Tressel ‘encouraged’ to resign ‘for good of the program’

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The fallout from Jim Tressel‘s stunning resignation, which came nearly two weeks after getting a vote of confidence from his boss, continues this morning with word that his decision to step down as head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes — surprise! — may not have been a completely voluntary one.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, which broke the story on Tressel’s resignation, the now-former head coach was “encouraged” to resign by unnamed individuals.  It’s unclear precisely who those individuals were, but the talk of Tressel stepping down for the good of the program had reportedly commenced several weeks ago.

The Dispatch further writes that “mounting pressure, a pending NCAA disciplinary hearing and new revelations about the culture of the program forced the university to act on their once-revered coach, sources said.”

The new revelations the paper spoke of could include myriad issues, including the school’s probe — prompted by a Dispatch inquiry — into vehicles purchased by members of the football program and their family from a pair of Columbus dealerships.  Additionally, a feature by Sports Illustrated senior writer/pit bull George Dohrmann has been in the works for weeks and is said to be very damning and damaging to the OSU football program in general and Tressel specifically.  While it’s unclear what new details, if any, Dorhmann unearthed, OSU officials were reportedly given a sneak peek into the piece late last week.

“I’m told it is likely my SI mag story will be posted at SI.com later today/tonight. Timing of Tress dec. will make sense after you read it,” Dorhmann wrote on his Twitter account shortly after news of Tressel’s resignation broke.  Dohrmann went on to write that a statement by OSU officials that the “Board and President Gee consider this matter unrelated to the media” is “bs“.

As for the future of an Ohio State football program rocked by the scandal that eventually brought down one of the most successful head coaches of the past decade?  For the time being, you can forget about Urban Meyer riding in on his white horse and saving his home state’s flagship institution, even as ESPN‘s Kirk Herbsteit stated this morning that “[t]he reality is his (Urban Meyer) dream job has always been and will continue to be the head coach at Ohio State.”

In an email sent to students announcing Tressel’s resignation, OSU president/serial buffoon E. Gordon Gee wrote that “recruitment for a new head coach – which is expected to include external and internal candidates – will not commence until the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season.”  So, at least for the 2011 season, Luke Fickell, who it had previously been announced would serve as interim head coach while Tressel served his five-game suspension, will be in charge of the Buckeyes.

Athletic director Gene Smith, who also attended the meeting, declined to comment but said in a release that he is looking “forward to refocusing the football program on doing what we do best – representing this extraordinary University and its values on the field, in the classroom, and in life. We look forward to supporting Luke Fickell in his role as our football coach. We have full confidence in his ability to lead our football program.”

After that, however, the speculation centering on Meyer taking over the program will commence in earnest.

Regardless of whether it’s Meyer or Fickell or whomever, that individual could very well be stepping into an on-field mess spawned by off-field issues.  The university is scheduled to appear in front of the NCAA in August to answer for the cover-up/lies/dishonesty that led to Tressel announcing to his players Monday morning that he was stepping down.  Tressel became aware in April 2010 that at least two of his players — quarterback Terrelle Pryor, wide receiver DeVier Posey — had likely received impermissible benefits but sat on the information — in one instance lying to the NCAA on a compliance form — until confronted with damning emails this past January.

Whether Tressel’s resignation, forced or not, will have an impact on whatever sanctions the NCAA levies on the football program remains to be seen.  It became clear, however, to many involved, including the coach, that the trigger had to be pulled.

“After meeting with University officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach,” Tressel said in a statement. “The appreciation that Ellen and I have for the Buckeye Nation is immeasurable.”

Tressel leaves Ohio State with a 106-22 record, seven outright or shared Big Ten titles — including six straight — and one national championship.  Unfortunately, given the circumstances surrounding his resignation, the on-field greatness will not be his legacy.

Rutgers avoids scholarship reductions, other harsh sanctions as NCAA issues ruling

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The Rutgers football program can officially breathe a huge sigh of relief.

As the culmination of a two-year investigation into the football program, the NCAA on Friday announced its final ruling on a case involving Rutgers.  Despite a failure to monitor charge, the NCAA essentially accepted the sanctions the university had previously self-imposed on itself for violations ranging from academic improprieties to drug-testing irregularities to lack of oversight in the recruiting ambassador program.

Below are the original penalties self-imposed by the program:

  • a 1-year probation period
  • a $5,000 fine
  • a reduction of 10 off-campus recruiting days (five in the fall of 2017-18 and five in the spring)
  • a limit of 36 official visits hosted, 26 lower than the limit
  • a 1-week ban on initiating phone calls, contact on social media and written correspondence to recruits

The only change made by the NCAA was bumping the probation period from one year to two.  Additionally, former head coach Kyle Flood, now an assistant with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, received a one-year show-cause.

The NCAA had particularly pointed words for Flood.

“The former head coach took a casual approach to compliance as it relates to the host program,” the panel said in its decision. “He exercised little, if any, oversight of the group, permitting recruiting staff to administer the program with no supervision. As the individual who had ultimate oversight of all aspects of the football program, it is implicit that the head coach was also responsible for the actions of football hosts and, ultimately, the violations they committed.”

In September of 2015, Flood was suspended for three games in the wake of a university investigation into his alleged actions.  The probe centered on an email that Flood sent from a private email account to an RU faculty member regarding the eligibility of one of his former football players.

