Posted by Chip Patterson
As Ohio State prepares for an eventual ruling from the NCAA regarding knowledge of players receiving improper benefits, college football's governing body issued the school an official "Notice of Allegations" letter on Monday. The document detailed the potential violations committed both by the football program and individually by head coach Jim Tressel. The Columbus Dispatch, which also received a copy of the letter, reported that Ohio State could face "the most severe NCAA penalties to its storied football program."
The official wording in the letter was that the Buckeyes, and Tressel in particular, faced charges that are being considered "potential major violations." The 13-page document also points a very stern finger at the iconic head coach, claiming Tressel "permitted football student-athletes to participate in intercollegiate athletics while ineligible" and declaring that he "failed to deport himself ... (with) honesty and integrity". That last "honesty" part is where things get particularly difficult for Tressel, who signed and dated a compliance form last September that acknowledged he was unaware any possible NCAA violations.
As more details continue to be released from the NCAA investigation as well as efforts by the local media, that "honesty" bit gets tougher for Tressel. Earlier Monday the Dispatch reported the findings from an email request that reveal much more contact between the head coach and other people involved in the accusations. University president Gordon Gee, athletic director Gene Smith, and most importantly Ohio State's compliance office, were not included in the series of phone calls and emails around the time of Tressel receiving the tip.
The trouble began for the Buckeyes' head coach when he received an email from a former Ohio State player and current Columbus lawyer, Christopher Cicero. Cicero informed Tressel that a Federal raid of a local tattoo parlor turned up several thousands of dollars worth of Ohio State memorabillia. Tressel responded to the lawyer that he would "get on it ASAP," and then proceeded to contact Ted Sarniak - a local Pennsylvania businessman and advisor/mentor to Terrelle Pryor.
The notice from the NCAA did say the case is closed against the five players who exchanged memorabillia for cash, free/discounted tattoos, and discounts/loans towards the purchase of a used vehicle. The NCAA has said that the players (Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, Solomon Thomas and Jordan Whiting) will not face further punishment. They have been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season. However, the program could still receive punishment for fielding ineligible players, and obviously Tressel faces much more serious charges invidually.
Another thing that the letter included was a notice that Ohio State could be treated as a repeat-offender by the NCAA because of violations stemming from Troy Smith and former basketball coach Jim O'Brien. Both instances involved improper benefits as well, however neither was damning enough to warrant severe punishment by itself. If the Buckeyes' program is treated as a repeat offender, they could be looking at the possibility of a postseason ban or the loss of scholarships.
The one piece of good news for Ohio State fans fearful of the future is the lack of the phrase "institutional control." Those phrases, which normally lead to violations with the harshest penalties, are designed for programs which have insufficient compliance offices. For a program like Ohio State to get hit with such a violations would rock the college football world, but thankfully for their fans and alumni it looks like they will dodge that bullet.
READ MORE: CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd asks "What's next for Ohio State?"
Click here for the full "Notice of Allegations" from the NCAA to Ohio State President Gordon Gee [via Columbus Dispatch]
Keep it here at CBSSports.com and the Eye on College Football for more on the Ohio State investigation as it develops.