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Monday, March 28, 2011

The End is Near - Firing Pearl right move by UT ... how 'bout it, Ohio State? - Tressel may be forcing Ohio State's hand with more alleged deceptions

Tressel may be forcing Ohio State's hand with more alleged deceptions
Andy Staples
USC football coach Lane Kiffin, currently awaiting his day in NCAA court for alleged violations committed at Tennessee, said something Thursday that suggests he has studied the history of the NCAA's enforcement process.
"As you read the reports, when you look at those things, it has to do with issues of how you deal with the NCAA and how you communicate with them through the process," Kiffin said. "I don't think that's a question at all in this situation."
Kiffin is confident, believing he and Tennessee were forthright with investigators, and the charge leveled against him suggests the NCAA believes that as well. Kiffin was charged with failure to monitor -- an allegation many a coach has survived with his job intact. Among those who follow the NCAA's enforcement process, the general rule of thumb is this: The NCAA's Committee on Infractions can forgive a few transgressions, but one it rarely forgives is hiding the truth from the NCAA. That's why Kiffin should feel much safer than Ohio State's Jim Tressel, whose own school has turned him in to the NCAA for a violation of Bylaw 10.1, which prohibits Unethical Conduct.
Tressel has already been fined $250,000 and suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season, but a look at past infractions cases suggests he isn't out of the woods. An SI.com study of the past 177 NCAA infractions cases involving violations of Bylaw 10.1 revealed that coaches accused of such violations rarely retain their jobs. The cases in the NCAA's Major Infractions database dated back to 1989, and included schools from each of the NCAA's three divisions. Offenses ranged in severity from a coach providing free T-shirts to recruits to former Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss encouraging others to lie to the NCAA about the habits of a murdered player. Of the 177 cases, 172 involved coaches or athletic administrators accused of committing unethical conduct. Of those, 159 resigned or were terminated. Eighty-one cases involved coaches or athletics administrators accused of providing false or misleading information to NCAA investigators or encouraging others to lie to investigators. Of those, 78 resigned or were terminated. In many of the cases, the coaches accused of lying to investigators also were accused of other violations. One intriguing aspect of Tressel's case is that it does not -- at this point -- include any other violations on his part.
E-mails from a former Buckeye to Tressel last spring alerted the coach to a Columbus tattoo parlor that was trading cash and tattoos to at least two players -- a clear violation of NCAA rules. According to Ohio State, Tressel notified neither his superiors nor the NCAA. In September, Tressel signed an NCAA form indicating he knew of no violations of NCAA rules. In December, when NCAA investigators came to Columbus to investigate Ohio State players' relationship with the tattoo parlor, after the school was tipped off by federal authorities, Tressel never mentioned that he knew what was going on. The story got even messier Friday when The Columbus Dispatch reported that Tressel forwarded the information to Ted Sarniak, the 67-year-old owner of a Jeanette, Pa., glass factory and a "mentor" of Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor, one of six players found to have traded memorabilia for cash and/or tattoos at Fine Line Ink in Columbus.
Those three acts -- 1) the forwarding of the information to someone other than his bosses or the NCAA, 2) the signing of the form and 3) the failure to divulge his knowledge of the arrangement in December -- are likely to draw the ire of the Committee on Infractions. In essence, Tressel will stand accused of knowingly playing ineligible players and then hiding that ineligibility from the NCAA.
But not all 10.1 cases are equal. For instance:
Section 10.1_(b) prohibits engaging in academic fraud. Tressel's case has nothing to do with academic fraud. When the enforcement team finishes its work and hands down a Notice of Allegations, Tressel could be charged with a violation of section 10.1_(c), which forbids knowing involvement in providing extra benefits. In that case, the committee would have to prove Tressel knew of the arrangement and did nothing to stop it. A more likely charge is a violation of section 10.1_(d), which forbids "knowingly furnishing the NCAA or the individual's institution false or misleading information concerning the individual's involvement in or knowledge of matters relevant to a possible violation of an NCAA regulation."
Basketball coach Bruce Pearl is charged with a 10.1_(d) violation in the same Tennessee case as Kiffin, but Pearl won't have to wait for the Committee on Infractions to rule to learn his fate. Tennessee fired him Monday with athletic director Mike Hamilton citing "the cumulative effect of the evolution of the investigation combined with a number of more recent non-NCAA-related incidents."
What should concern Tressel just as much as Pearl's dismissal is that even in cases where coaches who knowingly used ineligible athletes didn't hide that fact from NCAA investigators, those coaches still lost their jobs.
In 2006, the NCAA released its infractions report for Iowa's men's swimming program. The report detailed how former coach John Davey knowingly used three ineligible Polish swimmers between 2001-04 and never reported that they were ineligible to his superiors. Davey was not accused of misleading NCAA investigators; in fact, the case never got that far. Iowa conducted its own internal investigation that ended in January 2005. By then, Davey was gone. The school put out a release on Dec. 20, 2004 saying he had resigned for "personal reasons."
"John has been an outstanding representative of the University of Iowa and the Iowa Athletic Department," then-athetic director Bob Bowlsby said in a release. "We always hate to lose someone of his caliber and talents."
Another similar case offers the only time the head football coach at Ohio State will ever draw a comparison to the rugby coach at tiny Southern Vermont College. Jeremiah Madison, who shepherded Southern Vermont's rugby club team into NCAA play, was fired in 2008 for knowingly using ineligible players. One player, according to the NCAA report, played in a game under the name of an eligible player.
But not everyone found to have misled investigators got fired. Alcorn State women's basketball coach Shirley Walker was accused of multiple violations between 2002-04. They included impermissible benefits (giving ineligible players travel per diem) and using ineligible players in practice. The COI also found that Walker provided misleading information to investigators regarding several issues. But Walker didn't lose her job. Though the COI in 2006 cited her continued employment as an "aggravating factor" in its decision to impose a postseason ban, it accepted the school's self-imposed two-game suspension and threatened further sanctions if Walker wasn't suspended from the first week of practice for three consecutive seasons.
In the end, it wasn't the NCAA that got Walker. It was her record. The 30-year veteran was fired in 2008 after going 12-18.
Tressel can only hope his fate is determined by his 106-22 record at Ohio State. Because since 1989, the record of coaches and administrators accused of violations of Bylaw 10.1 is quite dismal.

