By Jerry Hinnen and Tom Fornelli
Jerry Hinnen and Tom Fornelli of the Eye On College Football blog discuss Ohio State's decision to vacate wins from the 2010 season and the bus it has decided to drive over Jim Tressel.
Jerry Hinnen: The first question that comes to mind reading the Ohio State response to the NCAA is this, Tom: what part is most laughable? I feel like we've got so many options here.
Tom Fornelli: Where to begin? There's a lot to mock here.
If anything, I'll just start with the entire concept of vacating wins in the first place. What does that even mean when you really get down to it? The Buckeyes no longer beat Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl? Well, Arkansas didn't beat Ohio State either. So did the Sugar Bowl just not happen, because I remember watching it. I mean, if you're going to vacate wins, it should just be a symbolic move to make along with other self-imposed sanctions you're making. It should not be the only punishment you're imposing on yourself.
Yeah, according to Ohio State's history books, that win over Arkansas never happened, but are they returning the money they got from the BCS for playing in the game? Nope. I mean, this is like if I were to rob a series of banks, and then one day the police caught me. Then, when they showed up at my door, I just screamed "I'm vacating the robberies! They never happened! Wipe them from the books! Oh, but I'm not giving the money back to the banks I no longer robbed."
It's a joke.
JH: It is, and it would be a funny one if one of the nation's largest universities and most respected football program's integrity weren't at stake. But for my money, the most jaw-dropping aspect is the school's treatment of Jim Tressel.
On the one hand, the response calls Tressel's actions "embarrassing" and claims he acted alone without any other Buckeye administration member aware of his decisions. Clearly, after the coddling Tressel received from Gordon Gee and Gene Smith in previous press conferences, the school is trying to distance itself from its former coach. He's smeared the institution's good name. He's a pariah. They've forced him to resign (after the part where he'd done it voluntarily).
Or, as it turns out, they've allowed him to retire with benefits, waived a $250,000 fine they'd previously sworn to collect, and paid him an extra $50,000 on top of that. OSU hates Tressel and everything he stands for ... except for the part where they've rewarded him for his loyalty with hundreds of thousands of dollars and a retirement in the school's good graces.
If you're the NCAA, where do you begin to make sense of this? Is there any way to interpret these kinds of actions other than a desperate hope the NCAA will pay attention only to what the response is saying, rather than what the program is actually doing?
TF: As far as the treatment of Tressel is concerned, if I'm the NCAA I'm not buying a single word of it. That is, unless they want to turn a blind eye to reality. How is anybody really supposed to believe that Tressel was doing any of this on his own after the way Ohio State has treated the entire situation?
I don't think paying the guy who you're blaming for everything is the move you make unless you really want him to go along with that stance. Let's be honest, Tressel is the fall guy here and now Gene Smith and Gordon Gee are doing everything they can to save their own behinds. If you think about it, though, no matter how this went down, is Gene Smith somebody who should survive all this?
He either knew about everything and is pretending he didn't -- he's vacating his memory -- or he really knew nothing! How can you argue that you should keep your job as an athletic director of a school when something of this scope is taking place under your very nose without you having a clue?
Ohio State just really doesn't seem to get it, or they're in a deep state of denial. The NCAA isn't going to see that the school has vacated it's wins from last season and move on. There will be scholarships lost, and there will be a postseason bowl ban for a year or two. It's not fair to the players on the team or whichever coach eventually takes over for Tressel, but unfortunately for Ohio State, the NCAA knows that you can't just erase the past and fix things.
JH: We're assuming they do. Since we're discussing the NCAA's Committee on Infractions here, there's no way to know exactly what they're going to do until they do it. Precedents mean nothing and logic is frequently tossed aside like so many babies in so much bathwater.
But if the COI ever wants to be taken seriously, rubber-stamping OSU's self-imposed "punishment" and giving the Buckeyes a pat on the head just can't be an option. Without subpoena power, the only thing standing between the NCAA and utter investigative helplessness is honesty and cooperation from those involved. What it got instead from from OSU was Tressel lying through his teeth with Gee and Smith nodding genially at his side. The NCAA tried to be lenient with the Buckeyes once already--and was repaid with a sham of a Sugar Bowl and a carton's worth of egg on its face for its troubles.
And now OSU wants to pin the entire thing on the coach it enabled at every step (up to and including the pillow-laden step right out the door), expecting the NCAA to look at its meaningless dabbles in the history books and declare "OK, we're cool." Judging from the sledgehammer dropped on USC, I'll be beyond stunned if the NCAA is feeling very cool at all.
TF: Agreed. Any predictions on what the NCAA adds if anything? Personally I'm thinking around 10 scholarships and a two-year postseason ban.
JH: Sounds about right--plus a show-cause order for Tressel. His college football coaching career is over.