The press may have expected another earth-shaking revelation. Possibly a resignation by the coach or admitting to another violation. But nothing rattled the walls and nobody left with their jaws dragging on the floor. It was a typical Tressel press conference.
He apologized for his transgressions and letting people down, not only inside the University but the fans, players and his family. He also acknowledged that some view him as a cheater in the wake of NCAA violations that resulted in a five-game suspension.
“I suppose there could be some that might feel that way and there might be others who might not. I don’t have a whole lot of control over that.”
Tressel declined to discuss the investigation into the rules violations during an almost hour-long news conference. Claiming it is an ongoing NCAA investigation and it wouldn’t be prudent.
Ohio State has recommended that Tressel be suspended the first five games of this season for, as many in the press are inaccurately reporting, failing to disclose his players sold memorabilia and received improper benefits. Tressel knew about the situation but did not inform his superiors or the NCAA for more than nine months. This is not the case.
Tressel knew of a Federal drug investigation going on regarding a felon the players had become involved. At the time Tressel only knew memorabilia was found at this person’s home but there was no indication of anything else. Tressel was also informed this person could be dangerous, since he had turned State’s Evidence in a murder conviction several years earlier.
The media is misreporting what Tressel knew and when he knew it. Yes he understood something was going on, but there was no evidence the players had sold memorabilia to this person as of the date of the emails. What they had done, if anything, was unclear. Tressel could have handled it differently certainly. But how is still up for debate.
The players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, were suspended in late December for the first five games of 2011 for accepting improper benefits. All were permitted to play in the Sugar Bowl, however, which the Buckeyes won 31-26 over Arkansas.
The NCAA could accept Tressel’s recommended sanctions, which includes the suspension, a $250,000 fine taken from his estimated $3.5 million annual salary, or levy additional penalties.
Spring practice begins at Ohio State on Thursday, March 31. Tressel is permitted to work with the team all spring, through preseason practices and during the suspension just like normal. He is only required to stay away from the Buckeyes on the days of home games against Akron, Toledo, Colorado and Michigan State and the road game at Miami.
Tressel also introduced linebackers coach Luke Fickell as his replacement for the games he’ll be suspended. The co-defensive coordinator is in his 10th year on the Ohio State staff. Fickell summed up his interim position well.
“When you visit, when you’ve been here, when you truly know what the place is about, when you truly know what the foundation is, the small, little storms, you know, won’t take you down.”