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March 10, 2011 - Al Stephenson
I watched the news conference. I wanted to hear a plausible story that would explain why Coach Jim Tressel would not have reported to his Athletic Director or compliance office information suggesting wrongdoing on the part of his football players. The coach received emails last April that a couple of his players were selling memorablilia to an owner of a tattoo parlor. Tressel had to know that this was a violation of NCAA rules and his contract stipulates that he must report to the university any such information. He didn't and I wanted to know why.
The press conference turned out to be a fiasco for so many reasons that I would be typing for an hour trying to point them all out. Let's just pick a few.
Tressel started his speech by suggesting that many who have sat in on his press conferences know that he "tends to talk in circles." I'm looking for the truth and he starts with that comment. He proceeds to him and haw about his concern for the safety of the involved players. He also says that the emails mention that the players could be caught up in a federal investigation on drugs involving the owner of the tatoo parlor. Confidentiality because of the federal investigation was suggested.
Tressel admitted he was scared, so he kept quiet.
I wanted to believe him, but something was missing. Does he care about the safety of his players? Of course. Was that the main reason he chose to do nothing? Did he believe that he could not do anything for fear of compromising a federal investigation? Quite possibly. All of this would have been plausible, but for the way he presented his defense.
Many non-OSU fans weren't buying his tale, and quite frankly I had trouble stomaching it myself. Too many hesitations. Too much talking in circles (though he did warn us ahead of time that it could happen). I felt disappointed, the same as I felt when the players were outed in December.
Then there is the case of OSU President E. Gordon Gee. He has been known to say some absurd things and he didn't disappoint in that regard. When asked if he had considering firing Tressel, the Prez decided to make a joke - suggesting that he hoped Tressel wouldn't dismiss him! With many feeling that college athletic departments wield too much influence on college campuses already, this was a miserable attempt to try to show his support of the embattled coach.
Athletic Director Gene Smith also added to the chaos, saying that wherever this thing led, Tressel was going to be the football coach at OSU. He proceeded to say that he trusted Tressel implicitly. Tressel had just spent several months withholding information that he was contractually bound to give to him. Now you say that you trust him implicitly! That is hard for those of us watching this circus to accept.
Why such a press conference was even held is a question I continue to ask myself. It didn't make The Ohio State University look very good. It left a whole lot of questions unanswered. One thing we know for sure. The NCAA is not likely to accept OSU's limited punishment as final. There will be more sanctions handed down, of that you can be sure.
The view from my seat suggests that there is no way to defend Jim Tressel in this situation. He was wrong and he will, and should, pay for his mistakes.
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