hen Coach Tressel was asked if he had been contacted about this matter or knew anything about it, he replied that while he had received a tip about general rumors pertaining to certain of his players, that information had not been specific, and it pertained to their off-field choices.”

Of course, the latter was a blatant untruth as the attorney was very specific in his emails as he named both players and the type of memorabilia being sold and/or bartered.  It wasn’t until Jan. 13 that the emails were discovered by the school while working on “an unrelated legal issue” that Tressel was compelled to cop to having knowledge of the situation involving six of his players.

A full nine months after he first obtained said knowledge.

“Quite honestly, I was scared,” Tressel said when asked about his initial reaction to the emails, before launching his paper-thin confidentiality defense.

Certainly Tressel cares about his players, and tries to protect them at all costs.  That’s one of myriad character traits that endears him to players past and present.  However, in this case, and from the outside looking in, it appears he put the powerhouse football program he’s built above all else.  He took it upon himself to be above the law, NCAA or otherwise.

Should Tressel be dismissed for his transgressions?  Probably not, although going by the letter of his contract he very well could, and maybe should.  In that aspect, he’s likely out of the proverbial woods.

This is far from over, though; the NCAA will still have their say, and could very well add to the self-imposed sanctions.

And maybe, just this once, the governing body of collegiate athletics will get it right and hold a head coach to a higher standard than they do their student-athletes.

If not?  Well, we’ll have undeniable proof that, in the aftermath of Ray Isaac, Maurice Clarett, Troy Smith and now this, The Vest is indeed made of Kevlar.

Florida State planning new facility to catch up with Clemson

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Florida State completed a major facility overhaul not even three years ago. But the thing about arms races is that when someone pulls ahead of you it means you are behind.

And Clemson officially pulled ahead earlier this year with the opening of its glistening, slide-equipped new home.

As such, Jimbo Fisher told reporters Friday that Florida State now has plans to construct its own standalone facility, going as far as meeting with an architect.

“We need room. We need meeting space, player development areas. You’ve got to have those areas and also to show off your history. That’s what Florida State is known for, being a great football program,” Fisher told ESPN. “You can never stand still. If you’re not evolving and moving, people are going to bypass you. You’ve got to keep going. The great programs never settle. We’re always looking for that edge. It’s going to help recruiting. It’s going to help player development. We get a lot of guys that are three-and-out, so we’ve got to have space for them to get them developed as quickly as we can so we can get production out of them.”

While saying that it’s a “competitive” race and not an arms race, Fisher also tried to sell that the plans for the ‘Noles’ new home were unrelated to Clemson’s new facility.

“I don’t care what they’ve got,” Fisher said. “I’m worried about what we’ve got. If I don’t think it’s going to make a difference in our program for these kids to develop as people, students and players, I won’t ask. I didn’t grow up with a lot. I was taught if you need it, do what you’ve got to do to be successful but don’t waste. I’m not going to do that. But there’s things you’ve got to have to be successful and that’s the next step, in my opinion.”

Former Michigan TE Jake Butt says college players should be able to cash in on likenesses

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For the record, Jake Butt shouldn’t “be paid” in the strictest sense of the term — to receive a paycheck for services rendered. Rather, the former Michigan tight end believes players should be able to profit from their statuses as college athletes when the NCAA, its conferences and member schools are already doing the same.

(Having an extremely marketable last name probably contributed to the forming of this opinion.)

“Something needs to change,” Butt told ESPN.com at Michigan’s pro day. “I don’t want a check from the NCAA. I don’t know if that’s something that’s likely. But the big thing is they say you can’t use your name to benefit. I can’t go into my favorite breakfast spot, Benny’s, I can’t go in there and get a free breakfast because I’m only getting that because of my name.

“That’s not to say I can’t make friends with the owner because of the person I am. I’m a good guy, a really good guy — sociable guy, made a lot of friends. I can’t accept anything free for that. They said I can’t go down the street, the example one of them gave us is you can’t go to [get] tires and negotiate your price from $600 to $500 because that’s only because of your name. But Joe Schmo can go down the street and he can negotiate his price. It’s kind of ridiculous to me.”

Butt was a victim of the cruelest twist in circumstances possible for a college athlete — a season-ending injury at the end of his final season. A senior, Butt was one of the top tight ends on the draft board before suffering a torn ACL in the Wolverines’ Orange Bowl loss to Florida State. The Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end will be drafted next month, but the damage to his bank account resulting from the injuries is significant. Being able to profit from his own name and image would have served as insurance against the loss of value he suffered due to the injury.

“I should be the example of why college athletes should be getting paid in college or why I can’t use my name to benefit off my likeness in college,” Butt said.

“Why can I see ‘I Like Jake Butt and I Cannot Lie,’ I see those shirts and I’m living paycheck-to-paycheck in college. Who knows? Heaven forbid something happens in the NFL, can I really benefit off of it when it was at the most? No, I can’t.”

Baylor strength coach apparently no longer with the program

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It seems every bit of news related to Baylor football nowadays has to do with the school’s on-going sexual assault scandal but it appears there is one bit of information coming out of the program that doesn’t have something to do with that.

A school spokesperson told ESPN on Friday that football strength coach Kaz Kazadi has been “reassigned to a role outside the athletic performance staff.” A report from the local ESPN Radio affiliate in Waco indicates that the move will eventually have the coach leaving the school altogether.

Kazadi spent nearly a decade with the Bears and played a big role in the team’s on-field turnaround under the former coaching staff. Several former players took to Twitter on Friday to express their shock over the loss of one of the cornerstones of the team in recent years.

After the hire of Matt Rhule this offseason, it isn’t too surprising to see some turnover among those staff members connected to the previous regime. Baylor’s new head coach brought most of his strength staff with him from Temple so it was probably only a matter of time before Kazadi moved on, though the timing of the quasi-announcement (the Bears started spring football last weekend) is somewhat interesting.

Either way, it appears Baylor will have a new direction in the weight room going forward.

Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh has ditched his Dockers for another

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Peanut butter and jelly. Milk and cookies. Batman and Robin. Maize and blue. Jim Harbaugh and khakis.

All are iconic combinations, but it appears the latter is undergoing a few changes right now.

The Michigan head coach’s affinity for a pair of khakis has been so strong over the years that it’s become almost comical how much he likes the style of pant. Heck, he even got a commercial out of it a few years ago when he specifically started getting outfitted with Dockers brand khakis.

Despite being a paid endorser though, it appears that Harbaugh has dropped the famous Levi’s brand version of khakis to attack the day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind in another pair of pants.

Not only is the switch from Dockers to Lululemon result in a lot more comfort for the Wolverines coach, it’s probably a bit more of a hit to the ol’ wallet than dropping by Walmart for a pair of khakis off the shelf. It probably doesn’t make a huge difference for Harbaugh though given that he’s the highest paid coach in the country but it might result in a few more trips to the mall.

Either way, what it does mean is that now we demand a new commercial featuring Harbaugh and khakis. After all, if you’re upping the clothing game, you’ve got to up the ad game as well.