Gee: ‘flurry of activity… a lot of additional facts’ led to Tressel’s resignation

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During a March 8th press conference acknowledging that Jim Tressel had committed major NCAA violations, Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee uttered his embarrassing “I just hope he doesn’t dismiss me!” blast in reference to his then-head football coach.

On May 30, Tressel resigned, reportedly under pressure from the powers-that-be at the university.  So, what exactly transpired during those 83 days that caused one of the most respected head coaches to — perhaps forcibly — step down in disgrace?

In arguably his most extensive and in-depth comments since Tressel’s resignation, Gee spoke to reporters, as Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes,  in a hallway at the Ohio Statehouse after testifying before a committee regarding a constitutional commission bill.

“We had the facts as we had them in our first news conference,” Gee said. “Those were arrived at very shortly after I had gotten back from China. We’d done the things we had to do and I got off an airplane and was immediately confronted with the issue.

“But the decision made at the time was based on what we knew, number one, and number two, was based upon what was an incredible body of work as the football coach and as a university citizen.

“We have a process at the university in which we do not immediately make decisions. We try to be deliberate and that was the process. Two months later, I think there were a lot of additional facts, and I think there was also the reality that we were facing serious issues. And the coach realized that and made what I think is the best decision on behalf of the university, which was to resign.”

Gee went on to add that “there was an accumulation of issues which were very troubling to the university.”  Oh boy, were there ever.  In the time between the initial March press conference and Tressel’s late May resignation, the following “accumulation of issues” and additional public black eyes for the program transpired to create an untenable situation for both the coach and the school:

— March 11: It was revealed by attorney Chris Cicero, the former OSU football player who first contacted Tressel in April of 2010 via email regarding potential NCAA violations committed by current players, revealed that Terrelle Pryor and DeVier Posey were the two players he knew of that had potentially received impermissible benefits.

— March 25: A report surfaced that Tressel forwarded the emails he had received from Cicero to Jeanette, Pa., businessman Ted Sarniak.  Sarniak has been Pryor’s mentor for the past several years and served as the point man in the quarterback’s recruitment.  The Columbus Dispatch wrote at the time that Tressel “shared the information with someone he thought could help his star quarterback even though he said he didn’t tell his bosses.”

— Late March/early April: Former OSU provost and current Oregon State president/NCAA Executive Committee chairman Ed Ray verbally hammered Tressel on at least two different occasions, saying that “it’s a good thing I’m not on the Infractions Committee” because he considers himself to be “a hanging judge“.

— April 18: OSU graduate and golfing legend Jack Nicklaus, in an attempt to defend Tressel, ripped into the school’s administration.

“I’ll promise you that Tressel wasn’t the only one who knew what happened, I’m going to bet you the university, I’m going to bet you (president E. Gordon) Gee and I’m going to bet you (athletics director) Gene (Smith) and everybody else knew, and Tressel probably took the hit for it. Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong, I don’t know. …

“I can’t imagine the rest of the university didn’t know what was going on. Jim, who is a terrific guy, maybe he decided to take it on his own shoulders. I don’t know. That could well be. I’m not privy to that. I just like him a lot.”

— April 25: Ohio State receives its official notice of allegations from the NCAA, which stated in part that “Jim Tressel, head football coach, failed to deport himself in accordance with the honesty and integrity normally associated with the conduct and administration of intercollegiate athletics and violated ethical-conduct legislation.”

— April 26: Former Ohio State players Kirk Herbstreit, Robert Smith and Chris Spielman — all part of the ESPN broadcasting umbrella — refused to bite their tongues when it came to their alma mater or its then-coach.

— May 7: Prompted by a Columbus Dispatch investigation that began in 2007, OSU’s associate athletic director and head of compliance told the paper that the school will take a look into the sale of at least 50 used vehicles to student-athletes — mainly football players — and their relatives.

–May 26: Former OSU wide receiver Ray Small said in an interview with the school’s student newspaper that he, along with several other unnamed football players, sold OSU memorabilia such as Big Ten title rings as well as receiving special deals on the purchase of vehicles due to their status as athletes at the school.

— May 30: On the same day that Tressel resigned, it was reported that both the NCAA and Ohio State were already in the midst of conducting independent investigations into cars driven by Pryor over the past few years.

— May 30: On the same day Tressel resigned, Sports Illustrated released an explosive and damning expose’ into Tressel’s time at both Ohio State and Youngstown State, although the article itself has come under fire on several fronts since it was published.  The school was made aware of the content of the article on the Friday before Tressel resigned, leading some to speculate that the accusations contained in the piece played at least a minor role in the timing of the resignation.

So, yeah, Gee was correct; there was “an accumulation of issues which were very troubling to the university.”  But, we can even admit that, even as we feel he’s an insufferable buffoon when it comes to football, Gee made an excellent point about the university as a whole.

“This is a national black eye, there’s no doubt about it,” Gee said. “The university itself has not been damaged. Our fundraising is up, our student applications are up, but now we need to make our case on the national stage that it’s a great university and when we stumble we take appropriate action to make sure we correct (those issues).

“But just remember, our university is doing very well. I live in the world of the university, which is a magnificent university doing very well. And I live in the world of football, in which we have problems we are addressing.”

