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Commentary: Tressel stands tall against NCAA, critics attacking his credibility

Joe Podelco / Lantern photographer

Inside and outside of Columbus, there is a crusade-like movement to put an end to the Jim Tressel era at Ohio State.

Like King Leonidas in the movie “300,” I’ll lead the charge of the outmanned against the mass of millions who want to take out the OSU football coach.

This much is clear already: Tressel is not going to step down neither because of withholding information from the NCAA nor because of any punishment levied against him.

If anything, he’s now entrenching himself even deeper as an OSU football coach by refusing to step down while simultaneously increasing the pressure on the administration to fire him.

Fortunately for him, athletic director Gene Smith and university President E. Gordon Gee gave him their full support during their press conference March 8.

Imagine banning OSU from the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game and a bowl game. Can the NCAA bring itself to do it?

So far, the only hit the program as a whole has taken is its reputation in the media.

And the media onslaught isn’t forgiving toward Tressel.

Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel wrote Monday: “Tressel’s tenure at Ohio State is numbered. It may even be over before the end of the calendar year.”

This isn’t really a fresh take. It should have been evident since the original story came out that Tressel intentionally misled investigators in an effort to protect his players and their eligibility.

If you didn’t believe he should have been fired a month ago, there’s no reason why Monday’s findings should change your mind. Nor should it increase the likelihood that he gets fired.

He did violate his contract, and that is a fireable offense by the terms of his agreement with the university. It’s hard to say that’s honorable. Yet, in defiantly standing against the NCAA, he is honorable.

Tressel had the option of sending a dagger into the dreams of a potential national championship season last year. Instead, he’s now daring the NCAA to slam the Buckeye football program. Is he putting the program in jeopardy? Not at all, considering the NCAA’s tendencies.

If it proves to be as gutless as it usually is in handing out punishments, then the only one who should — and probably will — get hit hard is Tressel himself.

Some media members are speculating that a bowl ban is a potential penalty. That would equate this situation to USC, which received a two-year bowl ban after former running back Reggie Bush received improper benefits.

If OSU compliance has been as up-front about the situation as it leads on, there is no lack of institutional control here, unlike at USC.

OSU athletics is a sacred cow and a huge moneymaker for the NCAA.

With the slew of victories and Big Ten titles under Tressel’s watch, that hit isn’t even enough to make a dent to the people who matter most: potential recruits and current players.

To them, Tressel’s legacy and the program’s reputation are as sterling as ever.

I know Leonidas and his soldiers meet death in the end, but Tressel will survive this NCAA onslaught.

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