Tressel: False NCAA Innocent Claims Before OSU

Much has been made of Jim Tressel lying repeatedly to Ohio State compliance officials about his specific knowledge of NCAA violations committed by Ohio State football players.

Jim Tressel denied NCAA violations at Youngstown State despite introducing booster Mickey Monus to star quarterback Ray Isaac

(Tressel: Football coach and also later A.D. at YSU between 1985-2000)

That coverup will ultimately cost Tressel his job.

Though had Tressel been held to the same accountability standard at his previous coaching stop, he would’ve never made it to Ohio State in the first place.

On February 16, 2000 (PDF) the NCAA informed Youngstown State in a formal letter that while Tressel was the head coach of the school’s football program, the following NCAA violations occurred:

On numerous occasions during the period beginning August - September 1988 and continuing through the spring of 1992, a representative of the institution’s athletic interests, who was at the time a member and chairperson of the Youngstown State University Board of Trustees, gave at least $10,000 in cash and checks to a football student-athlete for his personal use.

In the fall of 1988, the athletics representative instructed the football student-athlete to contact a business associate regarding the use of automobiles. The football student-athlete contacted the business associate who provided the free use of automobiles to the eligible football student- athlete.

The former football student-athlete testified that, while a trustee, the athletics representative provided him with at least $10,000 in cash and checks beginning in August or September 1988 through spring 1992. The first cash payment received by the former football student-athlete was for $150 in 1988 to attend a fair. Subsequent cash and checks were received, sometimes from the athletics representative himself and on other occasions from his business associate and employees.

In his testimony, the former student-athlete could not always remember the particulars regarding the date, amount and circumstances of each cash payment received. However, he also received at least six checks totaling $7,600, which were introduced into evidence by the government at the jury tampering trial.

The former student-athlete’s testimony regarding receipt of money was corroborated by other witnesses at the trial, including the booster himself. The former football student-athlete was interviewed by telephone in connection with the institution’s internal investigation. During the telephone interview the student- athlete affirmed his trial testimony.

Both the former football student-athlete and a business associate of the athletics representative reported that while a trustee the booster arranged with the business associate to provide the former football student-athlete free use of automobiles. The business associate stated that he provided the former student-athlete with two or three automobiles during the time period in question.

A number of the student-athlete’s former teammates were personally interviewed by the institution’s Internal Review Committee in connection with the institution’s internal investigation. All former players interviewed, except one, either stated that the student-athlete had a car during the football season or that they heard others talking about his having a car and speculated as to how he could afford it.

In its February 2000 letter, the NCAA confirmed those violations to Youngstown State and subsequently punished the school’s football program up to 12 years after the first violation occurred - well outside the NCAA’s normal statute of limitations pertaining to infractions.

So why did it take so long?

The NCAA also reported in its 2000 letter to YSU that the school’s “former director of enforcement advised the institution in January 1994 that anonymous information had been received alleging the following possible NCAA violations:

(i) at least thirteen football student-athletes were employed by a local business during the football season, (ii) the former football student-athlete drove an automobile during the 1991 football season provided by the business (the business was owned by the former trustee and athletics representative) and (iii) the director of athletic development provided money to non-scholarship student-athletes through the institution’s booster organization, the Penguin Club. In his letter, the former director of enforcement advised the institution that if it chose to investigate the anonymous allegations of NCAA violations and found that violations actually occurred, it would be obligated to self-report the violations to the NCAA enforcement staff.

Why did Youngstown State and the NCAA not pursue those violations in 1994?

This:

Upon receipt of the information contained in the letter from the former director of enforcement, the university president held a series of five meetings within the next month with institutional staff members including the faculty athletics representative, the executive director of intercollegiate athletics, the head football coach and the compliance officer. In these meetings, the executive director of intercollegiate athletics and the head football coach assured the president that these allegations were baseless.

