Well things have actually been reasonably quiet on the Ohio State front for the last week.
But the behind the scenes issues going on at Ohio State are anything but quiet. Multiple media outlets have called for Jim Tressel’s head or for a long suspension. Sources close to the situation seem to be hinting that there is a distinct possibility that Tressel could be suspended for a full season.
The question that remains is who will impose that punishment? Will it come from OSU or will the NCAA step in and put its stamp on the situation?
When you look at the overall situation, you see that the problems run a number of different directions and indicate that we may not even have all of the information about where the investigation actually stands.
As I have advocated frequently in the class I teach at Northwestern, there is a great need for coaches to have personal counsel due to the conflicts of interest that arise in these investigations. This position is now getting additional support and exposure as the high stakes cases involving Tressel and Bruce Pearl have shown. As Dan Fitzgerald wrote in the above article:
First and foremost, a university will protect its own interests. Universities typically deal with NCAA violations through self-imposed penalties. These penalties, similar to a plea bargain, allow the university to minimize the risk of unknown NCAA sanctions and also may allow for a more expedient resolution. However, a coach’s interests may not be served. Admitting to NCAA violations, especially if the coach has a reasonable defense, may not make sense for a coach.
The conflict of interest between Coach Tressel’s interests and those of OSU is apparent. OSU has an interest in claiming that it had no knowledge of the potential violations. This argument essentially proves the NCAA’s case against Coach Tressel - that he withheld information from OSU that would have resulted in NCAA violations and players being declared ineligible. Therefore, it appears that OSU and its coach have different interests to protect and Coach Tressel will likely need separate counsel to defend against the NCAA allegations.
The stakes are significant since Tressel could lose $3.7 million if he is fired for cause as defined in his contract. According to the Dayton Business Journal, Tressel is contracted through 2014, but the termination-for-cause provisions in his contract would release Ohio State from that financial responsibility.
According to Tressel’s contract, one of the termination-for-cause provisions is “fraud or dishonesty in preparing, falsifying, submitting or altering documents or records of Ohio State, NCAA or the Big Ten.”
The big problem for Tressel here is that after receiving information regarding possible violations and the tattoo parlor (not to mention forwarding the emails), Tressel knowingly signed a routine compliance form stating he was not aware of any possible violations.
If Ohio State is looking for a reason to get Tressel out, the “fraud or dishonesty” clause might be a good place to start.
In addition, more reports have come out about whether Ohio State players are getting “special” deals at local car dealerships. Lots of questions are raised:
The Dispatch reported that a car salesman who received game passes from Ohio State athletes handled many of the deals at two different dealerships. Ohio State has since taken the salesman, Aaron Kniffin, off the pass list.
Athletes are prevented from receiving special deals not available to other students. They are not permitted to trade autographs for discounts. Both dealerships display signed Ohio State memorabilia in their showrooms.
One car, a 2-year-old Chrysler 300 with fewer than 20,000 miles, was titled to then-sophomore defensive player Thaddeus Gibson in 2009. Documents show the purchase price as $0. Gibson said he did not know why the title showed a zero for the purchase price and said he was still paying for the car.
State law requires dealers to report accurate information about all car sales for tax purposes.
School officials have seen no evidence of players getting special treatment in vehicle sales, Douglas Archie, associate athletic director for compliance, said in a statement Saturday.
“Consistent with our standard procedures, we are nevertheless reviewing these sales to assure ourselves that our policies were adhered to,” he said.
The latest report now appears to show that at least Gibson was correct in his claim that he had paid for the vehicle:
Former Ohio State linebacker Thaddeus Gibson didn’t understand why his purchase of a used Chrysler 300C was listed at $0 in documents disclosed in a media report, since he was still making payments on the vehicle.
Now, newly uncovered documents appear to back up Gibson — to the tune of $13,700.
In an initial report on Ohio State’s investigation of car sales to athletes and their families, The Columbus Dispatch cited documents showing a purchase price of $0 for Gibson’s car.
But on Wednesday, the newspaper reported it obtained a previous title on the vehicle listing the purchase price as $13,700 for a sale dated June 27, 2007 and financed through Huntington National Bank.
The title listing the purchase price as $0 was dated March 6, 2008 and listed the same bank as the lender, according to the report.
So where do things go now? Probably downhill. Unlikely OSU gets off lightly and Tressel may end up needing to sit out this coming season.
So chalk up another “victim” of the NFL labor situation as Pryor (and maybe others) would have declared for the supplemental draft if the labor impasse did not exist.