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.

Pair of Alabama defenders undergo surgery after Tide’s spring game

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Alabama’s spring game wrapped up on Saturday and with it, the last of the Crimson Tide’s spring practices. While that means the coaching staff is free to fly across the country to visit recruits during the evaluation period, it also results in several players going under the knife to correct injuries in order to be back by fall camp.

Two of those players are starting cornerback Anthony Averett and (likely starting) linebacker Christian Miller, both of whom underwent sports hernia surgery this week according to AL.com.

The report states that Averett played with the hernia most of last season while the Tide marched their way to the national title game. Miller was one of the stars of the show on Saturday during Alabama’s spring game, recording two sacks while dealing with the injury.

Both are expected to be fully healthy for camp in August as Nick Saban and company vie for yet another conference title and berth in the College Football Playoff.

SEC commissioner hints at review of rules regarding alcohol sales in football stadiums

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The prohibition of alcohol at football stadiums has undergone one interesting about-face in college athletics the past 15 years or so. While various suite levels at stadiums across the country have generally had access to a few adult beverages, there’s been some very large programs that have opened up the taps in the general seating areas the last few years.

From West Virginia to Texas to Ohio State, more and more programs are selling beer and/or liquor across the board and raking in hundreds of thousands (if not millions) in added revenue while doing so. One conference that isn’t jumping in on that trend however has been the SEC, which has numerous restrictions on where those types of beverages can be sold. That may be about to change in the near future however according to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.

“At some point, I’m relatively certain, there will be further review of the prohibition,” said Sankey on Monday, per The Tuscaloosa News. “That doesn’t predict any outcome.”

While you may think that the league is close to opening the floodgates on alcohol being served at stadiums across the conference, you probably shouldn’t jump to any conclusions on the matter as Sankey seemed to hold his ground and stand firm on keeping things as is right now.

“The conference has a policy that says that we’re not selling alcohol in the general seating area,” he added. “Now, you can agree or disagree with that policy, but that’s the policy. The basis for changing that or maintaining it is one that’s developed in the conversation.

“I think we were at like 98 percent ticket sales in football… So is that one-percent margin a trade that we’re going to make?”

It’s no secret that of-age fans can easily find a few beverages at SEC tailgates prior to games nowadays but it seems momentum is slowing building in the conference to allow fans to buy some during a game. It might not happen anytime in the very near future but the conversation is certainly going to keep popping up each year with many more schools across the country jumping in on this trend.

QB Malik Zaire reportedly sets timetable for transfer decision while adding Harvard to the mix

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While we don’t yet know where former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire is transferring to, we might have an idea of when he plans on making a move this offseason.

Per Orangebloods.com’s Anwar Richardson, the signal-caller has zeroed in on the end of May for an announcement on his new school in a timetable that coincides with the Irish’s graduation ceremonies. Perhaps just as interesting is the fact that there may also be a new school in the mix and it’s known for being a powerhouse of a different kind away from the gridiron.

“In addition, I was told a new school is in the mix. Zaire is still considering Texas, Wisconsin and Florida, and the grad transfer quarterback has added Harvard to his short list. It remains unclear how serious Zaire is about playing Ivy League football. If he does go that route, Harvard would be his landing spot.”

The Ivy League power is an interesting new destination for Zaire and could be a pretty good backup option given what’s going on at his other finalists.

While Texas and Wisconsin are both on his shortlist, both the Longhorns and Badgers return their starting quarterbacks from last season in Shane Buechele and Alex Hornibrook. Richardson reports that Zaire wants to start in 2017 and not hold a clipboard but he is still keeping his options opens when it comes to the thin depth charts at the position in both Austin and Madison.

Complicating things is Florida, which should be a prime landing spot for Zaire were it not for an SEC rule passed last year that is preventing him from transferring him there this offseason. The league is set to talk about changes to that rule at their spring meetings in Destin, Fla. but it remains unclear if the QB will wait and see before making a decision (and it’s entirely possible the SEC keeps things as they are).

Either way, the former Irish starter does not appear to be lacking options when it comes to the graduate transfer market.

Tennessee hires College Football Playoff CFO for administrative role

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Tennessee might not be a favorite to make the College Football Playoff in 2017 but the school is doing their best to bring a little bit of the sport’s postseason to Knoxville.

Athletic director John Currie announced on Tuesday that the Vols would be hiring the College Football Playoff’s Chief Financial Officer Reid Sigmon as Tennessee’s new Executive Associate Athletics Director and Chief Operating Officer. The hire isn’t too surprising considering the two worked together for several years at Kansas State in very similar roles.

“It is with great enthusiasm that I welcome Reid Sigmon to the Tennessee Athletics family,” Currie said in a statement. “He has earned national credibility as part of a visionary leadership group creating the College Football Playoff organization for the last four years, and his tremendous integrity and understanding of college athletics make him a perfect addition to our Tennessee leadership team.”

Sigmon served in a variety of roles in college athletics as well as the NFL before eventually landing with the College Football Playoff. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that he starts at Tennessee on May 15 with a salary of $285,000 per year.