Arrogant Tressel pays for never coming clean

by | Columnist

The untenable finally collapsed. The preponderance of evidence finally morphed into a planetary weight. Jim Tressel has quit, and college football looks a tiny bit less seedy.

A tiny bit, we said.

The Columbus Dispatch, which justifiably has owned the undoing-of-the-Buckeyes story from the start, reported this morning that Tressel has resigned, cleverly choosing a slow news day when most people are grilling rather than reading.

Evidently the cover-up kills again. Tressel's contemptible arrogance dwarfed the weight of the crime, just as USC's insufferable smugness in the Reggie Bush fandango contributed to its punishment.

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But that leads to another problem, which is the NCAA. To this day, it doesn't understand the letter vs. the spirit of the law, and prefers to punish those administrators who resist arrest far more than those who say they're sorry. The NCAA, in short, puts great stock in the perp walk, and far less than in running a fair shop.

This is not a defense of Tressel by any means. He played the game, and the game played him. He decided to stop walking all the things he was talking, and in CelebrityWorld being fraudulent and disingenuous are felonies punishable by shame.

That said, he'll have another job within a year.

But he would have kept the one he has now, had he addressed the problem of players moving memorabilia when it happened, or not lied about it when confronted. You get into more trouble trying to bluff without cards than you do for the original crime.

Worse, though, is the knowledge Tressel received in time that he had been exposed as worse than just another coach who doesn't know when to fold his cards. He was exposed as a hypocritical preacher in an industry crammed full of them.

And that is its own conundrum. Failing to defend the façade isn't the same crime as getting caught doing something sideways (See: Dez Bryant), but we react far more hysterically when our illusions are punctured.

That ultimately is Jim Tressel's crime. He disregarded the rules with the same impunity as nearly every other coach in big-time college athletics because they all act as emperors do, but it was the aesthetics of his denial that undid him.

And no, this is not a tragedy. Tragedy is when you don't have it coming. Retribution is when you do. Jim Tressel took care of himself while acting like he would never do so, and shamed himself.

And now he has to reinvent himself as the humble penitent who's learned his lesson, whether he has or not. He's not to be trusted, but no coach playing for these stakes should be, and so many still are because that's the illusion we pay for, and that's the lie we subscribe to. The reward for working it is too great, the punishment remains too minimal, and coaches can do political math in their heads because they do it every day.

Jim Tressel, though, misplaced a logarithm somewhere, and now, on a quiet news day when nobody is paying attention, he is slinking off to begin the process of making a new Jim Tressel somewhere else.

Maybe a cardigan will help.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay


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