Uh-oh: Jim Tressel could be in major NCAA hot water

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If you are an Ohio State fan and thought, with the exception of serving the five-game suspensions, the imbroglio involving multiple Buckeyes receiving impermissible benefits was over, you may be very, very wrong.

And the school’s head coach may have bought himself a world of NCAA hurt.  Allegedly.

According to a report by Dan Wetzel and Charlie Robinson of Yahoo! Sports, “coach Jim Tressel was informed that several Buckeyes players were selling memorabilia more than eight months before the school claims it was made aware of the scheme.”  That startling accusation stems from a two-month investigation by the website.

Sources told the website that Tressel was informed in April of 2010 that some of his players were selling/bartering Buckeyes memorabilia and mementos to the owner of Columbus tattoo parlor.  At a December press conference announcing the suspensions for “The Buckeye Five” — quarterback Terrelle Pryor, offensive lineman Mike Adams, running back Boom Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas — athletic director Gene Smith stated that the school did not become aware of the violations until Dec. 7, a full eight months after Tressel allegedly learned of potential violations committed by members of the football program.

If in fact Tressel knew of what his players were doing and did not inform the athletic department, the football program in general and Tressel specifically could be in for significant repercussions from the NCAA and the school itself — up to and including Tressel being dismissed for cause by the university.

If Tressel failed to inform Smith or the Ohio State compliance department about the players’ dealings with Rife, he could be charged with multiple NCAA violations including unethical conduct, failure to monitor and a failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance. In general, a coach is required to act on, or pass along reasonable information about possible rule violations for further investigation.

Section 4.1(d) of Tressel’s contract with Ohio State stipulates that he “supervise and take appropriate steps to ensure … members of the Team know, recognize and comply with any such laws, University Rules and Governing Athletic Rules and immediately report to the (Athletic) Director and to the (Athletic) Department’s Office of Compliance Services in writing if any person or entity, including without limitation, representatives of Ohio State’s athletic interests, has violated or is likely to violate any such laws, University Rules and Governing Athletic Rules.”

Section 5.1 (m) of his contract also states that failure to promptly report “any violations” could lead to “termination by Ohio State for cause.”

Ohio State itself could be cited with playing ineligible players and forced to vacate its 2010 season, when it won a share of the Big Ten championship and finished 12-1. It could also face further sanctions for major infractions.

Obviously, if it can be proved that Tressel had prior knowledge of the violations and did not report it — or that it was reported to the athletic department but they did not act on it — the ramifications could be monumental for both the coach and the program.

Given what’s known publicly about Tressel and the kind of man he is, it’s hard to believe he would have this type of information on his players and just squat on it.  However, Wetzel & Company have a tremendous track record of nailing stories such as this, so it’s highly doubtful they would run with something as major as this has the potential to become without  having every “i” dotted and “t” crossed.

And that should be very, very sobering news for both the head coach and fans of the football program.

UPDATED 9:02 p.m. ET: Both Ken Gordon of the Columbus Dispatch and Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer report that Ohio State will have no comment on the report tonight.