On Monday, the University of Tennessee did the right thing in firing men’s basketball Head Coach Bruce Pearl. Pearl admitted to several NCAA rules violations, including improper contact and attempting to mislead NCAA investigators regarding a BBQ held at his home and trying to get others to lie about it as well. As Richard Nixon could have told Pearl, it’s not the crime but the coverup that gets you impeached.
About six hours up I-75 however, an even more serious set of transgressions occurred, when Ohio State’s Jim Tressel learned in January 2010 that five of the Buckeye’s best football players were involved with an improper benefits scandal and said nothing about it. If the NCAA can prove that Tressel alerted his superiors about the matter and they also participated in the coverup, the consequences from the NCAA Committee on Infractions could be severe.
Both Pearl and Tressel were contrite and apologized profusely in their public statements but so far, Bruce Pearl is the only one of the two to have suffered the worst possible consequences of the Cardinal Sin of lying to the NCAA. Pearl’s transgressions were unforgiveable and UT absolutely did the right thing in terminating the flamboyant, popular coach. It wasn’t easy, either. Pearl had put Tennessee men’s basketball on the map. They were relevant under him and missed the 2010 Final Four by a single point.
But there’s something to keep in mind vis-a-vis Pearl’s poor decision making and that of Jim Tressel. But for Pearl’s actions, would Tennessee have been less competitive in the basketball games occurring after his transgressions? That answer would have to be an unequivocal “NO.”
That is not the case with Jim Tressel and the Tattoo Five. Jim Tressel had specific, credible information that as many as five of his best players—including standout QB Terrelle Pryor—were probably ineligible to play after trading memorabilia for tattoos, cash and other gifts. Ask the same question: But for Tressel’s actions (or, inaction in this case), would Ohio State have been less competitive in the football games occurring after his knowledge of the facts? That answer would have to be an unequivocal “YES.”
Do you think Michigan would like a shot at a team quarterbacked by someone other than Pryor? What about the Arkansas Razorbacks? Would having those five players on the bench made a difference in the outcome of the Sugar Bowl?
Tressel’s team gained a clear competitive advantage by playing ineligible players. Pearl’s teams received virtually no advantage from his actions, and Pearl lost his job.
Tressel should too.
Extra Point: Ohio State went 12-1 in the 2010 season. Tressel absolutely owns Michigan and damned near everyone else in the Big TenlevenTwelve. Tressel is a winning coach. Does tOSU have the “buckeyes” to fire a winner?