Certainly the situation swirling around the football program doesn’t help the university’s image on a certain level, but it can do nothing to change the fact that it’s a hell of an academic and research institution.  Some things are indeed more important than football, and what the majority of the students are in Columbus for is just that.

Regardless of how many black eyes the football program accumulates.

Iowa State starting offensive lineman busted for being in bar while underage

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Somebody needs a new fake ID.

Iowa State offensive lineman Sean Foster spent some time in jail overnight after being arrested for being in a bar while underage and interfering with an official. He was charged with two counts; one for “minors prohibited on certain premises” and another for “interference with official acts,” according to an Ames Tribune report. Foster was released from jail with $600 in total bonds for his two charges.

A redshirt sophomore right tackle, Foster started six games for the Cyclones in 2017, including the final four games of the season that concluded with the Liberty Bowl against Memphis. He remains in line for the starting job at right tackle again in 2018, beginning with a chance to start the spring as the expected starter. This particular incident may not affect that outlook all that much in the grand scheme of things, so long as Foster stays out of additional trouble and there isn’t more to the story behind the scenes.

According to the Ames Tribune, Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell was not expected to release any comment or statement about the incident. Foster’s status with the Iowa State program is unchanged until given further notice, although some form of internal discipline for an act like this is likely to occur in some capacity at some point in time.

Jim McElwain reportedly signs deal to join Michigan coaching staff

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The Jim McElwain watch in Ann Arbor is essentially done. ESPN reports the former head coach of the Florida Gators has signed a deal to join Jim Harbaugh as a new member of the Michigan coaching staff. Michigan has not formally announced the new addition yet, but McElwain told ESPN he is getting to work right away as a wide receivers coach.

I’m excited to get back into it and am looking forward to going there and learning and helping Michigan get better,” McElwain said to ESPN‘s Chris Low, who reported the latest update in the ongoing McElwain-To-Michigan story. It has been quite a year for McElwain, who has now gone from wanting to “beat the heck out of Michigan” to joining Harbaugh as an offensive assistant (Harbaugh was 2-0 against McElwain in head-to-head meetings between Michigan and Florida).

McElwain was fired by Florida last October in the midst of a disappointing season after discrepancies in McElwain’s claims about receiving death threats could not be backed up by the coach. Florida bought out McElwain’s contract at a reported $7.5 million.

Michigan had been looking to fill the role of receivers coach following the abrupt departure of Dan Enos to Alabama. Enos joined the Michigan coaching staff for a cup of coffee, getting hired in January after the Arkansas coaching staff was given an overhaul with the firing of Bret Bielema only to leave for a job with Nick Saban. McElwain, of course, is one of many coaches to jump into head coaching off the Saban coaching tree in recent years, first with Colorado State and most recently with Florida.

Previous reports have floated the idea McElwain will call plays for the Wolverines, but that remains unconfirmed.

Drag racing accident leads to arrest for Mississippi State commit

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Mississippi State commit Nathaniel Watson has gotten himself into some legal trouble before his arrival at Mississippi State. Watson, currently a high school senior, was charged with assault first degree and a handful of traffic violations following a traffic accident earlier this month. Another student from Watson’s high school was arrested for reckless endangerment and other traffic violations as well. The two are accused of drag racing.

“The accident occurred after Tyrone Davis, also a student at [Maplesville High School], lined up in front of the school with his vehicle along with Nathaniel Watson’s vehicle for a race, witnesses stated that they lined up side by side and floored it, and both vehicles were squalling their tires and fishtailing up the highway heading into town,” according to an Maplesville Police Department press release (via The Clanton Advertiser). “As the racing vehicles topped a hill, an oncoming car caused Nathaniel Watson Jr. to swerve and lose control striking a power pole, cutting it in half and knocking power out to portions of Maplesville.”

A passenger in Watson’s vehicle suffered a crushed femur, fractured pelvis, a broken right arm and internal injuries. Neither vehicle involved in the accident was insured. Watson currently awaits a date in court in a county court. There has been no update or comment from Mississippi State’s football program or head coach Joe Moorehead about Watson or his status with the football program at this time.

Watson signed with Mississippi State on February 7. The wide receiver and two-sport athlete signed with Mississippi State over Auburn.

NCAA rule prevents Penn State football players from participating in THON activity

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This weekend is the annual THON dance marathon at Penn State, which has traditionally done wonders in racking up donations to help fight pediatric cancer. This year, however, the NCAA rulebook is getting in the way of one of the events members of Penn State’s football team typically participate in.

A message from Penn State informed media members there would be no media availability for football players at the THON event at the Lasch Building due to an NCAA rule regarding time restrictions in the offseason.

“We were informed this afternoon that due to the NCAA Time Management regulations, our current student-athletes are not permitted to participate in the THON event at the Lasch Building nor conduct media interviews [today] as it is a mandatory day off for the team,” a statement from Penn State Associate Director of Athletic Communications Kris Petersen said.

Members of Penn State’s football team have typically spent part of the day interacting with kids benefitting from THON’s mission, but that has tended to overlap with offseason days already scheduled through the athletics department for the football program. Because this was a scheduled day off for the football program, players are not permitted to take part in any organized activity while representing the football team. Although, one wonders just how far the NCAA would have been willing to challenge Penn State on this infraction in the event there was a conflict.

Players on the team can still participate and appear at the main event in the Bryce Jordan Center, and a couple already have along with head coach James Franklin.