With the NCAA’s now formal recognition of Jim Tressel’s unrepentant - as confirmed by Ohio State AD Gene Smith recently - commission of the governing body’s mortal sin, lying repeatedly to investigators after covering up NCAA violations, Ohio State Jim Tressel football coach has a choice going forward.
He can resign, retire or be fired.
From refracting the NCAA Notice of Allegations from every possible angle the past 24 hours, that fact is clear enough. What isn’t so straightforward though is what more the NCAA wants from Ohio State. That is, how far it is willing to go to make OSU an example for other programs in the strikingly non-compliant world of college football.
The NCAA may have left a clue though in its interesting decision to include the mystery “Player G” revelation in Friday’s NOA:
Player G: Sold Big Ten championship ring ($1,500), two “Gold Pants” awards ($250 each), helmet ($150) and pants ($30) from Michigan game and Rose Bowl watch ($250) for $2,430. Received $55 discount on two tattoos. Paid $100 to obtain team autographs on two helmets. Received $2,420 discount on purchase of used vehicle and $800 loan for vehicle repairs. (November 2008 to May 2010).
A former player, Ohio State curiously did not mention “Player G.” in its original tattgate self-report in December, though the player was with the Buckeyes through the 2009 season and confirmed to have committed NCAA violations during his time as an Ohio State football player.
Who is he? While no one officially knows outside the NCAA and OSU, the attorney who allegedly first tipped off Tressel to the NCAA violations committed by DeVier Posey and Terrelle Pryor may have provided the answer.
In ESPN’s March 13, 2011, Outside The Lines report Columbus lawyer and former Ohio State football player Christopher Cicero told ESPN correspondent John Barr that memorabilia from two former Buckeyes, T.J. Downing and Ray Small, was also found in the possession of now-notorious Columbus tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife.
Per ESPN’s Barr, Cicero noted that fact to Tressel in at least one of the emails in question, though Downing and Small were redacted from the communique by Ohio State officials.
Downing left the Ohio State football program in 2006, but Small played through the 2009 season and currently has several items from his playing career available for purchase online. Some of those items correspond to the “Player G.” description.
Though Cicero identified Downing and Small, he did not expound on at least two other significant claims in his emails to Tressel that indicated there was more to the memorabilia-for-extra-benefits story than Ohio State has reported.
In one of his emails to Tressel (excerpt above), Cicero described additional Ohio State player-only items Rife owned:
He told me he has about 15 pairs of cleats (with signatures), 4-5 jerseys - all signed by players …
He told me he has about 9 rings Big 10 championship…
[Redacted] National Championship Ring (no surprise here either)
Now compare that to what the NCAA cited in its sanctions against five Ohio State players in December, 2010:
- Mike Adams must repay $1,000 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring.
- Daniel Herron must repay $1,150 for selling his football jersey, pants and shoes for $1,000 and receiving discounted services worth $150.
- DeVier Posey must repay $1,250 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,200 and receiving discounted services worth $50,
- Terrelle Pryor must repay $2,500 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring, a 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award and his 2008 Gold Pants, a gift from the university.
- Solomon Thomas must repay $1,505 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,000, his 2008 Gold Pants for $350 and receiving discounted services worth $155.
So where are the “15 pairs of cleats“? The other 3-4 Ohio State jerseys? The other five Big 10 Championship rings? And the National Championship ring?
- What about the Daniel Herron 2009 game-used helmet that was recently sold online? (That wasn’t mentioned in the December, 2010, Ohio State self-report to the NCAA.)
- What about the 2008 gold pants with the initials “D.W.” most recently seen on the television show Pawn Stars?
- What about former Buckeye Thaddeus Gibson’s claim to the Ohio State student newspaper THE LANTERN that OSU football players were adequately appraised of the NCAA rules regarding selling player-only football memorabilia - contradicting an earlier claim by school athletic director Gene Smith?
- What about the other Ohio State player-only merchandise tattoo parlor owner Rife previously displayed on his personal Facebook page that wasn’t included in the school’s self-report to the NCAA?
- What about former Buckeye Antonio Pittman’s claim that football players selling Ohio State player-only swag for tattoos has been going on since 2001?
- What about this line in a Cicero email to Tressel:
“I will try to get these items back that the government wants to keep for themselves. Which is screwed up in an of itself. I know who specifically in the District Attorney’s office that is working on this matter and know both of them well so I will try if the opportunity presents itself.”
If the feds are indeed in possession of Buckeye player-only memorabilia that could further incriminate Ohio State with the NCAA, shouldn’t those items be promptly turned over to the NCAA?
- Finally, what about the the current and former Ohio State football players previously listed as “friends” on Rife’s personal Facebook page?
On the latter, the NCAA will require Ohio State to detail all relationships between Rife and Buckeye football players - past and present, per this passage from Friday’s NOA:
Though the NCAA has yet to charge Ohio State with the dreaded “failure of institutional control” or “failure to monitor” penalties, if the governing body wasn’t going to continue to plumb the depths of what might be additional, significant Ohio State impropriety, why did the NCAA cite the “Player G.” violations in the Notice of Allegations?
With Tressel’s web of deception sufficiently confessed, it appears the future of the Ohio State football program as a near-term, viable enterprise is more tied to the NCAA’s discovery of a “Player H.” or a “Player I.” than its current coach’s assured demise.