Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 12/21/11
A former colleague of Jim Tressel once told a story about the disgraced coaching icon before he grew into the sweater-vested poster boy for much of whats wrong with big-time college football.Seems Tressel repeatedly called the same play from the booth snap after snap until finally questioned about his repetitive strategy by the head coach down on the sideline.Ill stop doing it when it stops working, Tressel supposedly said.Old habits apparently die hard, not just for Tressel, but for those he duped at Ohio State all those years.The NCAAs imposition yesterday of a one-year bowl ban, additional scholarship sanctions and three years probation finally ends a scandal at Ohio State that Tressel turned from a mole hill into a mountain.All of that could have easily been avoided had Tressel come clean right away with knowledge of player misconduct that was no more than a simple secondary violation of NCAA rules. The players would have served their suspensions in 2010, and OSU quite likely would have won the Big Ten anyway.At the very least, Tressel would have extended his career at Ohio State, preserved his Hall-of-Fame credentials and grown his reputation as the guardian of character and integrity in his sport.Instead, Tressel overplayed the strength of his pristine reputation and tunneled himself and his former school into a prolonged scandal that inflicted untold and unnecessary damage.Tressel didnt author that carnage alone. He had help from a weak-kneed OSU administration led by chief invertebrate Gene Smith, the athletic director whose continued employment defies logic.Its ironic that Tressel skulked out of Columbus after his resignation in May and wound up as the replay consultant for the Indianapolis Colts. You wonder if he sits there, watching his new team get plastered on Sunday, and contemplates whether, upon further review, hed do anything differently at OSU.Tressel could have spared himself the five-year ban on coaching that the NCAA levied and saved Ohio State the indelible stain it bears going forward if only hed come clean about rule-breaking by his players when tipped off in April of 2010.Instead, he ran a quick risk-reward assessment through his hard drive and calculated that the circle of those who knew of the misdeeds was so small it likely wouldnt be detected. Thats what you do when youve skated away unscathed when NCAA trouble touched your star players once at Youngstown State and twice before at OSU.You keep running the same play until it stops working.The mystery in Tressels fall from certain College Football Hall-of-Famer to sad little man working the clicker in his press box prison remains unsolved.Who tipped off the media to Tressels prior knowledge of the free tattoos and memorabilia resale caper that brought his career crashing down? Someone, still unidentified, betrayed him. It clearly wasnt Chris Cicero, the attorney who warned Tressel of such details falling into the hands of the stupid media.And it surely wasnt Ted Sarniak, the shadowy booster and benefactor of former quarterback Terelle Pryor, whose shenanigans Tressel futilely tried to conceal.OSU is still fighting legal action to disclose the contents of Tressels subsequent emails to Sarniak, bastardizing a federal statute designed to protect a students academic and medical records as justification for its stonewalling.How can the contents of those emails possibly involve either of the laws protected areas? Probably because full disclosure would make OSU either look stupid or feel sick for believing the hype on Tressel as a bastion of virtue.Say this for the man, though: He cashed so many BCS bowl checks OSU can afford to dump 200,000 into the legal defense of its wayward players, unspecified thousands into keeping the lid on the Sarniak emails and another 500,000 on an outside public relations firm hired to mitigate the fallout.The geniuses who billed that last half-million were behind a Sept. 1 announcement of the suspension of three OSU players for taking cash to attend a charity dinner.In that prepared statement, Smith said: We believe in transparency with the NCAA, all regulatory bodies and all of Buckeye Nation. The next sentence read: We will have no further comment. Thats the sort of transparency Smith has offered from the beginning, the sort you can see through whenever his lips are moving.Smith is the guy who, when Pryor and others fessed up to taking extra benefits last December, said: We are very fortunate we do not have a systemic problem in our program. Except for the fact the head coach knew and that seven playerrs would later be suspended or sanctioned for two separate extra-benefits issues.Smith is also the guy who, in March, when Tressels lying and cheating came to light, said: No matter where we end up, at the end of the day, Jim Tressel is still our football coachWe trust him implicitly. That same night, Smith also said the two-game suspension OSU levied against Tressel hit the sweet spot the NCAA would require as punishment.Now Tressel is long gone, cant get hired anywhere in college for five years, and if he ever does land a job, must sit out all practices and games for five weeks and a post-season bowl during his first season at that new employer.So much for the sweet spot of OSUs original proposed punishment.That was the first clue hopeful Ohio State zealots should have ignored Smith when he promised the school wouldnt get hit with an NCAA ruling of failure to monitor or a post-season bowl ban.Predictably, OSU received both, yet the school continues to employ Smith at 1.2 million per-year.Most athletic directors who survive such scandals do so because they offer an expertise to steer their schools through rough waters, correctly predicting NCAA sanctions and hatching proactive strategies to minimize the damage.Smith has proven tone deaf to the very insider knowledge of legislative matters he should have mastered by now, having served on virtually every NCAA committee, including the Committee on Infractions and as chair of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee last March.His ham-fisted, wrong-headed leadership landed OSU the bowl ban for 2012 that it should have self-imposed in August, when all signs pointed to the up-and-down season that resulted in a 6-6 record and berth in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl.Smith maintains he made the right move preserving bowl eligibility for this team, at the expense of the 2012 Buckeyes, because this team persevered through season-long adversity. But then, in the statement he released after the sanctions came down, Smith bemoaned how this decision punishes future students for the actions of others in the past.Others in the past? He must mean guys like seniors Solomon Thomas, Daniel Herron, Mike Adams and DeVier Posey the guys who joined Pryor in hatching the tattoo caper that triggered this entire mess. Those are the guys Smith believed worthy of ending their careers in a bowl. Those are the guys he fought for, including Posey and Herron, who landed in NCAA hot water twice in separate scandals inside of a year.As for the juniors on the OSU roster, most of whom had no involvement in any of the NCAA wrongdoing, they can look forward to a 2012 season in which even a 12-0 record under new coach Urban Meyer will leave them shut out of the post-season.They can shake Smiths hand for selling them out. If, of course, they think his decision hit the sweet spot.Follow Bruce Hooley on Twitter: @BhoolzEmail: Bruce@brucehooley.comBruce Hooley hosts The Hooligans from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WKNR in Cleveland.
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