National Columnist

Tressel quitting a start for Ohio State, but not enough


This was a good start, but that's all it was for Ohio State. A start. Jim Tressel resigned Monday, but that's not enough to save Ohio State from the NCAA's hammer. Nor should it be.

Had it happened in January, then sure. That would have been enough. Jim Tressel's resignation in January -- when Ohio State first learned of his deception -- would have been enough to shelter Ohio State from its former coach's behavior.

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But not now. Not nearly five months later. Not after the silly school president bragged about what a good man his lying, scheming, sportsmanship-abusing football coach really was. Not after that ridiculous man with the ridiculous initial tried to laugh off -- tried to minimize -- his coach's indefensible actions by joking that he wouldn't dismiss Tressel. "Let me just be very clear," E. Gordon Gee said on March 8. "I'm just hopeful the coach doesn't dismiss me."

And not after the Ohio State athletics director also tolerated Tressel's blasphemy all these months by refusing to force him out. If Gene Smith tried to fire Tressel after Tressel lied to him about the existence of violations in early December, we don't know about it.

How, you may be asking, would we know that Smith tried unsuccessfully to fire Tressel in January, February, March or even April? This is how we'd know: Gene Smith would have resigned in disgust. Because if you're the AD of a major Division I school -- and you're so committed to the ideals of the NCAA that you've spent the past five years sitting on the NCAA's prestigious Division I basketball committee, the past 10 months as the chairman -- then you couldn't possibly stomach the thought of such a liar representing your school. And yourself. So you'd fire Jim Tressel, or you'd resign in protest. Doing neither? Congratulations, Gene Smith. Just like your absurd school president, you've essentially condoned Jim Tressel's behavior for nearly five months.

So, no -- what happened Monday wasn't enough to save Ohio State from the wrath of the NCAA. Nor should it be. Jim Tressel, and Tressel alone, was the guy who knew since April 2010 of violations involving some of his best players. That's true. But neither of the two people above him on the school hierarchy -- not his direct boss, not his school president -- thought what he'd done was bad enough to warrant his removal.

Which means Ohio State still doesn't get it.

Which means the NCAA will have to explain it to the Buckeyes. In graphic detail. And without remorse.

Tressel was entering his 11th season as head coach for the Buckeyes. (Getty Images)  
Tressel was entering his 11th season as head coach for the Buckeyes. (Getty Images)  
This is one of those times when the teacher's punishment must send a message to everyone else in the classroom. Ohio State must get sent to the principal's office -- a place without 85 annual scholarships, without years of postseason eligibility, possibly without games on television at all -- or some other kid in class will assume that Ohio State's reaction to the Jim Tressel situation was acceptable.

And it was not acceptable. The coach knew of violations. Didn't tell his boss or the NCAA. Lied to both when asked directly about them. Then played all those ineligible players all season, making a run at the national championship game before settling for a conference title and a spot in the Sugar Bowl.

And the school didn't fire him when it learned on Jan. 13 of his deception. Didn't fire him in February or March. April. Most of May ...

This is Tennessee all over again, Tennessee not firing basketball coach Bruce Pearl for lying to the NCAA about violations until the backlash was so large, the signs of a coming NCAA beatdown were so obvious, that the school finally, begrudgingly got rid of its money-making coach. For that ignorance, that insolence, Tennessee deserves a crushing when the NCAA hears its case in two weeks. Because, you see, Tennessee still employs the same athletics director who allowed Bruce Pearl to keep his job and to coach the second half of the 2010-11 season. And Tennessee still has the same president. The weed got pulled, but the root remains.

Just as it remains at Ohio State. And every other school in the country knows it. So every other school -- every AD, every president -- surely is confused right now.

If their coach lies to them, and to the NCAA, about violations in his program ... is it acceptable to allow that coach to keep his job for months? Ohio State thought it was. Prominent former Buckeyes like Kirk Herbstreit and Robert Smith thought Tressel had to go, but that wasn't enough. A new scandal erupted more than three weeks ago when the Columbus Dispatch reported that dozens of OSU players and family members were buying cars from the same local salesman, even if family members had to come from out of state, and even after that salesman had switched car lots. And that wasn't enough. Former player Ray Small told the school newspaper last week that NCAA violations were so rife within Tressel's program, "Everyone was doing it."

Maybe that was enough. Maybe Ray Small was the straw that broke this stupid, stubborn camel's back. Or maybe, and more likely, it was the threat of a Sports Illustrated investigative report coming out soon. Whatever it was, shame on Ohio State for taking so long, for condoning Tressel's actions by employing him all these months.

What happened Monday won't be enough for the NCAA. Well, it had better not be. The school will show up for its hearing before the Committee on Infractions on Aug. 12. If the Buckeyes are represented by both Gene Smith and E. Gordon Gee, well, that means the Buckeyes still don't get it.

Show them, NCAA.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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