Despite the president’s instructions to review the anonymous allegations, the executive director of intercollegiate athletics failed to do so and sent a memorandum once again assuring the president that there was no basis to substantiate the allegations and further inquiry was not necessary. Based upon these assurances contained in the memorandum, the president advised the NCAA by letter dated February 18, 1994, that there was no basis to substantiate the allegations or to suggest that a further inquiry was appropriate.

Jim Tressel is “head football coach.

Later in the 2000 NCAA letter to Youngstown State that confirmed the aforementioned violations and subsequent penalties, the NCAA scolded YSU for its failure to followup on what later was found to be a systematic series of violations involving its star player while Tressel was football coach:

According to these individuals, the review in 1994 consisted of informal meetings among the director of athletics, the head football coach and the assistant director of athletics/senior woman administrator. Specifically, there were no interviews with other coaches, members of the football team, the former football student-athlete in question or the former trustee booster. There was no in-depth investigation of the information received in 1994 regarding possible NCAA violations. When asked why no in-depth review was conducted, the former director of athletics stated that he believed a disgruntled former employee had made the anonymous allegations to the NCAA. The head football coach agreed.

Tressel is “head football coach.”

The Youngstown State trustee, booster and athletics representative who the NCAA cited as providing $10,000 and free use of automobiles to a YSU player was convicted felon Mickey Monus. The Youngstown State football player who received those benefits from Monus, while playing for Tressel, was quarterback Ray Isaac. (Isaac was the star player on YSU’s Division I-AA national championship team in 1991.)

The details of the arrangement between Monus and Isaac were made public during a 1998 federal court case involving Monus and Isaac over alleged jury tampering during a previous case that resulted in Monus being convicted on 109 counts of financial fraud. (Monus was sentenced to 19 1/2 in federal prison for the crimes at the time.)

While under oath Monus told a jury that during Isaac’s freshman year under Tressel:

“I got a call from Mr. Tressel and I believe the call was that he wanted me to be introduced to Ray and to work out some kind of job for him.”

While under oath during the same 1998 federal court case, Isaac confirmed to a jury that Monus subsequently provided him with thousands of dollars in cash and the use of free automobiles throughout his time as a star Youngstown State player - after Tressel set up an introduction between the two parties.

This is also the same Monus who, in its 2000 sanctions letter to Youngstown State, the NCAA accused of having “at least” 13 then-current YSU football players on his employee payroll “during the season” while Tressel was coach.

In a January 4, 2011, profile of Tressel in COLUMBUS MONTHLY, Dave Ghose reported of the relationship between Monus and Tressel:

Mickey Monus was one of the first people Tressel met in Youngstown. The drugstore tycoon, a member of the YSU board of trustees, interviewed the coach in 1985 as a member of the panel’s sports committee. Monus, the founder of the Phar-Mor chain, was a big deal in Youngstown. His company was a rare economic bright spot after the collapse of the local steel industry, growing from one store in 1982 to 300 in 37 states a decade later.

In the summer of 1988, Tressel called Monus and asked him to meet Isaac, then an incoming freshman quarterback. The coach hoped Monus could find work for Isaac down the road, according to court testimony. Immediately, the relationship between Monus and Isaac crossed ethical lines. At that first meeting, Monus gave Isaac $150 to attend a local fair, according to an NCAA infractions report. Money continued to exchange hands throughout Isaac’s YSU career; the NCAA later estimated the quarterback received at least $10,000 from Monus. The booster also arranged for Isaac to use two or three cars while at YSU.

Monus was one of the first people to meet Tressel at YSU because Monus was the chairman of the official school search committee that hired Tressel as YSU football coach. Also on that search committee was Dr. John Geletka, who currently serves as Tressel’s agent and has negotiated all of Tressel’s contracts with Ohio State. Geletka is a member of the Youngstown State Athletics Hall of Fame. (Curiously though, Tressel isn’t despite the fact that he fulfills the school’s criteria for such an honor.)

