Bruce Pearl’s basketball coaching career in Knoxville is dead and his impressive body of work is still warm.
Next up on the NCAA’s “To Get” list better be Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel. If Pearl was the NCAA’s most wanted, Tressel has to be the new Public University Enemy No. 1. If Pearl was Al Capone, Tressel is “Baby Face” Nelson.
So go get him, NCAA. Release the same overlord tactics and the same less-than-subtle hints that all but sealed UT’s firing of Pearl earlier this week. Pearl has been sacked — and rightly so — so move the operation north and change the area codes on the field agents’ cell phones from the 865 of Knox County to the 614 of Columbus, Ohio.
To view Tressel’s transgressions as anything less than Pearl’s is at best blind and at worst criminally biased. In fact, Tressel’s lie-filled story that is covered with cover-ups appears to be getting worse by the week.
Pearl’s transgressions have become common knowledge in East Tennessee, as familiar as morning fog on I-75 and 180-degree March weather changes. The former Volunteers coach lied to NCAA investigators, tried to get prospective recruits to cover his tracks and was less than forthcoming and rule-focused in the months that followed. He paid for his mistakes by losing his job — and rightly so — and the UT program will learn its punishment in the months to come.
Tressel’s web of deceit is just as deep — maybe even more so. Tressel was informed by a Columbus attorney who was a former OSU player last April that some of the Buckeyes were trading and selling OSU gear and memorabilia for cash and tattoos. Tressel’s response was that he’d get right on that. And he did, if your definition of “get right on that” means doing next to nothing, including keeping it under wraps during the season while rumors and allegations were being investigated and right up to the point that the NCAA became involved.
Almost nine months later, before the Sugar Bowl, five OSU players — including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and three other offensive starters — were suspended for the first five games of next season.
In the last month as details have trickled out, Tressel has bounced between explanations, saying he wanted to work through a “teachable moment” while also wanting to keep the confidentiality of the attorney involved because of legal investigations and ramifications. Tressel even apologized for listening to the wrong people. There’s a teachable moment for you, because everyone knows that when the going gets tough, the tough blame their advisers. Please.
To make matters worse, the Columbus Dispatch reported Friday that Tressel forwarded the emails to at least a few people. Although it conveniently appears none of those people were in positions of power in either the Ohio State compliance or athletic departments, Tressel felt it was not a breach of any confidentiality to reach out to Ted Sarniak, a close personal friend of and mentor to Pryor.
Sure, Pearl had a long history of causing BCS-controversy-level headaches for the NCAA. Yes, Tressel embraces a conservative, sweater-vest-and-glasses look that spawned the nickname “The Senator.” But apparently that’s a reference more to the crooked Senator Pat Geary in “Godfather II” than any other upstanding public official.
Go to work, NCAA. You have some extra time on your hands now that the Pearly-Gate has been closed in Knoxville. To not do so would leave some serious questions about your impartiality when it comes to matters of enforcement. After all, there’s no way THE Ohio State University would be held to a different standard, is there?
Go get ’em, NCAA. Go get Tressel with the same vigor with which you chased Pearl. Go get the Senator — or at the very least make one of those cursed advisers pay for handing out such awful advice.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...