Folks, this is the kind of stuff that gets a school duck-taped to the wall and left as an example of how not to conduct your affairs. According to a report from WBNS TV in Ohio, Former Ohio State Buckeyes Coach Jim Tressel had informed school officials—including the athletic director and university president—that he was aware of the improper benefits scandal that cost him his career in December.
School officials had told the NCAA that it wasn’t aware of Tressel’s attempted coverup until January, and put that in a written response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations.
The school wasn’t cited for lack of institutional control or failure to monitor, two violations that typically carry harsh penalties. Ohio State wanted the NCAA to believe that the five game suspension already imposed, a vacation of the entire 2010 season and the hari kiri of Tressel would be enough to satisfy the NCAA gods.
But now you’ve got failure to monitor possibly in the mix, and counts of unethical behavior thrown in for good measure. Most reasonable analysts thought Ohio State’s measly offering of voluntary sanctions would be laughed out of the Committee on Infractions hearing next month. That appears a near certainty now, and Buckeye fans can look forward to a long, painful period of wandering through the wilderness.
From the WBNS story:
Multiple sources told 10 Investigates' Paul Aker that Tressel claimed he verbally disclosed the tip he received about his players' involvement with tattoo shop owner Ed Rife around Dec. 16 to compliance director Doug Archie, Julie Vannatta, Ohio State's senior assistant general counsel, and perhaps others.
10 Investigates asked Vannatta about the claim. She said that she is aware Tressel made such a statement, but that it is not true.
The university has always claimed that it did not learn about what Tressel knew until Jan. 13, after discovering e-mails on the topic during an "unrelated legal matter."
Based on interviews with multiple sources who had access to transcripts of Tressel's statement during a Feb. 8 NCAA investigation, Tressel claimed to have told athletic director Gene Smith, Vannatta and Archie of his tip, Aker reported.
The revelation came during an "informal" investigative meeting held by the school following a letter the university received from the U.S. Department of Justice on Dec. 9. The letter alerted the university that some players had traded their Big Ten championship rings, football jerseys and gold pants, a pendant that players receive from the University for beating Michigan for tattoos.
The school is vigorously denying the charges in this new story and will likely take that stance to the Committee meeting, citing a lack of proof that Tressel’s superiors knew about problems a month before they “discovered” emails on January 13.
But Enforcement doesn’t need proof. All it needs to do is convince the Committee that Tressel and the school administration were all aware of rules violations, and all participated in a ruse to cover them up.
The black hole in Columbus is growing.
UPDATE: via @BryanDFischer on Twitter, here is the school’s official statement in response to the WBNS story:
"The university’s filings to the NCAA; Coach Tressel’s formal, written response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations on July 8; and the NCAA’s own Case Summary received yesterday on July 21 all make clear that when Coach Tressel was interviewed by a number of people within the institution on December 9 and December 16, he did not share his knowledge about the NCAA violation.
As we have previously stated to the public and the NCAA in our filings, Coach Tressel only sought advice from the University in January 2011 -- after the university had discovered e-mails that showed that he had knowledge of the matter and in contradiction to his statements to the University the previous December. That sequence of events is summarized clearly by the NCAA in its Case Summary.
The University categorically denies anything to the contrary, and such allegations are inconsistent with the conclusions of the NCAA and the University.
Any attempt to characterize events differently would be unnecessarily damaging, inaccurate and entirely misleading."