The End is Near
Posted by Chip Patterson

With the NCAA investigation into Ohio State and head coach Jim Tressel still unresolved, the local media is bound to do some further digging on the topic. As we saw this past season in the high-profile cases of Auburn and North Carolina, the paper trail can reveal much more about the situation at hand, or in some cases misdirect the focus of violations in the first place. For Ohio State, this bit of information may raise more questions than it answers.
The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that when Tressel received the famous emails of warning regarding his players selling memorabilia to a local tattoo parlor, he forwarded them to a man close to star quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Ted Sarniak, 67, is described as "a prominent businessman in Pryor's hometown of Jeanette, Pa." Sarniak has acted as Pryor's mentor and advisor since high school, and reportedly was the recipient of the warning emails when they were forwarded by Tressel.
In the news conference to announce the violations against Tressel, the coach nodded when asked if he had forwarded the emails. He was quickly cut short by athletic director Gene Smith, and has maintained that the reason he kept the information to himself was to protect his players and the confidentiality of the federal investigation against the owner of the tattoo parlor. Tressel apologized profusely, and has since received a five game suspension as punishment for keeping the information from the university and the NCAA.
But the report also raises questions about Sarniak, and his relationship with Pryor/Tressel/Ohio State. Of all people involved with the Ohio State football program, why would Tressel choose to inform Pryor's 67-year-old mentor on the issue rather than Pryor's family. Ohio State has not turned over any email records as of yet, but compliance director Doug Archie was quick to erase any doubts regarding Pryor's relationship with Sarniak.
"Mr. Sarniak and Terrelle Pryor have been friends for a number of years, and their friendship dates back prior to Terrelle's enrollment at Ohio State," Archie said in an email to The Dispatch. "As the friendship developed, Mr. Sarniak is someone who Terrelle has reached out to for advice and guidance throughout his high-school and collegiate career."
When the NCAA investigation concludes, Tressel's five-game suspension and $250,000 fine could be upheld or increased. A big-name program like Ohio State would prefer that the investigation move quickly, so that the media attention can focus on football rather than independent investigation. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, the NCAA has a tendency to take their time with these matters.