That situation was highlighted in the committee’s decision:

In the last instance of not following university policy, the former head coach contacted a student-athlete’s instructor, contrary to university policy, to arrange for extra coursework after the conclusion of the term so the student-athlete could pass the class and be eligible for the fall 2015 season. After contacting the instructor and before meeting with her, the former head coach reached out to an academic support administrator, who warned against contacting the instructor. The former head coach stated he was unaware of university policy prohibiting him from contacting faculty members.

The former head coach provided the student-athlete with an impermissible academic extra benefit when he contacted the instructor to arrange extra coursework, an arrangement that is not available generally to the student body. The instructor ultimately did not accept the extra coursework, and the student-athlete was ineligible for the fall 2015 season.

The NCAA kicked off its probe of the football program in the spring of 2015, prior to Flood’s suspension.  The head coach, along with athletic director Julie Hermannwas dismissed in late November of 2015.

Ex-A&M AD: ‘I had nothing to do with’ Kevin Sumlin’s massive contract extension

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If you’re a fan of honesty — or at least one man’s version of what he honestly thinks is reality — this one’s in your wheelhouse.

In 2012, the first season for both Kevin Sumlin in College Station and Texas A&M in the SEC, the Aggies went 11-2 overall and 6-2 in conference play, largely behind the play of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. In February of 2013, and after Sumlin had been mentioned in connection to a couple of NFL jobs, a six-year, $30 million contract extension was approved by the university.

Since that reworked contract and the hundreds of millions of dollars poured into the football program? A&M has gone a middling 35-20 and, more importantly, just 15-17 in conference play. More to the point, the Aggies have finished fourth, sixth, fifth and fourth the past four seasons in the even-more hyper-competitive SEC West. An even finer point? They are 9-15 against divisional foes in that same span.

Following the historic season-opening collapse to UCLA in the 2017 opener, one A&M regent — part of the same body that approved the extension — very publicly called for the immediate firing of Sumlin, who was still the seventh-highest-paid head coach in college football in 2016. That came on the heels of Sumlin’s boss, athletic director Scott Woodward, very publicly putting his head football coach on the hot seat this offseason by stating that Sumlin “knows he has to win and he has to win this year.”

This week, Woodward’s predecessor, Eric Hyman, washed his hands of the contract that’s seemingly saddling the university, telling Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that, in essence, he had absolutely nothing to do with the contract extension. At all. That those above his paygrade gave him his marching orders when it came to the new deal.

From Engel’s piece:

Was That Contract Hyman’s decision?

“No. I had nothing to do with it,” Hyman told me in an interview on Wednesday morning at a Starbucks near his home in Fort Worth.

“I have done this job a long time and I don’t blame Kevin Sumlin. If someone is going to give you $5 million a year for six years, it would have been stupid of him to turn it down,” Hyman said. “But the contract was given to me, and it was ‘This is what we are going to do.’ I looked at myself and I was stunned.

“I had no say so over it. I’ve been doing this job for a long time. I had worked with Steve Spurrier for years, and he was paid a heck of a lot less than Coach Sumlin. And he won national championships after conference championships. And then you are making this commitment to a person, and again I don’t blame Kevin, that’s never won a conference championship.

“When the original contract was given to me, if Kevin were to leave the next day there was no buyout provision.

There’s literally no gray area there. If Hyman’s version of events is correct, and A&M is forced to oust Sumlin at some point in the next couple of months, any financial ramifications the university faces can be placed squarely at the feet of those who forced the contract on Hyman.

As for those financial ramifications? It would reportedly cost A&M in excess of $11 million to get rid of Sumlin.

About-face: Derrius Guice will play vs. Syracuse after all

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Never mind, I guess.

Wednesday night, Ed Orgeron flatly stated on his radio show that Derrius Guicewill not play this week” against Syracuse because of a left knee injury sustained in Saturday’s embarrassing loss to Mississippi State. Thursday, there was a complete 180-degree reversal.

“We got some good news today, at the beginning of the week, Derrius was ruled out, up to yesterday he wouldn’t be able to play,” Orgeron said according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “He came to us today and said ‘Coach, I’m feeling better, I want to practice.’ He practiced pretty good today so he’s going to get some snaps. He will play.”

OK then.

Through three games, Guice leads the Tigers with 300 yards rushing and is tied for tops on the team with four rushing touchdowns. His rushing yards are currently fourth in the SEC; last season, his 1,387 yards were tops in the conference.

Pitt FB/TD machine George Aston set to return vs. Georgia Tech

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One of the most efficient touchdown producers in college football in 2016 that you were probably completely unaware of appears ready to make his 2017 debut.

A vague lower-extremity injury knocked George Aston out of most of not only summer camp but also Pittsburgh’s first three regular-season games as well. With Georgia Tech on the horizon in Week 4, the fullback is listed as probable on the team’s official injury report released Thursday.

For a team that has scored just four offensive touchdowns in two games against FBS competition, Aston’s potential return could serve as somewhat of a boon for that side of the ball.

Last season, Aston totaled 75 yards on 22 carries as well as 169 yards on 22 receptions. In those 44 touches, Aston totaled 10 touchdowns — five on the ground, five through the air.

Saturday’s game will serve as the ACC opener for both Pitt and Tech.