Jim Tressel, Ohio State and Ethical Standards

OK. I know that what is happening in Columbus these days isn’t nearly as important and certainly doesn’t warrant the media coverage of the situation involving Charlie Sheen. So go ahead and strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights and make teachers scapegoats for all the shortcomings of our educational system.

Oops. Sorry. Wrong story. I meant to opine on the really important story unraveling in Columbus: The two-game suspension and $250,000 fine assessed Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel for not informing university officials about possible NCAA rules violations involving several players last season.

The perception of Tressel that I have — and I’ve never met him — is that he is a decent guy, an excellent coach and recruiter, and someone who cares about his players and the university. And he beats Michigan. Let me repeat that. He beats Michigan.

And I know that as a nation we set the ethical bar so low for those in business, government, education, sports and so on that people can roll over it — no lifting of the knee even required these days. Still, at a time when there is still considerable outrage — although not many criminal indictments — about the misdeeds of bankers, mortgage lenders, business executives, government officials and other miscreants, shouldn’t high-visibility and highly paid coaches of public and taxpayer supported universities be held to a high standard of ethical conduct?

I think so. And I recognize that university officials were not/are not going to fire Tressel. Hey, he beats Michigan. But he should have resigned.

Here’s from a NYT article, “Jim Tressel Is a Reminder of How Rules Blur“:

With Tressel missing games next season against Toledo and Akron and being docked a small percentage of his salary of about $4 million, the question raised again is whether there are real deterrents to lying and cheating in college sports.

“I think the power the major conferences have over the N.C.A.A. is significant,” said Joe Gottfried, the retired athletic director at South Alabama. “Unless they send a strong message, this will continue. There is no deterrent. I think the deterrent is going to come in the form of the infractions committee.”

The N.C.A.A. Committee on Infractions, which has the final say in the matter, could still deliver a strong message to Tressel. But there is a strong argument that what he did in not telling his administrators or the N.C.A.A. the information he had about his players’ illicit dealings with a local tattoo parlor is worse than what his players did in selling memorabilia. His players were suspended for five games.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Ohio State’s president, Gordon Gee, said the lesser opponents the Buckeyes will play were not considered in handing down Tressel’s suspension.

“If we were playing Michigan and U.S.C. the first two games, it would have been that way, too,” Gee said. “We felt two games would be the right number.”

Gee said that in mid-January he had Tressel at his house for a three-hour discussion about Tressel’s not telling the university what he knew. The meeting reaffirmed his belief that Tressel has been an ideal citizen of the university, Gee said.

“This wasn’t a university president genuflecting toward a great football coach,” Gee said. “It was a mistake of the heart, not a mistake of malfeasance.”

The past three months have provided another reminder of how winning in college sports can be intricately tied with cheating or blurring the rules.

And here’s Jason Lloyd writing in the Akron Beacon Journal “OSU’s Tressel piles lies on top of lies.”

He can’t stop lying.

Even when he was trying to explain Tuesday why he lied in the first place, Jim Tressel was still lying.

He lied and deceived his bosses — all of them — for months. Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith, university President E. Gordon Gee and NCAA investigators who came to town in December looking for the answers he refused to supply.

Typically, lying to all of those people is a fireable offense — it’s even written into his contract as such. But Tressel is returning to work today as the football coach at Ohio State University because of six consecutive Big Ten championships, a 9-1 record against Michigan and a national championship soiled in the same stains that cloak the program again today.

Tressel should have been fired for lying to his bosses. Not Tuesday, when OSU officials finally came clean because of a Yahoo Sports report that forced their hand, but back in January when they first discovered Tressel’s lies and cover-up.

Tressel learned last April, through an e-mail from a local attorney giving him a heads-up, that the federal government raided a local house and at least two current players were involved in a memorabilia scam with a convicted felon (Eddie Rife) and receiving free tattoos from him.

He lied to everyone about it and pleaded ignorance — the same ignorant excuse he used in 2002 when Maurice Clarett was driving around town in free cars, in 2004 when Troy Smith was taking money from a booster and previously in the late ’80s and early ’90s when Ray Isaac’s pockets were stuffed at Youngstown State under his watch.

For Smith and Gee to suspend Tressel for two games (against Akron and Toledo) and fine him $250,000 (14 percent of his salary for next season) is a snub of arrogance at the rest of college sports.


And let’s be clear: Jim Tressel knowingly played six ineligible athletes all of last season.


Any ethical issues here? Just askin’.

Wonder what would happen if a classroom teacher got caught helping students cheat so they could pass standardized tests? Oops. I digress.

And of everything I’ve read or heard about this ethical debacle so far, here’s something that puts it all in perspective — from ESPN:

Ohio State president Gordon Gee said he and Tressel had discussed the violation at Gee’s house for 3 hours one night.

Gee also said he had not considered dismissing the Buckeyes coach.

“No, are you kidding?” he said with a laugh. “Let me be very clear. I’m just hoping the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”

Woot.  We wonder what’s wrong with education in this country.

And why the ethical bar is always set so low.


4 responses to “Jim Tressel, Ohio State and Ethical Standards

  1. Pingback: Jim Tressel, Ohio State and Ethical Standards (via PR on the run) « Pilant's Business Ethics Blog

  2. Great post. I reblogged it on my site. You concerns about ethics are a credit to you. James Pilant

  3. Excellent manner in which you pointed out the hypocrisy.

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