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.

Family of the first Black football player in University of Texas history suing the NCAA

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A racial pioneer in the Texas football program is back in the news.

As we have noted previously, dozens of Texas student-athletes, including football players, are demanding change at the university.  One of those demands is naming a part of Royal-Memorial Stadium in honor of Julius Whittier, the first-ever Black player in University of Texas football history.

Coincidentally or not, the family of Whittier this week filed a lawsuit against NCAA.  In the suit, which is seeking damages in excess of a million dollars, the Whittier family is accusing the NCAA of negligence and wrongful death in connection to the pioneer’s passing in September of 2018.  Whittier had been battling Alzheimer’s for several years prior to his death.

According to the Houston Chronicle, “[p]ostmortem examination of his brain at Boston University… revealed that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease associated with head trauma.” The suit, filed by Whittier’s sister on behalf of her brother’s estate and three surviving children, alleges the Whittier’s death at the age of 68 was the direct result of football-related head trauma.

“Julius Whittier was a pioneer who became a lawyer and a member of the district attorney’s staff in Dallas County, and his life was about justice,” the family’s attorney told the Chronicle. “His family wants to carry on in his name and hope that we can make changes.

“We don’t want to end football. We just want to make it as safe as possible and make sure that everybody is informed about what can happen. That has not been the case historically, and we want to change that.”

The sister, Mildred Whittier, had previously filed a lawsuit against the NCAA on behalf of college players who suffered brain injuries from 1960 to 2014.

In 1970, Whittier became the first black player to letter in football at Texas.  He first joined the Longhorns in 1969.  At the time, though, the NCAA did not allow freshmen to play.  Whittier lettered every year from 1970-72, first as an offensive guard and then as a tight end his senior season.

Memphis to wear ‘BLM’ decals on their helmets this season

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Memphis will take its off-field social activism onto the football field this fall.

Across the country, student-athletes, football players especially, have seen their collective voices grow louder in protesting for racial equality and against social injustices. And flags.  Several members of the Memphis football program took to the streets of their city last month to do just that.

This week, on his personal Twitter account, first-year Memphis head coach Ryan Silverfield announced that his players will wear “BLM” decals on their helmets throughout the 2020 college football season.  “BLM,” of course, stands for the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

“The use of the BLM logo on a helmet decal was an idea from our student-athletes,” Silverfield told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal in a text message. “It doesn’t mean we support any anti-American, violent organization or hate group or any specific political party. In fact, I love this country and I love our players. Rather the decal is a show of support to our team.”

And what of a backlash against wearing the decals?  It was subsequently reported by The Athletic that “[a] prominent University of Memphis booster has informed the school that he will match, and then double, whatever donations the school might lose as a result of the Black Lives Matter helmet decal.”

The name of the booster was not revealed.

Memphis is coming off a school-record 12-win football campaign.  They claimed the program’s first-ever win in the AAC championship game after two straight losses.

Head coach Mike Norvell left the school for the same job at Florida State in mid-December.  Memphis stayed in-house for its next head coach, with Silverfield, the offensive line coach, promoted three days later.

College Football in Coronavirus Quarantine: On this day in CFT history, including experts holding out hope that the famed oaks on Toomer’s Corner could survive being Updyked

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The sports world, including college football, has essentially screeched to a halt as countries around the world battle the coronavirus pandemic. As such, there’s a dearth of college football news as spring practices have all but been canceled at every level of the sport. And there’s even some concern that the health issue could have an impact on the 2020 college football campaign.

In that vein, we thought it might be fun to go back through the CollegeFootballTalk archives that stretch back to 2009 and take a peek at what transpired in the sport on this date.

So, without further ado — ok, one further ado — here’s what happened in college football on July 4, by way of our team of CFT writers both past and present.

(P.S.: If any of our readers have ideas on posts they’d like to read during this college football hiatus, leave your suggestions in the comments section.  Mailbag, maybe?)

2019

THE HEADLINE: Five-star 2020 LSU commit probably would’ve committed to Ohio State if Urban Meyer hadn’t left
THE SYNOPSIS: Elias Ricks is the recruit in question.  The cornerback ended up signing with LSU earlier this year.  Ricks, expected to contribute to the defending national champs immediately, underwent offseason surgery for a torn labrum.

2018

THE HEADLINE: Fox, BTN reportedly among those making run at Paul Finebaum
THE SYNOPSIS: Yeah, that didn’t work out as the SEC mouthpiece remains at ESPN.

2017

THE HEADLINE: Penn State suing Tennessee DC Bob Shoop for breach of contract
THE SYNOPSIS: Nittany Lions were seeking $900,000 the university said Shoop owed after he left as the defensive coordinator at Penn State for the same job at Tennessee in January of 2016.  In February of 2018, the two sides settled their dispute.  Terms of the settlement weren’t divulged.

2015

THE HEADLINE: Alabama self-reports multiple secondary violations
THE SYNOPSIS: “Alabama” and “NCAA violations” always bring out the commenters.  This was no exception.

2013

THE HEADLINE: Tragic: new Ole Miss OL killed in car accident
THE SYNOPSISPark Stevens’ truck collided with the back of a semi-truck attempting to cross a four-lane highway.  The lineman was a 20-year-old junior college transfer.

2011

THE HEADLINE: Experts not ready to say Toomer’s oaks are ‘definitely not going to make it’
THE SYNOPSIS: Thanks to Alabama “fan” Harvey Updyke, the iconic trees at Auburn definitely didn’t make it.

2011

THE HEADLINE: Purdue player missing; last seen swimming in Indiana lake
THE SYNOPSIS: Sadly, 22-year-old running back Sean Matti‘s body was found a day later.

Pandemic-related restrictions force Western Michigan to schedule a new season-opening opponent

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The coronavirus pandemic has already impacted the 2020 season for Western Michigan football.

Western Michigan was scheduled to open the upcoming football season against Colgate on Sept. 4.  However, the Patriot League, Colgate’s conference, mandated late last month that all of its member schools not be permitted to travel by air or stay overnight in another locale.  As the distance between Hamilton, NY, to Kalamazoo, Mich., is nine-plus hours, that opener was certainly in jeopardy.

This week, Western Michigan confirmed that it will now open the 2020 college football season against Stony Brook.  The game will still be played Sept. 4 at Waldo Stadium, the football home of the Broncos.

“We are looking forward to opening the 2020 season with Stony Brook,” WMU head coach Tim Lester said in a statement. “We know coronavirus has changed, and will keep changing, how we operate this season. We will continue to operate with an abundance of caution for the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, staff members, fans and WMU community.”

It should be noted that Syracuse is also supposed to open its home schedule Sept. 19 against Colgate.  It’s unclear if that game will be played, although distance certainly isn’t as much of an issue as it was for Western Michigan.

WMU is coming off a second consecutive 7-6 season under Lester, who will be entering his fourth season with the Broncos.  That 2019 campaign also included narrowly missing out on a berth in the MAC championship game.