Believe me, I am not trying to pile on even though i have always thought Tressel was a crook. I just thought this article from an OSU grad was interesting.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – “We live in a cynical world.”
That's one of the seminal lines of script from the movie Jerry Maguire which is essentially the story of sports agent Leigh Steinberg.
Sports agents are cynical but only marginally more than sportswriters. That's because we're all too close to the men behind the curtains; we can easily get glimpses of what's going on behind.
I don't like being cynical about professional and major college athletics and yet I often have no choice. I know too much not to be. Anyone who's been doing what we do for any length of time feels that way.
When you see enough smoke around any particular person or program, you know there's fire somewhere. And you have to try to communicate that the best way you can even though the specific things you've heard about may not be printable at the time.
That's why for the better part of a decade I've been writing and saying to every talk show host who broaches the subject that I think Jim Tressel is nothing but a slick, little con man. I don't care about the Ohio State football program one way or the other. But I've never liked this man being a figurehead of my alma mater. I was fairly certain something like this would happen eventually.
And people were almost always surprised. Coach Tressel? He wears such nice crisp dress shirts and sweater vests. And he has such a nice even-tempered personality. Oh, no, I don't believe that. He looks like such a nice man.
The last such true believer I encountered was a clerk at Barnes & Noble a couple of months ago. I was buying Joe Posnansky's terrific book "The Machine" about my childhood baseball team, the 1970s Cincinnati Reds and she remarked she was an Ohio native and I said I was an OSU grad and she gushed immediately about Tressel. As usual, I didn't try to really sway a sycophant. Just shook my head and said, “Nope. Bad guy.” And her reply was pretty much what's printed above.
I could've gone into it but there was a line behind me and what's the point anyway?
I could've told her the first time I sensed Jim Tressel was a lying, cheating fraud was August 2003 after The New York Times had released about a month prior: its expose on how Maurice Clarett was coddled and shepherded through his freshman year of “classes.”
It was the first day of the Big Ten football media conferences in Chicago. Tressel was on the podium. He had not been available for comment at such a venue since the story broke. I got the microphone and asked for his reaction to the allegations in the story.
His reply: “To be honest, I haven't read it.”
I wasn't expecting that. A longwinded rationalization, sure. But just stonewalling the entire thing?
“You haven't read it?” I said. “Are you kidding?”
“No, no,” he said calmly and evenly and continued that the athletic director Andy Geiger had purview on such matters and blah-blah-blah.
Right then, I knew: A. He was lying. No coach would avoid reading such accusations involving his biggest star player. B. He was a calculator, a manipulator and willing to do or say whatever necessary to best defuse any issue.
During the next eight years, I would see other examples of such audacious damage control. I would hear all sorts of other creepy-crawly stories from people in Columbus of stuff going on in the program that couldn't quite be proved.
But the P.R. spin of on-field incidents was all you really needed to see to judge Tressel's lack of integrity. Major college football is a tough, violent game and players' actions during the heat of battle don't always reflect their core personalities. That doesn't mean you can't admonish such transgressions and apply appropriate punishment. It doesn't mean you have to be an enabling apologist.
When Robert Reynolds was caught by network cameras choking Wisconsin quarterback Jim Sorgi at the bottom of a pile in 2003 to the point where his trachea was damaged, Tressel did manage to suspend Reynolds a game. But he was back on the field the next week because it was “an isolated incident and out of character for him.”
When Kurt Coleman took a running head start at a static pileup with a minute left in a 30-0 rout of Illinois in Columbus in 2009 and speared Illini back-up quarterback Eddie McGee in the head and then came off the field laughing about it, Tressel actually complained about the Big Ten's subsequent 1-game suspension of Coleman two days later. He issued a joint statement with OSU athletics director Gene Smith calling the suspension “poor judgment” by the league office.
Well, Smith got his, didn't he? That's what you get for blindly backing a scoundrel. The AD looks like a fool now for vehemently asserting on Jan. 3 that no one at Ohio State knew until December of Terrelle Pryor and his four teammate buddies selling OSU jerseys and rings and other paraphernalia for cash and tattoos. And Tressel had known for eight months and lied to everyone so that he could keep all those guys on the roster for the 2010 season.
Of course, he doesn't explain it that way. At Tuesday's OSU press conference he offered a litany of lame excuses. He didn't feel he could interfere with a federal investigation. He was “scared.” And the best one of all: He didn't know who to tell.
Really? Doesn't that sound like some college freshman trying to protect one of his buddies who got drunk on a Saturday night and sideswiped a parked car and drove off while he was riding shotgun? Jim Tressel, salaried at $3.5 million annually, director of the most lucrative college football program in America, one steeped in administrators and compliance officials, shepherd of and example to 85 “student-athletes,” withheld knowledge of misconduct clearly and unmistakably in major violation of the rules of the governing body of the sport.
Why? Because he didn't know who to tell.
Beaver Cleaver wouldn't have tried this. On the excuse feasibility meter, this is not even in the ballpark of “the dog ate my homework.” Hell, it's possible my dog could eat my kid's homework. He drinks from the toilet. He eats the polyester fill out of stuffed animals. It's possible.
It's even possible that Jim Tressel drinks out of the toilet. But it's not possible that he didn't know who to tell. That's preposterous. Unfortunately, we live in a cynical age made more so every day because people want to believe in public icons as paragons of integrity. And they keep being disappointed.
Here's my remedy: Choose your heroes from your personal life. And leave the prefabricated public image whores to us. Usually, we know who they are. Only too well.
David Jones - Patriot News.