Jim Tressel’s conservatism was always a bit over stated. He was risk averse, but he took plenty of chances when the time seemed right.
I’m thinking of calling a pass play on 4th and 1 at Purdue in 2002, the long bomb at Penn State in ’09 and opening up the playbook in the Rose Bowl, not to mention unsuccessful gambits such as the rotating quarterbacks at USC in ’08, going for it on 4th and 1 late in the second quarter against Florida and the early fake field goal in the Fiesta Bowl against Miami.
But trying to conceal the misdeeds of some of his players last year was about as wise as asking Steve Bellisari to run an offense designed for Drew Brees. There might be some success at times, but ultimately failure was inevitable.
Whether or not there is a pattern of deception remains to be seen, but for now we can be sure this was a foolish endeavor from the start even for someone with experience in the ways of espionage. When the Feds get involved, things are going to come out more often than not, be it through their own inquiries, random tips or court proceedings. Dealing with such authorities is not in the same league as ordering players to run gassers for missing curfew or putting in his place a booster that stepped out of line.
But I can’t rip Tressel much for being foolish because I was duped as well.
I took Gordon Gee and Gene Smith at their word that they had the situation under control back in March. Naive as that may seem now, I still think it was a reasonable point of view in light of the fact they have a lot more experience with the NCAA than I or just about anyone else writing about the subject did.
To throw out shakily applicable precedent and partially related situations as proof of what’s to come is easy to do (and without consequence), but I took an alternative view and said let’s wait and see how it plays out.
I’m doubting I’ll get the chance repeat my mistake because I don’t know that all of those leaders will be in the position to garner such trust again, but only time will tell.
What Tressel did wrong in this episode is easy to see, but learning just how Smith and Gee misplayed the situation should be interesting.
Were they trying to perform their own cover up, conveniently looking the other way (as others have alleged Tressel made a habit over the years) or just as in the dark as everyone else? None of those possible explanations leave them looking very good.
They are responsible for knowing what their highest profile employee is doing, just as that employee has the duty of following procedures in his contract when he gets credible information about some of his best players’ potential misdeeds.
We know now the consequences for Tressel’s failure to do that.
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