Firing Pearl right move by UT ... how 'bout it, Ohio State?
By Gregg Doyel

Jim Tressel got Bruce Pearl fired.
No one at Tennessee would ever say it, but I don't care about that. Tennessee is the same place that said Pearl would weather this storm and remain as coach. The storm came. Pearl got washed away. So now I don't believe a word Tennessee says -- and I won't believe a word Tennessee says until it has removed its overmatched athletics director. If Mike Hamilton is talking for Tennessee, I'm not listening.
But Tressel got Pearl fired. Believe that. And ask yourself this:
Could Bruce Pearl do the same to Jim Tressel?
I believe so, because public perception is everything to Ohio State, and to Tennessee -- it's the tail wagging both those dogs. Look at Tennessee, where cheating didn't do in Bruce Pearl. Lying to the NCAA didn't get him fired. Neither did losing to Michigan by 30 points in the NCAA tournament.
Public perception buried Pearl.
And Jim Tressel provided the last shovel of dirt.
Pearl was surviving the scandal, just as Hamilton hilariously said he would months ago. Everywhere Tennessee went for a road game, the local paper wrote about its ethically empty basketball coach. Every time Tennessee was on national TV, the announcers talked about its ethically empty basketball coach. Those were shots to the body, wearing on Pearl, wearing on the people above Pearl -- and above Mike Hamilton, too.
But nobody ever got knocked unconscious by a body shot.
Jim Tressel provided the KO blow. It was a sucker punch to Pearl's glass jaw. The facts of the cases are different, but the underlying ethical emptiness was the same:
• Pearl committed an NCAA violation and tried to hide it from the NCAA.

• Tressel learned of NCAA violations and tried to hide it from his bosses -- and therefore, from the NCAA.
When Pearl committed his blunder, the people at Tennessee -- blinded by the revenue he generates -- forgave it. Excused it. Rationalized it away as a mistake, but not a fatal mistake. Certainly nothing that warranted firing a winning coach. Tennessee was so close to the situation, it couldn't see the forest. It kept staring at that Bruce Pearl money tree.
Then came Tressel. Doing the same basic thing.
And that, Tennessee could see. Hell, the whole world could see. Most folks were outraged by, and even embarrassed for, Ohio State. How could a school keep a coach who did what Tressel had done? Insane, when you think about it. Tressel learned that his best player, Heisman candidate Terrelle Pryor, had committed an NCAA violation that would jeopardize his eligibility -- and Tressel did nothing. Told nobody. Sat on the information and built his 2010 season around Pryor's offensive skill-set.
And then in late December, when the NCAA came calling and Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith asked Tressel about Pryor's violation -- trading on his celebrity by selling goods to a Columbus, Ohio, businessman -- Tressel played dumb. Said he didn't know about it. In other words, he lied.
And Ohio State kept him? Suspended him for just two games? Hahahaha. Laughable. Ohio State made a mockery of itself, and everyone but the most blindly loyal Buckeyes fans knew it.
Even the people at Tennessee knew it.
That happened two weeks ago. When did Tennessee turn on Bruce Pearl? About a week ago. That's when Hamilton went on a local radio station and revealed that Pearl's job was in jeopardy after all. That stunned Pearl, stunned Tennessee fans, stunned everyone. It was a 180-degree spin from Tennessee's position for months, even after the NCAA had called Pearl a cheater and a liar in its notice of allegations Feb. 22.
What happened in the last two weeks?
Jim Tressel happened.
Tennessee understood, finally, what it had done, what it had condoned and -- most importantly -- what it was going to face. It took the Tressel fiasco for Tennessee to realize the NCAA was going to devastate its basketball program if Bruce Pearl were still the coach. Even with blindly loyal Volunteers fans gathering in support of their ethically bankrupt coach, Tennessee did the right thing on Monday by firing Pearl -- but don't give the school much credit. It did everything wrong, from start to finish, until stumbling onto the only resolution acceptable: firing a coach who would dare try to cover up NCAA violations.
Now the focus falls to Ohio State, and public perception will weigh heavily on the Buckeyes. For the second time, Tennessee has set the bar for responding to an ethically empty coach. The first time, Tennessee went for the in-season suspension. The SEC sat down Pearl for eight games, and that was good enough for Tennessee. And so it was good enough for Ohio State, which sat down its own ethically empty coach, Jim Tressel, for the first two games of the 2011 season.
Two games became five games after the Buckeyes gauged public perception, which bordered on ridicule, and accepted Tressel's offer to increase his own suspension. Which I don't believe for a second, by the way. Tressel lied to his own boss, but I'm supposed to believe he's telling the truth about his five-game suspension? Not gonna happen.
But now, here's what happened: Tennessee raised the bar from suspension to dismissal. Tennessee learned from Jim Tressel that its coach had to be fired.
So what did Ohio State learn from Bruce Pearl?

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