I've long believed "looking the other way" is crucial to the success of a high-major coach.
You don't have to personally cheat, exactly.
But you'd better be willing to play deaf and dumb.
Jim Calhoun mostly got away with violations on his watch at Connecticut by doing it in regard to Nate Miles. Same goes for John Calipari at UMass in regard to Marcus Camby, John Wooden at UCLA in regard to I couldn't begin to guess how many players, and the list goes on and on. Cynical as it sounds, history suggests successful coaches don't run clean programs. They instead look one way and willfully ignore how their programs are run, and it has pretty much worked for decades.
But this Jim Tressel thing has changed the game.
Now we know ignoring violations can cost a legend his job.
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I don't care how many Ohio State football players sold memorabilia, drove nice cars and received discounted tattoos, none of that stuff is what forced Tressel into resignation this week. He could've and would've survived all that and more. What ultimately buried the man who put the vest in investigation was an email sent to Tressel in April 2010 informing him that some of his players had possibly committed NCAA violations. When Tressel opened that email he created a paper trail, and he basically sealed his fate when he failed to report it to the Ohio State compliance department and/or NCAA.
Yes, Tressel initially lied in December when he said he had no knowledge of the violations until the FBI made Ohio State aware of them just before the Sugar Bowl. But that's beside the point, because telling the truth then would've been similarly bad. At that point, Tressel couldn't say, "Actually, I exchanged emails with a guy about this back in April, told somebody close to my quarterback about it but never reported it to anybody else." Doing that would've put him in the coaching graveyard just the same. So Tressel lied and hoped it would go away. But it didn't. And then the emails were uncovered. And so now somebody named Luke Fickell is in charge of one of the NCAA's most glamourous football programs.
So how does this change the game?
What it's done is provide a high-profile precedent that'll force football and basketball coaches to report anything and everything once there's proof that it's been reported to them, and that's not something football and basketball coaches are going to like doing. If a waiter sends an e-mail to Rick Pitino that says three of his seniors have been getting free bar tabs, Pitino is going to have to ask the Louisville compliance department to check it out. If a mechanic sends an e-mail to Rick Barnes that says two of his freshman have been driving discounted cars from a local lot, Barnes is going to have to ask the Texas compliance department to check it out. If a fan of a rival school sends an email to Lorenzo Romar that says one of his boosters paid a recruit's summer coach $15,000 for a signed national letter of intent, Romar is going to have to ask the Washington compliance department to check it out, and you can see how this might be an issue for some head coaches, can't you?
Bottom line, anybody with a Gmail account now has the ability to force a head coach to look at and acknowledge violations that head coaches have forever ignored. That'll be the lasting legacy of the Tressel scandal, I think. And it could make it difficult for some to last.