Friday morning The Ohio State University athletic department released copies of its response to NCAA allegations brought forth in March of this year. Self imposed sanctions were put into place as a means to punish the football program for the violations they truly were guilty of in the investigation. The response also brought to light the culmination of an interesting "behind the scenes" discussion answering the question was Jim Tressel pressured to resign or did he do it on his own free-will? As it would be revealed, he indeed was asked to step down.
Many believe Tressel should still be in place acting as head coach of the program. Others feel he should not have been given the opportunity to resign (or as it turns out, he actually retired from the head coaching position) rather he should have been ceremoniously fired and then immediately tarred and feathered in his front yard and drug through the streets of Upper Arlington right to Bruce Hooley's front door where... Sorry, I got a little carried away! Where was I? Tressel retired, that's it... Look, I'm not saying Tressel did the right thing as it pertains to the emails and the tattoo shop on goings. He should have reported what was happening immediately and sat those players the first five games of 2010. That would have been the right thing to do. As a matter of fact, forget about it being right, it was his responsibility. Nobody with an ounce of common sense denies that fact. But you can understand why he didn't it, just look at 2010's 12-1 record for proof. With those guys on the field, short of an ambush they should have been better prepared for in Madison, this team would have been unbeaten. And Tressel knew what he had. Ultimately, not forwarding those emails to Gene Smith and suspending those players immediately would be his undoing.
However you stand on the morality of the reporting of the emails issue, you can't deny that Jim Tressel fell on the sword for Ohio State's football program in the form of the response letter. When you read it, you can almost see Gene Smith standing next to Tressel with his arm extended and finger pointed directly at him, jumping up and down like the kid on the playground at recess who couldn't wait to tell the teacher exactly whom it was that slipped and said the "s word" when he fell and skinned his knee (damn you Scott Blakely!) on the blacktop. Gene was none too upset about pinning everything on JT, though he did his best to make it look like it. And for the most part he did it rightfully so. But where was his own accountability? Instead of saying "I wish he'd have told me" why didn't he go find out? How is someone in that position in charge of this football program at this university not watching Tressel and the players like a hawk? I understand basketball is a big sport at Ohio State. The kids who do the balance beam are important too. But Gene, this school, this state revolves around THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL PROGRAM.
Enough about Gene and Jim, let's talk sanctions
The athletic department imposed its own punishment in the vacating of all wins in 2010, the 2011 Sugar Bowl victory, two years of probation and the forcing out/firing of a legendary head coach. Given what went on, the facts, losing a coach like Tressel on top of the penalty is pretty harsh stuff. Yes, I said it, it's a pretty harsh penalty, but fitting.
The 2010 wins had to be vacated, they played what would have been ineligible players in said games. Despite everyone being cleared to play by the NCAA, they threw in vacating the Sugar Bowl for good measure. They also put the athletic department, now mind you this is the entire athletic department, not just the football program, on two years of probation. So if that dude mentioned above who excels at the balance beam gets out of line, they all get whacked!
Naturally, the national media was appalled and threw a fit at the response. "Who does Ohio State think they are?!" I read "Nice try Ohio State, but you've got a real whopper coming!" And my favorite "The audacity of this program!" I'll be the first to admit, we may see scholarship reductions for the next three years. I don't know why, maybe the history of these type rulings in cases like Ohio State's that I've been reading on websites from writers like Tony Gerdemann at The O-Zone and Doug Lesmerises of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, I think we'll see a scholarship reduction. If for no other reason, so the NCAA can play the bully and add something on. Probably another year of probation as well. However, I feel it's highly unlikely, we still may see a one year bowl ban for the 2011 season. But folks, that's it. I'm sorry Joe Schad. Tough luck Bruce Hooley. I feel for you Sports By Brooks. But unfortunately for all of you, that's the max it will be.
For some reason that I can't seem to figure out, all these pundits want to point at USC as the example of how our punishment should be brought down. What's sad is that if these guys did their jobs and read the NCAA allegations, if they read Ohio State's response and then look solely at the facts, they'd understand that the USC case is not even remotely comparable to what went on at Ohio State.
At USC you had a player receiving cash, cars and his family a house from boosters. That was proven as fact. At Ohio State you had players trading memorabilia for tattoo's, that was fact. The cars they were accused of getting "deals" on were proved to be all legit. You had a coach who turned a blind eye to the whole thing, never admitting what he truly knew or didn't know, and then escaped to the NFL without even attending the hearing. He wasn't forced out or fired, he quit and ran. And the biggest difference, USC fought their allegations tooth and nail, kicking and screaming the whole way. Ohio State self reported and has been apologetic and admitted their mistakes from the start. Self reporting is a big factor in the NCAA's eyes.
So when USC gets hammered with two years of no bowl games and x amount of scholarships lost per year and everything else that was dropped on them like a lead balloon, it's pretty deserving. Ohio State? Not so much. Make sure and set your dvr the day the NCAA announces its punishment based on the August 12th hearing. That will be must see tv when the national media folks heads achieve full combustion live on the air!
Certainly you've heard the name Kyle Kalis recently. He is the top 20 nationally ranked offensive tackle from Lakewood St. Ed's who de-committed from Ohio State and then this past Sunday announced he had been hooked by Flounder (Brady Hoke, keep up with my nicknames!)and was going to take his talents to Ann Arbor next fall. You know what? Good for him. Enjoy life in the suck.
Here's what really angers me about Kalis and some of it isn't even his fault: recruiting services and magazines attacking this kid (and any other top rated recruits) with advice about what they should and shouldn't be doing. He should be worried about homecoming and getting ready for double sessions in August, instead he has "Joe Writer" from "Recruting Bedazzler America" website and magazine on his porch and blowing up his phone 24 hours a day. The fact is, he's a 17 year old kid in high school who's the big man on campus. He's getting more phone calls nightly than you can even begin to imagine from coaches, he doesn't need recruiting services trying to get scoop and filling his head with nonsense. So when Kyle Kalis announces back in April that he is staying with his commitment to Ohio State after talking with Luke Fickell, then announces he is re-opening his recruitment, then finally submits to the dark side and Darth Flounder, more or less it's really not his fault. I wouldn't be surprised if he changed his mind again and said he was going to Notre Lame.
What is his fault is the double talk. Don't say that you're re-opening your recruitment when things look bad and blame it on the uncertainty of things in Columbus, then two days after Ohio State responds to the NCAA allegations by imposing sanctions that will have no bearing on you and your time in Columbus, decide you want to go to Michigan because "I shouldn't be punished for something I had no part of." That's true, you shouldn't. And if you had stuck to your word that you would wait until after the NCAA made it's ruling (oh yeah big boy, I read that little column in Sporting News!) since signing day isn't until February anyways, you just may have found that the NCAA ruling had no impact on you as well.
Maybe the worst kept secret of the past few weeks was finally announced officially today when former Buckeye defensive end and 3X Super Bowl winner Mike Vrabel was made linebackers coach at Ohio State. I don't know what kind of teacher he will be other than what I've heard from Bill Belichik and Teddy Brusci. Both stated that of all the players they coached and had as teammates, Vrabel was clearly the one to become a coach and be more than pretty good at it. That's high praise from some people who've reached pretty high places! The addition of Vrabel is a breath of fresh air on what has been a spring and summer the likes we will never forget, though we will try as hard as we can to remove the stain of this offseason as quickly as possible. Vrabel is the first step in the right direction toward becoming The once again.
Metallica track of the week
"Battery" Speed and thrash at its finest! "Smashing through the boundaries, lunacy has found me..."