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Ohio State's sordid case a never-ending story


INDIANAPOLIS -- Too much, too long, too greasy, way too Tressel.

To be continued ...

That was the non-conclusion Friday for Ohio State at the end one of the fastest NCAA infractions committee hearings on record. The four-hour, over-by-lunch quickie only added to the intrigue of a case that refuses to die. The swiftness of the hearing -- the NCAA version of the Airing of the Grievances suggested that Ohio State is going to get off relatively light.

An apologetic Jim Tressel arrives in Indianapolis for the NCAA hearing. (AP)  
An apologetic Jim Tressel arrives in Indianapolis for the NCAA hearing. (AP)  
Heck, the hearing was so short there was hardly enough time for a tattoo parlor owner to haggle with a player over the price of a Big Ten championship ring. But after waiting eight months, enduring endless scorn, losing face and a quarterback, Ohio State may still have a lot of explaining to do.

Documents released Friday show that the school was sent an amended notice of allegations by the NCAA in July. If further wrongdoing is found, it could form what the NCAA called "the partial basis" for a charge of lack of institutional control or failure to monitor. That could lead to enhanced penalties.

That is something that the Buckeyes had hoped to escape.

" ... The evidence at this time does not warrant additional allegations ...," AD Gene Smith said.

The key phrase being "at this time."

Another key phrase from an NCAA enforcement director, " ... the investigation remains open."

It could be something. It could be nothing. But it isn't over. Friday should have been the end of a big visit to the NCAA proctologist. We find out the penalties in two or three months and everyone moves on. Schools are seldom called back for a second infractions committee hearing. When they are, it isn't a good sign. At all.

That's what Ohio State faces. Maybe. Two outlets reported this week that the NCAA still had issues and that a second letter of allegations was possible. A source familiar with the process explained it this way: The parties (NCAA, Ohio State) agreed to proceed with Friday's hearing and deal with what was on the table to this point. Usually, that is the final step before penalties are handed down. However, there is still a chance Ohio State could be called before the committee for that second hearing.

A letter from Stephanie Hannah, an NCAA director of enforcement, to an NCAA liaison dated July 13 states the amended notice has to do with the "first allegation."

Allegation No. 1 has to do with the Ohio State players trading memorabilia for tattoos from Columbus tattoo parlor owner Eddie Rife. The amended notice says "one additional violation" was discovered.

More on Ohio State

Sounds like something petty, and the Bucknuts practically celebrated victory on Twitter Friday afternoon. They may be right. Ohio State has done a bang-up job of creating the perception that coach Jim Tressel went off the reservation in hiding those emails. What one veteran NCAA observer called a "textbook case" of lack of institutional control, the school has spun as a coach going rogue.

We'll see. After the hearing, Smith did his best to appease and confuse. He led off his comments -- reading from a statement -- saying that the school had forfeited its share of Sugar Bowl money, $338,000. That will mean little to the opponents who were beaten with Ohio State's ineligible players. It comes way too late.

Forfeiting the bowl money should have been the first thing on Ohio State's list of things to do in December when it found out. You might have noticed that getting out in front of the issues has not been the school's strong point. Remember when Tressel was suspended for two games? Then it was five, then he was fired, then he "retired."

So when Smith dismissed the continuation of the case as "follow-up work," permit a skeptic to suppress his gag reflex. As for Tressel? As he left the room, The Vest wasn't wearing one but he was accompanied by another round of contrition ("Again, I would like to apologize to the Buckeye Nation") and a lawyer.

That would be Gene Marsh, veteran of over 100 of these hearings and a former infractions committee chairman himself.

We leave you with this closing statement from that Hannah letter. It was sent eight days before Ohio State received its case summary. It is a reminder of the case that won't end, a case that remains in some ways agonizingly open-ended.

"Mr. Marsh, understood [at that time] that the continuing investigation could potentially lead to additional allegations involving Mr. Tressel."

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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