Less than 24 hours after a report emerged that levied fairly significant allegations against Ohio State’s Jim Tressel, the school has announced that their head football coach is indeed guilty of committing a major NCAA violation. And is facing a rather substantial initial punishment from the school, with further sanctions from the NCAA looming as a very real possibility.
In a press conference Tuesday evening, athletic director Gene Smith confirmed that Tressel has been suspended for the first two games of the 2011 season and fined $250,000 for failing to take action when notified last April that his players may have received impermissible benefits. Tressel received the information regarding his players via email from an attorney connected to a federal drug investigation.
Those emails were discovered Jan. 13 of 2011 during an unrelated search by the school.
“Coach Tressel,” OSU’s report to the NCAA reads, ”received emails from an attorney that provided specific information about two-student athletes selling memorabilia to a local tattoo parlor owner. These emails also indicated that one student-athlete may have received free and/or discounted services at a tattoo parlor. Although Coach Tressel had the information, he did not inform institutional officials.”
Tressel was subsequently informed by the same individual that two student-athletes — it’s unclear from the report whether they are the same two student-athletes referred to earlier — were selling their championship rings. The email correspondence between Tressel and the attorney continued after the initial conversation, with the last email found to have been sent by Tressel on June 6.
“I am sorry and disappointed this happened. At the time the situation occurred, I thought I was doing the right thing,” Tressel said. “I understand my responsibility to represent Ohio State and the game of football. I apologize to any and all of the people I have let down. I will grow from this experience.”
Tressel was found by OSU to have violated NCAA Bylaw 10.1, failing “to follow the institution’s protocol for reporting of violations by not informing compliance or other institutional administrators of the information he received beginning in April 2010.”
The internal investigation found that Tressel had at least three opportunities “to provide information relative to the NCAA violation reported in December but failed to do so.”
i. Signed the NCAA Certificate of Compliance Form on September 13, 2010, indicated he has reported any knowledge of possible violations to the institutions;
ii. Did not report the information in the emails or his knowledge of potential violations to the institution in early December 2010 when he initially learned from University officials on or around December 9 that information had been received from the Department of Justice regarding student-athletes potentially violating NCAA legislation for selling memorabilia and receiving discounted services; and
iii. Did not report the information in the emails or his knowledge of potential violations on December 16, 2010, when asked by institutional officials about his knowledge of the student-athletes’ involvement in these activities. More specifically, while conducting its inquiry, institutional officials interviewed the six involved student-athletes. Following the interviews, University officials informally questioned Coach Tressel about his knowledge of this information. When Coach Tressel was asked if he had been contacted about this matter or knew anything about it, he replied that while he had received a tip about general rumors pertaining to certain of his players, that information had not been specific, and it pertained to their off-field choices. He implied that the tip related to the social decisions/choices being made by certain student-athletes. He added he did not recall from whom he received the tip. he also stated that he did not know that any items had been seized.
“I am disappointed that we find ourselves in this situation. I want to thank the NCAA for being responsive and working collaboratively with us on this case. We ask Buckeye Nation to be patient as we resolve this matter and we thank them for all the support that they provide to our programs,” said Athletics Director Gene Smith. “I think everyone knows how I feel about Jim Tressel. There is no better coach at developing young people than Jim.”
As part of the suspension, which will be for home games against Akron and Toledo, Tressel will be precluded from participating in any game-day activities, being in the facilities where the games are played during game day, or having any contact with members of his coaching staff while the games are ongoing. Additionally, Tressel will be publicly reprimanded and must issue a public apology.
These sanctions were levied by the school, and are separate from any penalties that may be imposed down the road by the NCAA.
Also, to clear up some of the speculation, Smith also shot down rumors that Tressel would resign or be dismissed, stating that, while they’re disappointed that they’re in this situation, Tressel is his football coach and they trust him implicitly. Tressel was asked if he ever thought of resigning.
“No,” the coach said.