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.

Brandon Wimbush exits spring as Notre Dame’s starting QB

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Brandon Wimbush entered the 2017 season as Notre Dame’s starter, but ceded control of the job over what can fairly be described as a rough junior season. He connected on just 49.5 percent of his throws for 6.8 yards per attempt on the year — numbers that ranked 92nd and 79th nationally, respectively — and was even worse down the stretch. He hit just 14-of-36 throws for for 298 yards with two touchdowns and two picks over the Irish’s final two games, a loss to Stanford and a Citrus Bowl win over LSU.

Enter Ian Book, a redshirt freshman who carried the Irish to that Citrus Bowl win, connecting on 14-of-19 throws for 164 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Heading into the spring, the quarterback job was open between the rising senior and the rising sophomore. But, spurred by a strong spring game, Wimbush heads into the summer as the starter. Wimbush was the game MVP after connecting on 19-of-33 passes for 341 yards with two touchdowns to lead the offense to a 47-44 win over the defense.

Afterward, Brian Kelly said Wimbush wasn’t guaranteed to take the first snap in the Irish’s opener against Michigan, but that things were indeed trending in that direction.

“It’s pretty clear that Brandon went out and got a chance to go with the first group and Ian played with the second group,” Kelly said Saturday. “That’s not etched in stone, but that’s the way they’ve been trending. I don’t think there was anything today that changed that… It’s 1A and 1B.”

Hot mic appears to catch Nick Saban criticizing Jalen Hurts

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There’s nothing newsworthy about a coach criticizing a player. That’s a large part of the job description, especially when that coach is Nick Saban. But to hear Saban criticize this specific player for this specific reason, well, the context of the situation screams newsworthiness.

During Alabama’s spring game on Saturday, ESPN microphones caught Saban apparently criticizing the throwing ability of Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts as the junior took off on a scramble. “Two years,” Saban says. “I mean, the third-team quarterback can move  the team right down the field throwing the ball.”

That comment comes amid two noteworthy developments in the Tide’s quarterback room. First, Hurts had an opportunity to take the bull by the horns on Saturday with Tua Tagovailoa nursing an injured left hand, but redshirt freshman quarterback Mac Jones was named the game’s MVP. (For what it’s worth, Jones went against the second-team defense while Hurts faced the starters.)

And second, Hurts’s father in no uncertain terms said this week that his son will transfer if he’s not the starter this fall.

Coach Saban’s job is to do what’s best for his team. I have no problem with that,” Averion Hurts said. “My job is to do what’s best for Jalen—and make no mistake, Jalen is a quarterback, and he wants to play quarterback. He loves Alabama, loves Coach Saban and everything about that place. But he wants to play, and he will play…”

Averion stops mid-sentence because the idea of his son not playing for Alabama isn’t one he takes lightly. What if Jalen doesn’t win the job, he is asked?

He shakes his head slowly, answers begrudgingly. “Well, he’d be the biggest free agent in college football history.”

For what it’s worth, Saban praised Hurts while also criticizing his performance in Saturday’s spring game:

“I was not disappointed in the way Jalen played,” Saban said in his post-game press conference. “We have some guys that can rush, and even though we were rushing four guys most of the time, there was way too much pressure in the pocket for the quarterback to be able to operate like we would like. Jalen made some good plays and throws, and I’m sure if you were to talk to him he would say, ‘I wish there were things I did better and can improve on.’”

Colorado State adds Rice grad transfer V.J. Banks

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Rice’s loss has turned into a fellow Group of Five football program’s gain.

Saturday, Colorado State announced that V.J. Banks has transferred to the university and will play for Mike Bobo‘s Rams. As the cornerback will be coming to Fort Collins as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2018. The upcoming season will serve as Banks’ final year of eligibility.

Banks had announced on Twitter in late January that he had decided to transfer from the Owls.

Banks started 22 of the 36 games in which he played for the Owls, including 11 starts in 2016 and nine in 2015. The defensive back started the first two games of the 2017 season before an unspecified leg injury sidelined him for the remainder of the year.

For the Rice portion of his collegiate playing career, Banks totaled 75 tackles (one for loss), seven passes defensed, two interceptions and a forced fumble. He also returned seven punts for 30 yards (4.3 yards per return).

NC State board approves new deal for Dave Doeren

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In late November, after rejecting overtures from Tennessee in order to remain at North Carolina State, Dave Doeren agreed to a new contract with the university, pending the board rubber-stamping the agreement. This past week, that rubber met the stamp.

NC State confirmed that, on Thursday, the system’s Board of Trustees formally approved the new five-year deal for Doeren. The head coach’s new contract will now keep him with the Wolfpack through Dec. 31, 2022.

“We are on an exciting upward trajectory in football under the leadership of Coach Doeren,” said NC State athletic director Debbie Yow said in a statement. “He has assembled a terrifically talented coaching staff, as well, and that continuity and stability has been important to our current student-athletes and recruits.

“We are pleased that Dave will continue to lead NC State football, playing in one of the most challenging divisions in college football, the Atlantic Division of the ACC.”

In five seasons with the Wolfpack, the 46-year-old Doeren has compiled a 34-30 record, including a 15-25 mark in ACC play. The 2017 season was his best of the five, with a 9-4 overall mark that saw NC State finish in second place in the Atlantic after divisional finishes of seventh, fifth, fourth and tied-fourth the first four.

Under Doeren, the Wolfpack has played in a bowl game each of the last four seasons, posting a 3-1 mark in the postseason.