Thanks to more than one open records request by the media for Jim Tressel’s emails, on March 8, 2011, Ohio State self-reported multiple NCAA violations committed by the school’s football coach.
(Why was forwarded email info not included in OSU self-report to NCAA?)
The Ohio State self-report to the NCAA detailing Tressel’s rules violations, which was signed by Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith and school President Gordon Gee, noted:
Between the period of April 2, 2010, and January I5, 2011, Head Football Coach Jim Tressel violated the provisions of NCAA Bylaw 10.1 when he failed to notify institutional oﬂicials of information he received beginning in April 2010 that concerned potential violations of NCAA preferential treatment legislation with student-athletes on the football team.
Coach Tressel received e-mails from an attorney that provided speciﬁc information about two student-athletes selling memorabilia to a local tattoo parlor owner. These e-mails also indicated that one student-athlete may have received ﬁee and/or discounted services at a tattoo parlor. Although Coach Tressel had the information, he did not inform institutional officials.
From the OSU report, here’s part of what was presented as Tressel’s defense for not revealing the nature of the emails and later lying to OSU officials about the matter:
In particular, he was protecting the conﬁdentiality of the attorney (which the attorney requested) and of the federal criminal investigation. He prioritized potential criminal activity and the possibility of interfering with an ongoing criminal investigation over potential NCAA violations.
The Ohio State report concluded, in part, to the NCAA:
His lack of action in this matter appears to have been the result of indecisiveness regarding the appropriate actions to take in this speciﬁc situation in which he was placed, as opposed to a blatant disregard of NCAA legislation.
During a March 8 press conference, Tressel said of why he never revealed the content of the emails:
Following his continuing “confidentiality” defense, Tressel was asked by Yahoo Sports reporter Dan Wetzel during the OSU press conference if “he (Tressel) forwarded the emails to anyone?”
Before Tressel could answer, Ohio State Athletic Director Smith cut off the coach - but not before a nod by Tressel seemed to indicate that the coach had affirmed that he did indeed forward an email or emails from Cicero to someone.
Tressel’s subsquent remark to Defense Supply Center Columbus personnel during a later speech - “I didn’t get as wise of counsel as I should have” - also seemed to contradict the coach’s earlier defense that he kept knowledge of NCAA violations by Ohio State football players completely confidential.
Following additional open records requests by multiple media outlets, it was later verified that Tressel did indeed forward the emails to Ted Sarniak, a mentor to Terrelle Pryor.
During the March 8 press conference, Ohio State announced the following punitive measures against Tressel:
1. Issue a Public reprimand to Coach Tressel for his involvement with the activities in this report. Additionally, Coach Tressel will issue a public apology.
2. Suspend Coach Tressel from the ﬁrst two games of the 2011 season. This suspension shall preclude Coach Tressel from: (i) participation in any game~day activities; (ii) being in the Facilities where the games are played during game day; or (iii) having any contact with members of his coaching staff while the games are ongoing.
3. Fine Coach Tressel $250,000. This money will be used to pay for the direct costs of the investigation (i.e., travel, outside consultant, etc.) from the annual compensation provided to Coach Tressel.
Following the announce of those penalties at the March 8 press conference, OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith said:
They’re (NCAA) making decisions on whether they support what we put in our self-report.
10 days after the March 8 press conference, Smith reported that Tressel had elected to increase his own suspension from two games to five games. From WBNS-TV:
Smith said that Tressel also asked to sit out the first give games of the upcoming season.
“I have accepted his request and we are taking action to notify the NCAA,” Smith said. “Until the NCAA has completed its investigation, we will not be publicly discussing the details of this case.”
In denying Tressel the opportunity to confirm that he had forwarded the emails on March 8, OSU Athletic Director Smith gave clear indication that he knew at that time that Tressel had indeed forwarded the messages - which has since been confirmed.
As Smith knew that Tressel had forwarded the emails before Ohio State produced its self-report to the NCAA - which included OSU-recommended punishment of the coach - why did Athletic Director Smith not include that information in the original report?
By not including the fact that Tressel had forwarded the emails while allowing the coach’s “confidentiality” defense in the self-report to the NCAA and at the March 8 press conference, one can only conclude that AD Smith left material information about Tressel’s conduct out of OSU’s report to the NCAA in an attempt to lessen possible, subsequent punishment rendered by the NCAA.