Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
I know the hope in Columbus was that following the five-game suspensions handed down to the Buckeyes who received improper benefits in last year's "tattoo scandal," the whole mess would simply go away.
Well, we all know now that Ohio State's troubles may just be getting started and it could be head coach Jim Tressel who pays the ultimate price.
By now, everyone is aware of the exploits of "The Buckeye Five," as they have come to be known. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, wideout DeVier Posey, offensive lineman Mike Adams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas sold and or bartered sports memorabilia they had earned with a tattoo dealer.
Whether or not one believes what they did was wrong (I am not among that group), it was against current NCAA rules (as misguided as they are) and a violation certainly meriting scrutiny and subsequent punishment.
The real problem here though is Tressel's part in the whole debacle. Actually, it is Tressel's lack of action that is cause for concern. Tressel knew about the incidents well before the school was made aware of them. What the straight-laced and well-respected head coach was thinking remains a mystery, as a short walk down to the AD's office or the school's compliance office would have nipped this entire thing in the bud. Instead, Tressel quashed it and held his own inquiry, bypassing the compliance department, athletic department, and school itself. He allowed those players to remain eligible and on the field all season long, setting into motion the NCAA's investigation.
This week, the NCAA disclosed its findings and sent a Notice of Allegations to Ohio State. The governing body, in its report, does not hold Ohio State responsible, as there are no allegations of "lack of institutional control" or "failure to monitor." Rather, the NCAA is like a dog with a bone when it comes to Tressel and it could result in extremely harsh penalties for the Buckeyes' coach.
Ohio State's troubles may just be getting started and it could be head coach Jim Tressel who pays the ultimate price.
The NCAA has determined that Tressel knew about the violations as early as April 2010 and failed to disclose in September 2010, blatantly lying when he falsely reported no knowledge of NCAA violations in a signed school compliance form.
At first, Tressel was suspended for two games and given a $250,000 fine. The suspension was upped to five games to match the players' punishment.
However, the 10-year coach could see the consequences magnify considerably as this picks up more steam.
Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith has said that there will be "no comments until the case is resolved."
Smith is a highly-regarded figure who has served as president of the Division 1-A Athletic Directors Association (2007) as well as a current five-year stint on the NCAA Men's Basketball Committee, which he was appointed chairman for the 2010-11 academic year.
It is certainly easy to imagine OSU's top man having difficulty wrapping his head around this one, perhaps quoting Hollywood producer Jack Woltz when talking to Tom Hagen in The Godfather under his breath.
"A Man in My Position Can't Afford to Be Made to Look Ridiculous!"
While Smith is toting the company line for now, OSU has its hands full with this situation, as the school has 90 days to respond to the NCAA's allegations.
The initial handling of this case by the NCAA seemed a bit lax, considering the hammer it dropped on USC last year following its scandal. However, the NCAA has made up for lost time with its current actions.
Little will change for the 2011 season though, as Tressel and the players involved will sit out the first five games (Akron, Toledo, Miami-Florida, Colorado and Michigan State) before returning in early October. Following OSU's response, the case will go before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions, which will then hand down its punishment. An appeal from Ohio State will further delay the final result.
Should Tressel lose his job for lying to the NCAA and the school about this? Other coaches in similar situations have "stepped down," were "forced to retire" or simply "let go."
The real losers here will be the roster of student athletes in Columbus if it comes to that. Up to this point, Tressel was one of the most successful and respected coaches in the game.
Whether he remains that way after the smoke clears remains to be seen.