Ohio State Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel used to be the saint of college football coaches. As his colleagues were all irreparably stained, one after the other, with NCAA allegations and rules violations, Tressel stayed clean. But now, Tressel has been caught and this isn't some simple text messaging recruitment slip up; Tressel's violation is very, very serious.
The NCAA has accused Jim Tressel of two very serious violations: hiding knowledge that his players had sold memorabilia to a tattoo parlor and then lying about hiding it from investigators. It is difficult to tell whether the NCAA powers that be consider the original violation or the lying afterword to be the more serious problem. However, what is clear is that the combination of both is considering a very serious violation of NCAA rules and Tressel may be in deep trouble.
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Initially, Tressel's violation appeared to be fairly benign. He was accused of hiding his limited knowledge that the players sold memorabilia. But, many interpreted that as Tressel's attempt to protect his players, which many fans considered laudable. Tressel was banned two games, requested that a few more punishments be added to the tally, and that appeared to be the end of it. But, it turned out to be much, much worse.
As it turned out, coach Tressel did not hide limited knowledge of what happened. Email exchanges indicate that Tressel knew most, if not all, of what happened and did not report it to investigators. That alone constitutes a serious violation of NCAA rules. But, even worse, he actively pretended not to know very much and appears to have lied to investigators about what he did know. Lying to NCAA investigators is, unsurprisingly, considered a much worse violation and now the NCAA appears to be going after Tressel. In its report to Ohio State on the violations, NCAA investigators accused coach Tressel of not being honest with the school or investigators and lying to keep his players on the field in pursuit of a BCS bowl berth. Needless to say, those kinds of statements by NCAA investigators carry serious implications.
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So, what will happen? There is no way to tell but history shows us what may happen if the NCAA continues to go after Tressel. Over 90% of coaches that the NCAA formally accused of rules violations either resigned voluntarily or had their contracts terminated. Although Tressel is in the top five or ten overall coaches in all of Division 1 Football based on his longevity, record, achievements, and consistent success, his violations now appear to be significantly worse than many of those that have seen coaches fired over the years. So, if Tressel does not resign or get fired outright, he may see his suspension and fines increased and his reputation as a clean, well respected coach will continue to plummet.
What about Ohio State? The school will be pressured to rid itself of Tressel despite all he has done for the school. If they do lose their longtime coach, the Buckeyes will experience volatility and likely see the quality of their next couple recruiting classes drop significantly. Even worse, the school could suffer a loss of scholarships and even NCAA bowl sanctions may be in play. It is impossible to know exactly what will happen but, at the very least, it appears that Ohio State and coach Tressel will have serious problems to deal with over the coming year. How serious? Well, we will have to see but, if Jim Tressel ends up coaching Division II football, then you'll know. In the meantime, stay tuned.
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