I think Ohio State lost the press conference but beat the NCAA.
If that is the case, there is no doubt which win Buckeye fans will prefer in the long run.
Sure, the defense Jim Tressel laid out for reporters had some easy to spot holes.
That he initially sat on the information because he did not want to jeopardize a federal investigation is plausible, but it does not explain why he apparently did not try to seek more information or why he signed the NCAA Certificate of Compliance in September.
Seems convenient he let players he had reason to believe had been guilty of wrongdoing that would make them ineligible help another one of his teams win 12 games and a Big Ten championship, but he is right when he says it would have been awfully fishy for two healthy players to be held out of action with no explanation of why.
Even his statement that he didn’t mention the spring emails in December because he thought the players in question had been punished as they would have been anyway holds some water, but the fact remains he never came forward until he had to.
Had an Ohio State official not come across one of the questionable emails in January, none of this likely would have come to light at all, and that definitely puts a big dent in Tressel’s image as a virtuous coach and a leader of men.
But is that going to matter when we start talking future wins and losses?
Regardless of what is said, written and thought of Tressel from here on out, his program figures to hum along the same way it did before if he is not punished further.
I thought a more severe punishment was in the offing after the school passed on a chance to deny the Yahoo! report Monday night then still had nothing to say by the end of the morning Tuesday, but the manner in which things ultimately went down leaves me thinking the worst is probably over.
To those not privy to the inner workings of the NCAA, a two-game suspension, a fine, a public censure and a seminar probably don’t seem like much for Tressel’s leaving his school and his sport’s governing body in the dark about a potentially serious issue, but here’s where it’s important to pay close attention.
Gene Smith is anything but uneducated when it comes to the NCAA. Smith is a former member of the organization’s committee on infractions, so he knows what he’s getting into when he starts gauging penalties.
More over, conducting this investigation in concert with the NCAA, as Ohio State says it did, seems to leave little chance for surprises when the organization reviews the case.
I find it hard to believe Smith would sign off on a report he did not have a very strong belief was going to be met with approval.
Will those outside the scarlet and gray nation have yet more reason to jeer Tressel and his merry band of Buckeyes? Of course they will. But does that count for much of anything? I hardly think so.
There was already a healthy contingent of fans out there rooting against Tressel and Ohio State at every turn, and there were more than a few writers who eyed him quite skeptically as well.
He stood before a packed room of reporters at the Jack Nicklaus Museum on Tuesday night exhibiting emotion with uncommon clarity. His eyes were red, his voice sometimes quivering.
He looked unusually small dressed in all black and standing next to Smith – a large man who was once a college lineman – and he froze when a reporter read back to him some of his words from the NCAA infractions press conference in December.
Tressel said in December he suspected the players should have known deep down inside they were doing something wrong, and a reporter asked if the same was true of the coach at some point before the emails were discovered. That seemed to catch Tressel off guard, and his reaction concerned University President E. Gordon Gee enough to prompt him to ask if he was all right.
The coach composed himself and answered the question, but there was no doubt he was shaken by the situation.
Whether he meant to sweep this under the rug or let the situation get away from him only he knows for sure, but those who like him will continue doing so and those who don’t just have that much more reason to root against him.
And after his two-game suspension is over, he’ll go back to what he’s always done: coaching football.