Ohio State's Growing Scandal - Now What?

Posted Mar 25, 2011

The Columbus Dispatch reported that Jim Tressel forwarded warning e-mails about the scandal to a mentor of Terrelle Pryor and not to school officials. So now what? As the scandal keeps on growing, what should Ohio State do with its head coach? Is it time to throw out a phone call to Urban Meyer to gauge his interest? It's becoming a bigger and bigger story, and Pete Fiutak gives his take.

The Jim Tressel Fiasco

More is uncovered

By Pete Fiutak
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The Columbus Dispatch reported that Jim Tressel forwarded to a mentor of Terrelle Pryor's some supposedly confidential e-mails detailing all the shenanigans that Pryor and the rest of the Tattoo Five were up to, and now the situation has taken another ugly turn to the point of being unfixable.

This 1) proves that Tressel knew the situation all along – which we already knew; 2) calls into question exactly who Ted Samiak is and what role he plays in Pryor's life and OSU's world; 3) continues to beg the question of what else is being hidden, and 4) forces the media, Ohio State officials, and the NCAA to dive deeper into the colossus that is Buckeye football.

So what now?

Ohio State, STOP … THE … BLEEDING.

Tressel is a football coach, nothing more.

Tressel isn't a minister. Even though he teaches a class, he's not an educator, a mentor, or a father-figure. He's a very, very good and very, very successful football coach, and as much as others might want to try to make him out to be something more, he's not.
Ohio State is Ohio State. A coach at a place like OSU is like a goldfish; if he's not useful, you flush him, you go to the mall, and you get another. OSU can pick just about anyone its wants, and it might have to in order to show the NCAA that the situation is under control and that The Ohio State University is in charge of The Ohio State football team. Otherwise, this is starting to look more and more like program that's out of control led by a coach who's doing whatever he wants, and the NCAA doesn't really like it when that happens.

Ohio State football isn't a family. That's what is sold to recruits, and that's what players and their parents want to believe, but the football program is a multi-million dollar business that funds almost everything else the athletic department does, and now the business of football has to try to do everything humanly possible to keep the cash machine working. To do that, president E. Gordon Gee and athletic director Gene Smith have to take full control of the situation, and that means making Tressel out to be the bad guy. That means making the scandal about Tressel and not about Ohio State football, and it needs to happen as soon as possible because the school is losing. From the initial press conference, to Tressel's move of going from two to five games, Ohio State isn't turning this around in its favor. It all started with playing the offending players in the Sugar Bowl, and the media and general opinion haven't been positive ever since.  

If this happened at TCU, the current model of clean living for an ultra-productive sports program, it might be a different story. Gary Patterson has done special things with the program, and it's not a given in any way that Horned Frog football would be close to as good with just another head coach. Ohio State can pick and choose who it wants and the wins would keep on coming. No, this isn't a Michigan situation with a program that needed a bit of a boost; this is a turn-key operation that any great head man can step into and be successful. Remember, the program was awesome under John Cooper and was great under Earle Bruce. Tressel kept the NFL-factory going, but he also benefitted greatly from the problems in Ann Arbor. Any new head coach will have to hope Michigan keeps on struggling, but he'll still keep Ohio State in the national title hunt on a yearly basis mainly because he won't just be any new head coach.

Welcome to the discussion, Urban.

Urban Meyer might have called Notre Dame his "dream job," and he wouldn't have left Florida and the stockpile of national title-caliber talent if he didn't have any real issues, but Ohio State is the perfect fit considering he grew up in Ohio and could quickly step in and be at home. It's not going to happen, but Gee and Smith wouldn't be doing their jobs if they didn't find out in the next 48 hours whether or not Meyer has any interest. If not, then they might go into full-blown damage control mode, because even with everything going on, and even though they might need to come up with a Plan B, they don't want to lose a coach as successful as Tressel.

No, don't waste a moment of time or energy picking random names out of a bucket and assume they're candidates for a job that isn't  open. No, Chris Petersen isn't going to come to Columbus, and neither is Gary Patterson, and it's absolutely, positively never going to be Jon Gruden. Ohio State isn't going to start trolling for head coaches, but it needs to know immediately if it can land the biggest fish in the pond, and a coach who's better than Tressel. If Meyer legitimately is out, then it has to be out there now, and public, so the storyline can go away immediately. The longer there's a ray of light, it'll be on the forefront of the college football discussion. 

In the meantime, Tressel, if he wants to have any chance of sticking around, has GOT to come fully clean. No more self-imposed punishments, and for the love of Woody, no more press conferences. Simply empty the entire bag – or the cache, if it hasn't already been cleared – and get everything out there so there aren't any more surprises. Contain this particular scandal by ending the discussion with full disclosure, because it's all going to come out at some point, anyway. If there are no other major surprises in this case, then Tressel can survive after taking his punishment. As always, wins will wipe away all sins, but this has to stop now and this can't be the string that unravels the sweater vest. This can't be the open invitation that brings in the NCAA to dive in head first (Mr. Clarett ... paging Mr. Clarett).

Spring football starts on March 31st. The quarterback situation will be on the backburner.