The problem with lying is remembering every untruth to cover it effectively later.
Choosing not to come clean the first time and every time thereafter spins a duplicitous web that almost always ensnares the liar.
Jim Tressel knows that now, but it’s likely too late to save his job as Ohio State’s head football coach long term. It’s surely too late to save the storied football program a label and a stench that will follow it far into the future.
The right thing for Tressel to do is resign, both because his actions are indefensible and to spare Ohio State the most severe NCAA sanctions, which will remain in play as long as he is employed.
Ohio State is clearly not going to fire Tressel for several reasons.
First, it would look foolish beyond belief doing so less than two months after university officials extolled his virtues at the March 8 disclosure of his NCAA violations.
Second, the last time Ohio State fired a coach for major NCAA rules violations before the NCAA issued a final ruling, it ended up paying former basketball coach Jim O‘Brien $2.5 million for wrongful termination, thanks to a poorly written contract.
Tressel‘s deal is just as airtight in his favor, and his wild success over a 10-year tenure has engendered widespread support among fans so enamored with his reputation that they refuse to acknowledge the gravity of his errors in this case.
No Ohio State official has displayed the necessary backbone to risk his or her own future — like Indiana‘s Miles Brand risked his when he fired Bob Knight — by dismissing Tressel for the damage his NCAA rule-breaking has done to the school’s reputation and the sanctions those mistakes might bring for the football program going forward.
The NCAA Notice of Allegations released by Ohio State confirms what FOXSportsOhio.com first reported on March 18, that the school is subject to the harshest NCAA penalties because it meets the definition of a repeat violator.
That’s because this is Ohio State’s second major violations case within a five-year period, dating to the imposition of penalties on the school’s basketball program in March 2006.
The magnitude of Tressel’s wrongdoing is difficult for some fans to comprehend because they believed, above all else, that the one thing their coach stood for was integrity.
From his “Block O of Life“ — a collection of inspirational statements and instructions he annually distributed to his players on how to exemplify good character — to the books he authored with the same bent, Tressel sold people on the image that he cared as much about winning the right way as he did winning at all.
Hence, the latest revelations in the Tattoogate scandal, reported Monday by The Columbus Dispatch and alleged in the NCAA Notice of Allegations sent to Ohio State over the weekend, sting more than anything previously disclosed.
The web Tressel began spinning a year ago, when he first became aware of NCAA violations by his players and didn’t notify anyone at Ohio State or the NCAA, has been proven larger than before.
When Tressel stood at the lectern on March 8 at a press conference called to announce that he had lied to the NCAA in September and misled university investigators twice in December, we now know Tressel lied again.
This is what he said that day, about what he did with emails sent to him by Columbus attorney Chris Cicero that detailed certain NCAA violations by players Terrelle Pryor and DeVier Posey.
“I probably — or definitely — didn’t move forward with this information to anyone simply because in my mind I couldn’t think as to who that best would be,” Tressel said.
Less than one week later, at a speech in Canton, Tressel said this: “I apologize for the fact I wasn’t able to find the ones to partner with to handle our difficult and complex situation.”
The Dispatch reported Monday a vastly different version than a befuddled Tressel unsuccessfully searching his Rolodex or email address book for help with a predicament too vexing for him to solve.
Documents provided by Ohio State show Tressel called Pryor’s “mentor” — Ted Sarniak in Jeannette, Pa. — the next morning.
Their conversation on Tressel’s office line lasted less than one minute. Two minutes later, Sarniak called Tressel’s cell phone for a 15-minute conversation.
The coach and Sarniak talked twice more in coming days, again both times via Tressel’s cell phone.
Ohio State says the nature of cell phone communications and text messages on the phone it provides Tressel cannot be obtained.
If you listen closely, you can almost hear the Church Lady sneer, “How conveeeeenient.“
Tressel donned camouflage cargo pants and a military cap for Ohio State’s spring game Saturday in Ohio Stadium. He has festooned the walls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center with military flags and other items to pay tribute to our nation’s soldiers, and he took a trip to the Middle East to visit the troops when invited by the USO.
In all of that dabbling in military matters and homage-paying to the armed forces, Jim Tressel‘s understanding of proper chain of command for Ohio State’s head football coach is that a 67-year-old glass factory owner in Pryor’s hometown ranks ahead of university president E. Gordon Gee, athletic director Gene Smith and the NCAA.
The confounding question is, why?
Why would Tressel, who could have escaped any personal culpability in this matter simply by handing it off to anyone at his school or the NCAA, all but end his career and irrevocably tarnish his reputation by attempting to conceal what constitute hanging offenses in the NCAA rule book?
Only theories as to the actual answer exist.
Surely, the justifications Tressel has given previously — confidentiality requested by Cicero, preserving the sanctity of a federal drug investigation — are so ridiculous they don’t even qualify as plausible lies worth consideration.
The harshest guess is that Tressel had a No. 2-ranked team capable of winning a second national championship that would elevate him to a level reached only by the game’s elite coaches. Without Pryor, that chance was all but gone.
A more-believable, less-devious reason why Tressel lied when he could have told the truth without personal consequence is the same answer which explains the majority of lies in everyone’s life.
He lied because he didn’t think he would get caught.
That much is apparent in the additional email exchanges between Cicero and Tressel and Tressel and Sarniak.
When Tressel first forwarded the damaging information about Pryor to Sarniak, the coach wrote of Cicero: “This guy . . . has always looked out for us.”
In an email from Cicero to Tressel on April 16, the attorney mentions the necessity for secrecy regarding Pryor’s violations, “especially if some stupid media would get wind of this.”
It’s obvious that Cicero was never going to expose Tressel on this matter, and Tressel knew that.
The coach therefore had no fear of Cicero going to the NCAA, Ohio State officials or reporters with details of Tressel concealing the damaging information or playing Pryor and Posey throughout the 2010 season when he had reason to know they were ineligible.
The NCAA minced no words in its Notice of Allegations to Ohio State on the severity of Tressel’s actions, saying he “failed to deport himself in accordance with the honesty and integrity” expected of coaches and that he “violated ethical conduct legislation” when he kept Cicero’s emails secret.
One important note buried in the NCAA’s letter to Gee detailing the Notice of Allegations says that NCAA investigators have yet to submit their report from the time they’ve spent examining Tressel’s behavior since the March 8 press conference.
So Ohio State could have much more to answer to when it appears before the NCAA infractions committee on Aug. 12.
A ruling could come within 90 days thereafter, raising the possibility that sanctions that could bar Ohio State from participating in the first Big Ten championship game could come down just before the Buckeyes finish the regular season against Michigan.
One thing that’s clear is the NCAA has fast-tracked this matter to perhaps rule upon it by the conclusion of the 2011 season.
The NCAA took 15 months to finish a recent major-violations case at Michigan, nearly two years to finalize one at Connecticut and four years to do so at USC.
The most interesting comparison, however, may be to how Ohio State is responding to this major violations case and how it responded to the previous one that involved the basketball program under O’Brien.
Before that hoops matter came to its conclusion, but after O’Brien had been fired, Ohio State self-imposed a penalty that denied the players on the team Thad Matta inherited from the chance to make the NCAA tournament.
None of those players were involved in the allegations that led to O’Brien’s firing, yet Ohio State sacrificed their accomplishments to avoid future penalties.
In this case, the players and the coach who have imperiled Ohio State’s reputation and its football program — Tressel, Pryor, Posey and others — are still on campus and still engaged.
So far, Ohio State has shown no inclination to sacrifice their accomplishments in the past or their careers going forward the way it did a coach and his players who had nothing to do with the basketball violations the NCAA ruled upon in 2006.