Jim Tressel lied.
And nobody cares.
He proclaimed ignorance when his Ohio State superiors approached him in December regarding some of his star football players potentially violating NCAA rules. Now the coach embarrassingly concedes that he made “a mistake.” He admits he should have notified the university when he first learned of the situation last April, but — try to keep a straight face when reading this — he didn’t know to whom he should pass the information.
Jim Tressel cheated.
And nobody cares.
He blatantly violated the language in his contract that demands — not asks, not suggests, DEMANDS — that he immediately report any suspicion of NCAA transgressions or risk dismissal. It certainly appears that Tressel’s silence was motivated more by ensuring that the Buckeyes fielded a team capable of winning the national championship last season than anything else.
Finally, there’s a loose strand on the Sweater Vest. Keep pulling at it, and it will unravel. But the NCAA doesn’t have the stomach to expose Tressel’s football evangelism for the hypocritical sham it is. If the NCAA doesn’t demand a full and thorough examination of every fiber of the Buckeyes’ program in the aftermath of Tuesday’s half-hearted mea culpa, it should forever remove the term “compliance” from its rules code.
Tressel should have been immediately fired for breaking an important clause in his contract.
But as far as Ohio State is concerned, the most important aspect of his agreement is to keep dragging Michigan up and down the field every year and participate in BCS bowls. As far as the NCAA is concerned, it’s more important keeping a megabrand such as Ohio State football standing on an ivory tower, winning big while making big money and keeping its television partners happy. That’s why the NCAA probably won’t add to Ohio State’s self-imposed sanctions of suspending Tressel for the first two games next season.
When reporters asked university president E. Gordon Gee during that comical news conference Tuesday night whether he contemplated firing the head coach, Gee smirked that he hoped Tressel wouldn’t fire him.
It was meant to be a joke, but there was nothing funny about it.
That remark told you all you need to know about the barefaced corruption and misplaced priorities of major college athletics. It’s why card-carrying cynics like me will always assume the worse. We’re rarely disappointed.
It’s why delusional, doe-eyed fans will still adoringly trust that their beloved school is immune to such transgressions. We all know it isn’t.
Tressel has long positioned himself as a conservative, straight-laced manager. There’s nothing flashy about him. That’s by design. He has authored motivational tomes predicated on his deep faith and commitment to conducting himself in an honorable fashion.
And we’re supposed to believe that a person of such strong convictions suddenly didn’t know which direction to turn when he received an e-mail from a lawyer notifying him of a federal criminal probe that might involve some of his players?
The man’s a fraud. But as long as he keeps winning, nobody will care.