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Pearl And Tressel Prove One Thing: If You Win, You Can Survive Almost Anything

On the road for much of the day yesterday, we at MrSEC.com never got a chance to chime in on the very bad news that hit Jim Tressel and Ohio State on Tuesday.  Normally, an OSU situation would not appear on this site, but there are some pretty clear ties to the Bruce Pearl situation at Tennessee.  For that reason, we’ll bring it up on a Southeastern Conference site.

That and it’s a good time to point out that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany might have just learned why folks shouldn’t go around questioning another conference’s NCAA problems — as Delany did during the Cam Newton fiasco.  It’s called karma.  “Throwing stones in a glass house” would apply, too, for those of you who aren’t of an Eastern-bent.

But now that we’ve had 24 hours to consider the Pearl-Tressel situations, we have a few thoughts of our own.  Rather than post a series of columns, we’ll just give you the bulletpoints here:


* Coaches With Equity Get More Chances

In mid-January, ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said during a Tennessee-Vanderbilt broadcast that “99% of schools would have fired Pearl immediately” for lying to NCAA investigators.  We mentioned Vitale’s comments.  Then we said we didn’t buy them.  Specifically, we wrote that other coaches who’d built up equity at their schools could survive the type of mess that Pearl had created for himself.

Anyone care to debate that one with us now?

Ohio State University… I’m sorry, THE Ohio State University has a coach who not only misled NCAA investigators, but he misled his own bosses at the university.  Yet he’s still employed. 

Just as we suggested a Billy Donovan, John Calipari or Mike Krzyzewski might survive a scandal because of their records — and the rumps they put in seats — it’s clear that Tressel’s record serves as a protective buffer for the coach.

If Tressel had John Cooper’s record against Michigan, he’d be unemployed today.  If Pearl had Buzz Peterson’s overall record at Tennessee, he’d be unemployed today.  Winning equals money and it’s easier for college presidents to raise funds — their most important duty, by the way — with a football or basketball team than with a new bilateral photon accelerator.  For that reason, winning coaches get more chances.

We knew that back in January.  Maybe Vitale realizes it today.

And for the record, we’re not saying this the right way to do business on a college campus.  It’s not.  But it’s no different that Joe All-American getting five chances on the football team while Lil’ Timmy Walk-On gets the heave-ho for underage drinking.  It’s all about production and equity.


* OSU’s Penalties Tiny Compared To Tennessee’s

When Tennessee self-imposed penalties on itself, we said those penalties were too small.  Well, if the Vols’ sanctions were small, OSU’s were microscopic.

At least in UT’s case, SEC commissioner Mike Slive stepped in and added an 8-game suspension to Pearl’s to-do list.  Delany has said he won’t get involved.  And that’s why — for all you folks who like to rip Slive — your league has a better commissioner than the Big Ten.  Slive might not be perfect, but day-in, day-out, he usually takes care of his league.  That’s gotta be somewhere in his job description, dontcha think?

However, by self-imposing small sanctions, both Tennessee and OSU have run the risk of further angering the NCAA. 


* The Money Won’t Matter

Fines won’t matter.  The NCAA is not a body that hands out many fines to coaches.  It can’t.  Levying fines or accepting self-imposed fines would only create the perception that big-time programs can buy their way out of trouble. 

That said, Pearl’s $1.5 million pay dock over five years is absolutely brutal compared to Tressel’s $250,000 fine.  OSU’s coach makes $3.5 to $4 million per season. 

Neither school will likely get much credit for their monetary sanctions, but Tennessee’s hit on Pearl was certainly steeper.  Of course, if the NCAA comes down ultra-hard on Pearl and Tressel, they won’t have to worry about their fines and salary reductions.


* The Media Is Crushing Tressel, Just Like Pearl

What’s with all the whining from Tennessee fans wanting more Tressel coverage?  In the car for eight hours yesterday, there wasn’t a sports show on Sirius radio that wasn’t weighing in on Tressel and Ohio State.

OSU’s coach was called a fraud, a liar, a cheater.  The school was mocked, ridiculed and peppered with insults.  If Big Orange Nation wants Tressel to get the full-Pearl treatment, he’s getting it. 

Yahoo! Sports and ESPN have been all over the story.  Anyone who doesn’t see that is looking through orange-colored glasses.  L’affaire Tressel has been on the front page of ESPN.com since the story broke.  Mark Schlabach eviscerated Tressel in a column yesterday.

Pearl has been in the news for six months.  Tressel’s story broke Tuesday.  If you’re expecting equal coverage of the two scandals, you’re asking for the impossible.  ESPN would have to create ESPN “The Vest” and program it with 24 straight hours of anti-Tressel commentary to equal what their analysts have said about Pearl since September.

Give the network time.  They’ll jump on with both feet.  No one loves to tear down and cast shame like the American media.


* The NCAA Doesn’t Go Light On Big-Time Programs Anymore

And can we please stop with the “Let’s see if the NCAA will hit Ohio State hard” talk?  This one’s been a biggie across the SEC since Tuesday.  Apparently no one has paid much attention to the NCAA’s track record. 

