In April of this year, and shortly after Jim Tressel accepted a five-game suspension for his role in the scandal that ultimately cost him his job, golfing great and Ohio State alum Jack Nicklaus created a mini-stir by stating, basically, that the then-head coach had taken one for the team.
“I’ll promise you that Tressel wasn’t the only one who knew what happened,” Nicklaus was quoted as saying by the Columbus Dispatch. “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.”
Based on one report, the Golden Bear may have been on to something. Or not, as far as the NCAA is concerned.
According to Paul Aker of WBNS-TV in Columbus, and citing multiple unnamed sources, Tressel informed multiple individuals in the Ohio State athletic department in December of 2010 that he had received a tip earlier that year from an attorney — former OSU football player Chris Cicero — regarding the “off-field social choices” made by some of his players. Those individuals in the athletic department named by Aker’s sources include athletic director Gene Smith, compliance director Doug Archie and Julie Vannatta, Ohio State’s senior assistant general counsel.
The sources claim that those individuals and unnamed others were alerted by Tressel around Dec. 16 of last year, roughly a week after the university was alerted by the United States Justice Department that the memorabilia of OSU players had been found in the home of a Columbus tattoo parlor owner that had been raided during the course of a federal drug investigation. Ohio State has consistently claimed that they had no knowledge of the email tips received by Tressel from Cicero until an unrelated search turned them up in the middle of January.
During an interview with the NCAA in February, Tressel is claimed to have told investigators of his alleged sharing of information with OSU officials in mid-December. Vannatta acknowledged to the TV station that she was aware of Tressel’s claims to investigators, but stated that they are not true.
The station’s website writes that “the university categorically denied that Tressel has ever told anybody related to the investigation that he disclosed the nature of his tip in December.”
The good news for OSU is that the NCAA is siding with the school on this issue.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, an enforcement staff case summary — which can be read in its entirety by clicking HERE — sent to Ohio State Thursday stated that Tressel was the only university official aware of the potential for violations being committed by Buckeye players.
“Other than (two redacted player names) and (Ted) Sarniak (Pryor’s mentor), there is no indication that Tressel provided or discussed the information he received … with anyone else, particularly athletics administrators,” the summary read.
Additionally, the university will not be faced neither the dreaded lack of institutional control nor failure to monitor, with the NCAA writing that “the institution’s rules education and monitoring efforts” were sufficient to avoid a heavy hammer. On top of that, the NCAA has found no new violations — i.e. the Sports Illustrated article — committed by the football program since the Notice of Allegations was sent earlier this year.
In other words, don’t look for significant sanctions to be levied on the football program by the NCAA above what the school’s already slapped on its own wrist. And, as a result, look for this job — if Luke Fickell doesn’t continue past this year — to become much, much more attractive sometime in mid-October, which will oddly enough coincide with the time frame when the NCAA is expected to deliver its final decision on sanctions.