Tressel’s punishment far from fitting the violation

55 Comments

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.

Illinois adds UCF grad transfer QB Pete DiNovo

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Illinois has an immediate addition to its quarterback room.  Or its wide receivers room, depending on how things play out.

Pete DiNovo confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times Monday that he has decided to transfer to the Illini.  The acknowledgment comes a month after DiNovo decided to transfer from Central Florida.

As a graduate transfer, DiNovo would be eligible to play immediately this season.  Per the player, a former high school teammate and former high school coach currently at Illinois played a role in his decision.

“I couldn’t be happier with the way everything turned out,” DiNovo told the Times. “I can come up here and learn from Lovie (Smith) and everyone else on the coaching staff.”

DiNovo began his Knights career as a quarterback — he replaced Blake Bortles as UCF’s starter before being quickly replaced himself — before being moved to wide receiver before being moved back under center this offseason.  How the Illini will use DiNovo, who has an eye on a career in coaching after his playing days are over, remains to be seen.

UTEP stays in-house to replace fired OC Brent Pease

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Not surprisingly, UTEP will stay in-house following its in-season dismissal of one of its coordinators.

The Miners confirmed Sunday that offensive coordinator Brent Pease had been fired.  A day later, the football program announced that Brian Natkin has been given the keys to the offense by Sean Kugler and will call the plays moving forward.

Natkin began the season as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach.  He was an All-American tight end at UTEP a decade-and-a-half ago and became a full-time assistant at his alma mater in 2011.

Through three games, UTEP ranks second-to-last nationally in total offense at 204.7 yards per game and in yards per play (3.89). The Miners are also 125th (out of 130 teams) in scoring at 13 points per game.

The promotion of Natkin also means there will be some additional adjustments to Kugler’s staff.  Wide receivers coach Chuck Veliz will take over Pease’s other role as quarterbacks coach, while safeties coach Don Yanowsky assume Natkin’s duties as special teams coordinator.

Natkin will continue in his role as tight ends coach.

Oregon State QB Jake Luton discharged from hospital after leaving Wazzu game on a stretcher

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton was taken away on a stretcher after a tackle left him motionless on the Reser Stadium turf on Saturday.

Family members were called to the field, where medical professionals stabilized an apparently unconscious Luton and removed his face mask. The game continued, of course, as Oregon State lost to Washington State 52-23 despite Luton’s 179 passing yards and 22 rushing yards.

Luton tweeted on Saturday night that he’ll “be back.”

Luton has since been discharged from the hospital, according to The Oregonian, though his father posted a message stating Luton was probably dealing with a “thoracic spine fracture.”

Oregon State is off Saturday before hosting Washington on Sept. 30.

Tennessee LB Cortez McDowell, WR Jauan Jennings to miss the rest of the season

Getty Images
Leave a comment

A pair of wrist injuries will cost two Tennessee players the rest of their respective seasons.

Wide receiver Juaun Jennings and linebacker Cortez McDowell will miss the rest of the season, head coach Butch Jones announced Monday.

Jennings left Tennessee’s Labor Day victory over Georgia Tech in the second quarter after absorbing as he collected a catch over the middle, his third of the game. Jennings did not return to the game and will not for the rest of the season, forcing the 2-1 Volunteers to move forward without their top returning pass-catcher.

Additionally, McDowell was lost during the Vols loss to Florida on Saturday.

The McDowell injury is particularly brutal for Tennessee because it leaves Big Orange without all three of its protected starters at linebacker. Middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland, Jr., has already undergone season-ending surgery, and strongside linebacker Austin Smith injured his knee during the final week of fall camp.

On top of that, safety Todd Kelly, Jr., did not make the trip to Gainesville and could be lost for the season. Kick returner Evan Berry did not play against Florida either.

Oh, and Tennessee lost to Florida on a Hail Mary after having a first-and-goal inside the final minute.

Other than that, though, everything’s going great in Knoxville.