Go ask Southern Cal administrators if their football tradition, Top 10 basketball team (at the time) or scholastic reputation helped them when they went before the NCAA last year.  Alabama and Kentucky are two of the winningest programs in college football and basketball history, respectively.  Yet they’re also among the most-sanctioned programs in NCAA history.  And why is Indiana no longer competing on a national level with the North Carolinas, Dukes and Kansases of the world?  Oh, yeah, NCAA sanctions.

When it comes to kicking its breadwinners, the NCAA has shown that it’s willing to do so.  In a much-quoted line, Jerry Tarkanian once joked that “the NCAA is so mad at Kentucky, it will probably slap another two years’ probation on Cleveland State.”

But no one mentions this Tark quote from a couple years later, when UK came close to getting the death penalty:  “There were years when (the NCAA) would never touch a Kentucky.  But I think any coach will tell you they’ve been more consistent in their rulings, and they’re coming down hard on just about everybody.  Since Dick Shultz took office (in 1987), they’ve come down hard and hit big people.  They hit Texas A&M and Houston hard.  They hit Oklahoma hard.  They hit everybody hard.”

And that comment came 20 years ago.  If anything, the NCAA has gotten tougher.  Ask clean-as-a-whistle Tom Izzo who just got a one-game suspension for a secondary violation.

If the Ohio State situation turns out to be as bad as it looks, expect the NCAA axe to drop.  Ditto Tennessee.  Power programs aren’t protected like they once were.


* The Dez Bryant Comparison Doesn’t Fit

Can we also nix all the Dez Bryant comparisons?  Everyone with a talk show or blog wants to know why Pearl and Tressel haven’t been sent away for a full year like the former Oklahoma State wideout who also lied to investigators.

Well, first, the NCAA hasn’t even ruled yet on Pearl or Tressel.  So this storyline is laughably premature.

Second, coaches and players are different beasts.  The only punishment the NCAA can hand out to an athlete is a suspension.  Coaches (and their programs) can be hit with scholarship reductions, TV bans, postseason bans, limited recruiting visits, and now suspensions.

A does not equal B.  Anyone claiming that A equals B is pot-stirring.


* Expect Pearl And Tressel To Both Get Spanked Hard

The NCAA has what could be two landmark cases before it: two big-time coaches who misled investigators.  Pearl lied to their faces.  Tressel failed to turn over information and reportedly signed a document claiming that he knew of no infractions.  Pearl at least — for whatever reason — later came clean.  Tressel never did, he was caught.  Pearl has missed half a conference season and had recruiting restrictions self-imposed on his program.  Tressel had to apologize — sort of — and he will miss his school’s games with Akron and Toledo.

How will the NCAA view these cases?  UT fans will tell you Tressel’s sins were worse.  OSU fans will tell you Pearl’s sins were worse.  UT clearly hit their guy with tougher sanctions.  But more than likely, both coaches will be hit with serious, serious penalties.


* What If More Folks At OSU Knew And Covered-Up?

One last thought on the Tressel situation — OSU’s coach said he didn’t turn over emails from a lawyer (a former Buckeye footballer himself) tipping him off to the scandal because he wanted to provide the attorney with the confidentiality he had requested.  However, when he was asked at his press conference if he’d forwarded the emails to anyone, he nodded in the affirmative, before being cut off by athletic director Gene Smith.  “We can’t get into that right now,” Smith said.

As SportsByBrooks.com points out, if Tressel forwarded the emails to anyone, it blows his “I didn’t tell the NCAA because of confidentiality issues” defense.  But if Tressel forwarded those emails it could mean far worse for Ohio State.

If it’s found that Tressel shared the information with his boss — OSU’s AD — then the NCAA could really drop Fat Man and Little Boy on the school.  It’s bad enough for a coach to hide information, but if a school’s athletic director or other higher-ups are aware of rules violations and they fail to report them… then you’ve got a full-blown cover-up.

Buckeye fans had better hope Tressel never forwarded those emails to his superiors or things could get even uglier in Columbus.

 


18 comments
HOGinHouston
HOGinHouston

It just proves that OSU are cowards who had to CHEAT to beat the Razorbacks. OSU was afraid to lose 10 straight....so they lie , cheat, & steal to stay on top?...REALLY?....SERIOUSLY?

Houstonvol
Houstonvol

When this hit, I said that Tressel and OSU are in trouble. Just as much trouble at UT and Pearl. You can look at both cases, and find very few good points. The only highlight about the Pearl/UT case is Pearl confessed. Yes he confessed - After he knew he was caught. He knew that it would be better to come clean before the NCAA showed back up. So who committed the bigger lie - Tressel in his 8 month cover and 'I knew nothing" and Pearl not knowing who was in his kitchen, calling recruits and their parents to lie on his behalf. At least UT and the SEC looks better now in the public opinion polls. At least UT and the SEC did something, and at least showed the appearance that they know that this is serious. Only time will tell, however OSU better be hoping that UT and Pearl does not get crushed by the NCAA. The punishment for OSU better mirror UT's, or people will start calling out the NCAA.