More from COLUMBUS MONTHLY on Monus:

Like a lot of people in Youngstown, Monus was crazy about sports. He brought a women’s professional golf tournament to the city and founded the World Basketball League, a professional association for players 6-foot-5 and under with teams in Youngstown and other smaller cities. An original general partner of the Colorado Rockies, he loved to hang around with jocks and often gave YSU players off-season jobs.

Part of the FBI’s case against Monus’ massive financial fraud centered on $10 million that Monus stole from his company, Phar-Mor, in order to fund the operation of the World Basketball League. Current Tressel agent Geletka was Commissioner of the World Basketball League (WBL) and involved in the 1998 federal court case that eventually brought Youngstown State’s NCAA violations under Tressel involving Monus and Isaac to light.

Here are two separate, excerpted passages about current Tressel agent Geletka and Tressel associate Monus from the final opinion released by the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals following the Monus and Isaac 1998 federal court case:

FBI agent Lyons testified that when he interviewed Dr. Geletka on December 16, 1992 regarding the subpoenaed (WBL financial) documents, Geletka was unable to provide them because they had been removed from the office to the warehouse of the Carney-McNichols Moving Company.  

Trial evidence included the testimony of Gregory Carney and Larry Hamilton, both of whom worked for Carney-McNichols.  

They testified that on December 18, 1992, two days after Lyons interviewed Geletka, they watched defendant (Monus) and two unidentified individuals shred WBL documents.  

Monus was joined on the Youngstown State search committee that originally hired Tressel as YSU football coach by current Tressel agent Geletka, who was a personal friend of Monus at the time.

The penalties Youngstown State received in the 2000 NCAA letter confirming the violations involving the football program while Tressel was the head coach of the school were remarkably light. In fact, the NCAA merely adopted the penalties proposed by Youngstown State - offering no further sanctions.

That despite the fact that during sworn testimony in federal court, Monus directly cited Tressel as the person who introduced him to Isaac:

“I got a call from Mr. Tressel and I believe the call was that he wanted me to be introduced to Ray and to work out some kind of job for him.” 

The Tressel-facilitated relationship between Monus and Isaac - and the latter two’s sworn testimony confirming that fact - was effectively the only reason why Youngstown State was sanctioned by the NCAA in the first place.

Despite that direct, affirmed connection between coach, booster and player, YSU received the following penalties:

The Committee on Infractions adopted as its own the following penalties proposed by the institution:
1.    The university will reduce by two the number of initial financial aid awards in the sport of football for the 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2002-03 academic years.
2.    The university will reduce by five the number of expense-paid recruiting visits in the sport of football for the 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2002-03 academic years.
3.    The university will publicly reprimand the former trustee and booster and permanently disassociate him from the athletics programs.
4.    The university will publicly reprimand the former football student-athlete and permanently disassociate him from the athletics programs.

Why did the NCAA go so light on Youngstown State at the time? Here was the governing body’s rationale in its 2000 letter to the school:

The Division I Committee on Infractions agreed with and approved of the actions taken by the institution. In striking contrast to its behavior in 1994, the institution has now been diligent and conscientiousness in its pursuit of information relating to potential NCAA violations that were committed at a time clearly beyond the statue of limitations.

In consideration of the significant and meaningful self-imposed sanctions, the committee decided not to impose additional penalties, not to obligate the institution to forfeit its 1991 NCAA Division I-AA Football Championship as would normally be required in accordance with Bylaw 31.2.2.4, and not to require the institution to reimburse funds resulting from participation in this championship, as set forth in NCAA Bylaw 31.2.2.5.

So who gets the credit at Youngstown State for the NCAA’s claim that, “the institution has now been diligent and conscientiousness in its pursuit of information relating to potential NCAA violations that were committed at a time clearly beyond the statue of limitation,” which resulted in the NCAA - by its own admission - ignoring its own rules in the application of sanctions against YSU?

That would be Youngstown State’s Athletic Director at the time: Jim Tressel.