What happened Monday is pretty easy to figure out: Ohio State goes before the NCAA infractions committee Aug. 12. To enter that hearing with Tressel still in place as football coach would have sent the following message to the committee: “We’re Ohio State. This coach wins most of the time and beats Michigan all the time. We don’t care that his program was apparently out of control or that he engaged in a cover-up of clear NCAA rules violations. We have some tickets here for our opener next month. Would one of you like to dot the ‘i’?”
That probably wouldn’t play well in that room. That’s why Tressel had to go.
Even so, there are still myriad questions surrounding the Ohio State football program.
Exactly how widespread were the violations that ex-players are saying were commonplace?
Exactly how long can Smith keep his job after declaring on Dec. 23 that the memorabilia-for-tattoos episode was “an isolated incident”? Or, more specifically, why should he keep his job?
As recently as two weeks ago, Smith insisted he supported Tressel. In March, when reports first surfaced that Tressel had covered up for players who should have been ineligible at the start of last season, Smith did a fly-by for a quickie news conference in Columbus, then raced back to serve his role as NCAA men’s basketball committee chairman. With his house was burning down, Smith came home just long enough to make sure the doors were locked.
As for Gee, how can anyone connected to Ohio State want the bow-tied president around for even five more minutes? He already made a fool of himself with his whiny comments about non-BCS teams last fall (which, to his credit, he admitted were ridiculous after being blasted nationally) and then, just to prove that bit of stupidity wasn’t a fluke, he made his incredible wisecrack, “I’m just hopeful the coach doesn’t dismiss me,” during that March news conference.
Everyone needs to be dismissed at Ohio State — except maybe for the band director.
With Tressel packing up his office, Ohio State will argue that the person most responsible for the scandal is gone and thus the NCAA need not come down as hard on the Buckeyes’ football program as it did on Southern California. It’s a nice thought, but Tressel’s absence shouldn’t influence the committee at all. USC is not the precedent here.
The precedent should be a 21-year-old case that involved Maryland basketball under the regime of Bob Wade. If you go back and study the case, the violations Maryland was accused of were not as serious or as widespread as those in the Ohio State case. Wade had been fired, but Maryland got nailed with a one-year television ban and a two-year postseason ban because Wade had lied to NCAA investigators.