Stewart Mandel has a piece out today on SI.com describing the range of urgency athletics administrators are feeling regarding the O’Bannon v. NCAA case currently making its way through the courts. For those of you who haven’t kept up with the case, I wrote about it in more detail here. Essentially, former UCLA men’s basketball star Ed O’Bannon and his co-plaintiffs are suing the NCAA, and other defendants, for not sharing the revenue generated in part by student-athletes both while they are in school (e.g. TV) and afterwards (e.g. video games, archive footage). If the O’Bannon plaintiffs were to win, or even settle the case in their favor, the current structure of college athletics will be forever altered.
Mr. Mandel profiled University of Southern California athletic director Pat Haden’s concern that the case is by no means a slam dunk for the NCAA, and how he and his colleagues should be preparing for the aftermath if it were to lose the case. I appreciated Mr. Haden’s comments. Up until now the little we’ve heard from administrators are the doomsday scenarios spouted off by the likes of Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney, who claimed his schools would rather de-emphasize sports and join Division III than go along with any type of pay for play scenario.
Mr. Haden is a lawyer. He’s been reading the articles from legal analysts and scholars. He knows the NCAA is vulnerable and the case is soft. More importantly, he knows the stakes have never been higher. It reminds me of this Family Guy/Star Wars clip, with Mr. Haden as Darth Vader and NCAA president Mark Emmert as the Empire’s henchman talking about the “invulnerable” Death Star (current NCAA structure). Mr. Haden is right to be concerned. He is right to be asking questions. He is also right to be taking proactive steps to address the possible outcomes, or perhaps look at acceptable settlement options.
The contrast to Mr. Haden is University of Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds. He was also quoted in Mr. Mandel’s piece, but with much less concern or urgency than Mr. Haden. Mr. Dodds seemed to think he and other athletics administrators have “more immediate things to worry about,” and “have no control over (the case).” In my view, nothing could be further from the truth. The case exists only because of how the NCAA and its members (of which the University of Texas and Mr. Dodds is one) have constructed the current college athletics model. If those in power change the model, the case goes away. And while Mr. Dodds might simply be one person in a massive bureaucracy, he leads arguably the most powerful athletic department in the country, and SI.com recently named him the 8th most powerful person in college athletics (notice Ed O’Bannon ranks #4). My guess is others will listen when he speaks.
Last week much of the country’s attention was fixed on the Supreme Court’s hearing of two significant same-sex marriage cases. Reading through much of the post-argument commentary from both sides, it seemed apparent that at some point in the future, though perhaps not as a direct result of these two cases, same-sex marriage will be legal across the country. I get that same feel about the O’Bannon case and paying student-athletes. It may not be this case or right now, but at some point in the future college athletes will be paid. The only question is when the new era is ushered in, and how. Pat Haden recognizes this and wants to take action; good for him.
Follow Daniel on Twitter at @DanielHare.
Nearly a year ago, this article asked, how much is too much when it comes to spending on college football? Assuming the answer is whatever they’re spending now, the next question is how to reform it. I have a thought. What if there was a cap on the amount of money universities could spend on college athletics? Think about it. University presidents and other observers are constantly decrying the “arms race” that exists today, yet nothing is done. The reason: presidents know (or suspect) their counterparts are going to keep on spending and gaining a competitive advantage, and no president is going to risk crippling their athletic programs and alienating the alumni base.
But what if there was an NCAA rule which capped the amount of money you could spend each year? Or perhaps a luxury tax imposed on those who spend over the cap?
A policy like this would allow presidents to put athletics spending on a more sustainable path, without the risk that competitors are going to exploit it and surge past their teams on the field. It would help address the concerns faculty and other constituents have about spending at the expense of academics, including the public relations problem of increased athletic spending at a time of shrinking state appropriations and rising tuition for students. Capping spending also means more schools would have the opportunity to compete for championships. This is a big one. Our country’s most popular sport by far, the NFL, has a hard salary cap to help provide all its teams with a realistic shot at taking home the trophy. Even Major League Baseball, which doesn’t have a salary cap, has a luxury tax that teams must pay if they go over the spending threshold.
But why should the University of Texas be prevented from or penalized for spending as much on its athletic programs as its leadership and alumni please? This is America after all! Read its leaderships’ comments on this issue here. They’re going to spend as much as they can and don’t see a problem with it. But there is a problem. Texas, Ohio State and others aren’t operating independently. They are voluntary members of a conference and an association, with other institutions, upon which they depend for competition as well as the revenue they love to spend. And the large majority of these institutions can’t and shouldn’t keep up. Texas President William Powers said you don’t tell Albert Pujols he can’t hit in the 9th inning because it’s unfair to the other team; but that isn’t the analogy that applies here. More on point would be the Angels can’t stack their lineup with nine Albert Pujolses without paying a hefty luxury tax. In the NFL, you don’t get a backfield with three Adrian Petersons because you literally won’t be able to field a team and stay under the hard salary cap. In leagues of athletic teams, rules are crafted to foster competition for the betterment of the league over and above the betterment of individual members. A spending cap is precisely this type of rule.
