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.

Team that hasn’t been to a bowl game since 1972 close to announcing bowl-affiliation agreement

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It’s always good to be prepared. In the case of UMass football though, they might be a little too prepared in one particular case.

According to MassLive.com, the Minutemen are close to announcing a bowl-affiliation agreement for the program — one of the few FBS independents who do not have a ready-made path to a postseason appearance as things currently stand.

“We’re down the path with some relationships with some bowls that we’re going to be announcing in the next 30-45 days that we feel good about,” AD Ryan Bamford said. “We’re going to have a relationship that’s going to cover us through 2025. That will cover us so if we’re bowl eligible we feel very good about being placed in a bowl if we get to 6-6.

“It will have a number of iterations, a number of variables to it. We feel good about the relationships we’ve been able to build and our ability, when we become a bowl-eligible team for the first time, to have a place to go. That our fans will be able to travel there and support us and that will be a seminal moment for our program.”

Banford later confirmed that ESPN is likely to play a role in the agreement, which likely hints at a conditional spot in one of the 13 or so bowl games they own through a subsidiary.

While such a deal would be nice to have, UMass actually following through and using it remains another matter. The 2019 team is among the worst in the country at 1-10 on the year and the program overall hasn’t made a bowl game since the defunct Boardwalk Bowl pitted the Minutemen against UC Davis in 1972.

In fact, UMass has only finished above .500 once in the past decade and that came before the school transitioned to the FBS level. So while the deal is nice to have, it’s more of one that the program will utilize in theory rather than practice until proven otherwise.

Ahead of first SEC meeting with Georgia, Jimbo Fisher hints at conference scrapping division format

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Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012 but the Aggies are only now, in November of 2019, playing their first game against Georgia — an opponent they won’t see again in the regular season for another five years.

Such is life in a 14 team conference that refuses to move to nine conference games to increase the frequency of cross-division matchups between programs.

Such a lengthy rotation against teams that are not permanent rivals has led to plenty of suggestions on how the SEC could improve their scheduling and it appears that the leadership involved is at least opening the door to the possibility of change. As noted by FootballScoop, Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher hinted that a new format could be on the horizon for the league.

“I know they’re looking at some formats going forward that keep the three main and rotate five and all those things,” Fisher said. “I think it is good for your players, eventually, to play everybody in the conference. I really do believe that…. When you have conferences as big as you have now, that’s kind of the way it goes.”

The philosophy behind the schedule is sure to be a talking point at spring meetings in Destin, Fla. next year and from the sounds of what Fisher is saying, it’s possible a “PODS” setup is in the running for schools where they would play three opponents every year and rotate among the others as part of the remaining five conference games.

Such a setup would eliminate the imbalance there sometimes is between the SEC West and SEC East and could go a long ways at preventing players (and fans) from going a decade-plus between visits to certain campuses.

Of course the easiest solution is just to go to nine conference games like the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 but nobody has been more resistant to such a move than the SEC in the recent past. We’ll see what ultimately ends up happening but hopefully for fans who want to make more regular trips to places like Athens and College Station, the cha-cha-changes come sooner rather than later.

FIU unveils new ‘Miami Lights’ helmet for local showdown against the ‘Canes

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Miami is taking a break from ACC play this weekend to host local rival FIU in a series that has probably been most notable for the two program’s on-field skirmish back in 2006.

The Panthers, however, may soon be known for something else far more positive by announcing a new look for Saturday’s game, unveiling a stunning city-themed ‘Miami Lights’ helmet that they’ll sport against the Hurricanes:

That is jaw-droppingly good FIU. Now we just need head coach Butch Davis to dress up against his old team with a white sport coat a la Sonny Crockett to really complete the look.

The ‘Canes are going with their standard issue look either for the contest as they announced they’ll be switching out the usual all-white setup and using gray facemasks against the Panthers. The move is a nod to the teams of the past that sported the look at the old Orange Bowl, the program’s former home in the city which is now the baseball venue known as Marlins Park, where Saturday’s game will be played.

Kudos to both sides for mixing it up with a bit of old and new for what should be a unique setup in Little Havana.

Report says Auburn has not discussed moving on from perpetual hot seat coach Gus Malzahn

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Owing to his position as Auburn head coach, Gus Malzahn is a perpetual member of the college football hot seat club.

Despite the fan base’s occasional frustrations with the way this season has transpired however, Tigers brass does not appear to be set on making an expensive move away from the embattled coaching staff.

Per AL.com, a source told the site that “that Auburn has not had any internal discussions about making a head coaching change.”

“We’ve had one of the toughest schedules in the country,” AD Allen Greene said Friday. “We’ve been competitive in every one of those games. Our focus right now is on Samford, on Alabama and the Iron Bowl, and recruiting. Our whole focus right now is finishing out the season on a strong note and then focusing on reloading for next year.”

Now it’s worth noting that Malzahn could very well wind up not being the coach at AU in 2020 if he chooses to leave, having been linked quite a bit the past few years with the now open gig in his home state at Arkansas. While he would owe a hefty seven-figure buyout to the school if he wanted to do so, that’s nothing compared to the cost that the Tigers would need to raise if they wanted a change.

That amount, roughly $27 million, makes Florida State’s expensive golden parachute for Willie Taggart look tame by comparison.

Malzahn is 60-30 overall at the school and 32-23 in SEC play over seven seasons, including an SEC title in 2013 and a national title with the program while serving as an offensive coordinator in 2011.