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Tressel's paper trail begs question: What took so long?

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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At least Ohio State President Gordon Gee doesn't have to worry about getting fired by Jim Tressel any longer.

My first thought when the news broke Monday that Tressel had resigned was simply: What took so freakin' long?

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Any other coach would have been tossed aside months ago. Yet for reasons known only to Gee and athletic director Gene Smith -- still employed, at least, as of Monday morning -- Tressel was allowed to remain as the Buckeyes' coach even after the school discovered a paper trail of violations longer than the Script Ohio.

"After meeting with University officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach," Tressel said in a statement released by the university.

Resign or told to resign? At this point it may not matter to the NCAA, which has been sharpening up its Guillotine for when the Buckeyes go before its Committee On Infractions in August.

The Buckeyes and Tressel committed multiple NCAA violations, yet the school's initial punishment of Tressel was a two-game suspension this fall against Akron and Toledo, a pair of Mid-American cupcakes that are neither a Legend or a Leader. Don't think the NCAA didn't take notice of that.

This all started back in April 2010 when Tressel received an e-mail notifying him that two of his players were involved in a federal drug-trafficking case and the sale of memorabilia, which are against NCAA rules. Tressel's email response: "I will get on it ASAP."

However, Tressel failed to mention it to Smith or the school's compliance department for nine months. If he had, it's very likely the players could have been ruled ineligible for the season, costing the Buckeyes a sixth consecutive Big Ten crown.

Tressel later said his reasoning was that he worried that sitting the players during the season would raise a "whole new set of questions."

Tressel must have attended -- and graduated cum laude from -- the Richard M. Nixon School on how to handle a crisis situation. Yet another example: The coverup is worse than the crime.

Ohio State students show which side of the argument they're on Monday with a quickly constructed banner. (AP)  
Ohio State students show which side of the argument they're on Monday with a quickly constructed banner. (AP)  
Among Tressel's violations was NCAA Bylaw 10.1, requiring coaches and others to be truthful and forthcoming about possible NCAA violations. Since 2006, the NCAA had sanctioned 27 schools for violating Bylaw 10.1, the Columbus Dispatch reported. Of the 27 schools, there were 12 coaches involved. Only one before Tressel kept his job. The others either resigned or were fired by their schools.

With Gee and Smith's support, Tressel looked like he might avoid the usual punishment of Bylaw 10.1, but now he's just another member of the Bylaw 10.1's Hall of Shame.

Tressel was supposedly different somehow. He supposedly was above all the other scum that has penetrated college athletics. He had the vest. The faith. The books. The second book he wrote was titled Life Promises for Success: Promises From God on Achieving Your Best. It was described as a "collection of inspiring readings and Bible promises designed to encourage those seeking to succeed in every area of life."

It was a followup to his 2008 book: The Winners Manual For The Game of Life.

Winners Manual? We saw how well that "winning" catchphrase worked for Charlie Sheen.

Tressel did win though during his 10-year stint in Columbus. And big.

He was 106-22* overall, including a 66-14* Big Ten mark on his way to seven Big Ten championships and a BCS national title. (*until some of those wins are vacated later this year). His Big Ten winning percentage was second only to Bo Schembechler.

And, of course, don't forget his 9-1 record against Michigan -- Monday marked the 2,746th day since Michigan last defeated Ohio State -- having won the past seven meetings.

But take a closer look at Tressel's background and something, well, smelled like bad fish.

Maurice Clarett, Troy Smith and Terrelle Pryor. Arguably the three best players Tressel recruited to Ohio State. Clarett led Ohio State to the 2002 national title, Smith won the 2006 Heisman Trophy and Pryor got some really cool tattoos.

All three were game-changers for the program. And all three guys had shady character issues that got them in trouble with the NCAA. All three were suspended by the NCAA for receiving money and other benefits from boosters.

At Youngstown State, where Tressel won four Division I-AA national championships, star quarterback Ray Isaac accepted improper inducements including cars.

Cars again? Seriously? Last week, the Sporting News reported that a Columbus, Ohio, car salesman said he had sold more than 50 cars to Ohio State athletes and/or their relatives in the past five years and that the OSU compliance staff directed the players and relatives to him. This is the exact opposite of what OSU compliance director Doug Archie told the Columbus Dispatch. Archie said he had only talked to the car salesman once and never referred players to car dealerships.

So maybe Tressel didn't know about the car arrangements. And maybe you want to believe that Tressel didn't know that Ray Small, a former Ohio State wide receiver, sold Big Ten championship rings and other memorabilia for cash and also got special car deals.

"Everyone was doing it [breaking NCAA rules]," Small told the Ohio State's student newspaper, the Lantern last week.

Were Small's revelations the final straw for Tressel? Who knows, but Ohio State will now find out what Youngstown State learned several years ago.

Youngstown State had to serve penalties for violations committed under Tressel's watch after it was found Tressel did an incomplete investigation of those allegations.

Like Ohio State, he probably didn't say anything at Youngstown State, because he didn't want to raise a "whole new set of questions."

With Monday's resignation, the only question remaining is: Will Tressel's legacy be that as a winning coach or a coach that only won because he cheated?

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