Mark
Mark

I really do not understand why Pearl gets credit for admitting he lied. They had him dead to rights. They had a photo of him in his house. Given time he realized he was nailed. He only came clean because he knew they had him. Like a child who lies and only admits it when he realizes he has no way out. No credit for that, please. He lied. He would not have told anyone had they not had proof in hand.

Keith
Keith

John, your a better man than I am because I could hardly understand Jim's posts....

corey
corey

oh, let's not forget that OSU finally beat the SEC by postphoning the suspensions of several top players until next year. LOL.

That's OSU in a NUTshell (pun intended)!

corey
corey

On the topic of the article, Ohio State has always been a culture of do anything to win. They celebrate it. They have more off field embarassments than on-field victories. Clarrett anyone? Woody Hayes punching an oppossing player in the throat? Re-sodding the field three days before a big michigan game while keeping it a secret until an hour before game time(and practicing for two weeks on a re-sodded practice field) in 2006. Having a US Marshall bomb squad rip apart the michigan team bus just before a big game in columbus. The school publicly recognized the band the Dead Schembechlers shortly after Bo Schembechler's death.

They've always been classy.

SEC fans don't need an education on Tennessee.

corey
corey

Great article. I just read these comments, and man, is that Jim guy a freaking moron or what? I think he's drunk and looking for a fight. That's the only time i've seen people act that way-- stumbling around at closing time and looking for a fight.

"hey! excuse you buddy!"

"huh? oh, i'm sorry, excuse me"

"HUH? YOU talkin ta ME!?"

"What?"

"What you? ya gotta problem?"

"What? Me? just go sleep it off buddy."

"You wanna put be ta sleep?! Hey! Let's go, you wanna go punk, you wanna go!!!"

Usually then he tries to lean on something and falls over....

When people do it on the internet, it's even sadder.

JNC
JNC

The comment Gee made was eye-popping and should be the lead nationwide- something to the effect of "I'm lucky the coach doesn't let me go!" All I can say is "Wow."

P.S.- been wanting to tell you for a long time - I really like your website. I really like your commentary. And I really like your values. I hope you're having fun with it - you do a damn fine job.

JC

Orange Peel
Orange Peel

In response to this comment, "What’s with all the whining from Tennessee fans wanting more Tressel coverage?" Tennessee has played many of it games on CBS and ESPN this year and every broadcast has brutalized Pearl. I want to throw up every time Vitale gets on his sanctimonious pulpit to lambash Pearl.Tressel has the luxury of not being on TV until this Fall. We won't truly know how the media will cover Tressel until football starts. My guess is he'll get a pass.

JIM S
JIM S

My guess is he won't be on TV this fall

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Jim

No problem, not only do we cover the news of the SEC and give our opinions, but we also give you comment boxes under each story. Unfortunately, those comment boxes are almost always used to leave ugly insults, but that's what we deal with in an anonymous medium. Still, we try to answer most of the comments and questions that are left for us.

John

Jim
Jim

props for taking on the chin. I do admire that, but i think your articles would look better without the slant...really not needed,
peace

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Ken...

My age is 40. I like to throw out the occasional reference that causes someone to do a Google search.

Thanks for reading,
John

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Jim...

1. Your post doesn't even make sense.

2. If you can find where I've ever claimed to be "the smartest guy in the room," I'll give you a hundred bucks.

Thanks for reading,
John

Jim
Jim

And really John are you so sheltered or skewed that you REALLY dont think on lets say, Michigan talk shows or other teams of the Big Ten wasnt saying the same thing? Pleeeeze.......really?
...sounds more like you drove thru Tennessee yesterday to find something you could manufacture into a "Whine" and type it....keep it real.
still want to talk about maturity?

Jim
Jim

Thx but its more priceless when you respond.
Thanks again!

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Jim...

And yet you're the one who continues to whine. On that point, I think the Tennessee fans -- not all Tennessee fans are whining obviously -- but the ones who are need to calm down and look objectively at the coverage of Tressel as compared to the coverage of Pearl. Folks across the country are saying the same things about Tressel that they said about Pearl.

John

G.g
G.g

This whole thing is just amazing. Tressel playing guys he knew would be ineligible to play; and the university just handled this the very worst way. The NCAA has to handle this one ( and Pearl) correctly or all of college sports will be permanently damaged. One other comment: E. Gorden Gee was our chancellor at Vanderbilt and was so respected and admired. His moving the athletic dept. into the university was to be a proactive move showing how and where college athletics should be managed. I am shocked and disappointed with his quote basically saying Tressel is more important than a university president. This quote will always come up when discussing college sports. Not at all the legacy that Gee wanted to have for impacting college sports. Sad. This whole scandal is just unbelievable and I do think a lot more will be coming. The emails raise a lot more questions that the media haven't focused on yet. Good column by the way.

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  1. [...] News 3/10/11 PEARL AND TRESSEL PROVE ONE THING: IF YOU WIN, YOU CAN SURVIVE ALMOST ANYTHING Homepage | MrSEC.com Reply With Quote + Reply to [...]

  2. [...] games and will be docked $1.5 million from his salary over the next five years. John Pennington, writing for MrSEC.com, has an intriguing thought worth pondering: “Winning coaches get more chances.” [...]

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