An issue that would need to be resolved simultaneously with something like a spending cap or luxury tax is the Division I membership, which simply has too many schools which cannot compete at the highest levels. I would not advocate for a system which tried to bring Texas football and Louisiana-Monroe football to a similar place in the financial “middle.” In 2010 for example, Texas spent $25M on football; Louisiana-Monroe spent just under $3M. They are both playing for the same championship. That’s a joke and needs to be rectified with a split into more divisions. But certainly you could do something with the top 50 or 60 (financial) football schools. Michigan, Miami and Nebraska each spent $18M on football in 2010. You think those schools are operating on the cheap? Is there any need for those guys to spend more money? Of course not, except for the fact Texas is outspending them by nearly 40%.
Whether it’s a hard spending cap or a luxury tax, there are controls that should and could be put into place to control spending in college athletics. However, they will only happen if the presidents collectively decide it’s something they want to do. Otherwise Mr. Powers and company at Texas will continue circling the Monopoly board, collecting properties, and charging obscene rent to the rest of the college athletics world.
Follow Daniel on Twitter: @DanielHare.
(In Part I we looked at Enforcement, and in Part II the BCS schools separating from the NCAA and conference realignment. In this final post in the series we look at the various legal challenges the NCAA currently faces, and their potential long-term impact.)
In 1984, the United States Supreme Court in NCAA v. Board of Regents ruled that the NCAA violated federal antitrust law by controlling and restraining the television rights of its member institutions, and that those universities and colleges were free to negotiate their own television rights agreements. Needless to say that case has been transformative. What was a “game of the week” each fall Saturday has since become a smorgasbord of televised games to be enjoyed virtually any day of the week. This has spurred unprecedented financial windfalls to participating schools and conferences, and shaped the college athletics landscape we have today.
O’Bannon v. NCAA could be this generation’s Board of Regents. In O’Bannon, former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon and other former NCAA student-athletes filed suit claiming the NCAA and its licensing partners violated antitrust law by not compensating them for the use of their “likeness” in video games, video archive programming (i.e. old games shown on ESPN Classic) and other similar endeavors. If you’ve ever played college football or basketball video games you know many of the players strongly resemble actual players, both in terms of physical characteristics as well as the number on the back of the jersey. This is an example of what the plaintiffs refer to when they use the term “likeness,” and this is what they are complaining about and seeking compensation for. The case began only with former student-athletes seeking damages beginning from the time they finished school and thereafter; however, current student-athletes were (somewhat controversially) recently added to the group of plaintiffs in order to claim damages for the time they are in school as well. There have been several preliminary hearings, and things have not gone well for the NCAA thus far. The case is on track to go before the judge for class certification this summer, with the trial to take place sometime in early 2014.
If the NCAA were to lose, the ramifications would be immense. First there is the financial component, which could be tens of millions in damages or some say hundreds of millions. There is also the complete reversal of decades of policy in which compensating student-athletes for anything related to their athletic ability outside of a scholarship has been forbidden. Changes to both rules and structure would certainly need to be put in place moving forward in what would be a new era of NCAA athletics. On the PR front, the hits have already begun, and will continue to come throughout the pretrial process. We’re starting to see documents released which are, at best, embarrassing to the NCAA. You can be sure more documents will become public as the case continues on, and each new day increases the odds of a crippling revelation.
If O’Bannon wasn’t enough, the NCAA is facing several other legal challenges as well. You thought the USC / Reggie Bush affair was all over? Think again. Former assistant football coach Todd McNair is in the middle of a defamation suit against the NCAA for the way it conducted its investigation into he and the USC football program. Mr. McNair claims the NCAA maliciously disregarded the truth and used false information to come to its conclusions and penalties, and as a result his career and future earnings as a coach were unjustly diminished. In November, a judge ruled against the NCAA’s motion to dismiss the case, and in his opinion blasted the NCAA for an investigation he called “malicious,” and NCAA staff members who were “over the top.”
A similar case involves former State University of New York at Buffalo men’s basketball coach Tom Cohane. Though less publicized, Cohane has the potential to markedly change how NCAA investigations are conducted going forward. Mr. Cohane sued the NCAA claiming defamation and a violation of his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, alleging the NCAA knowingly used information provided by the university that was false and coerced, in order to tie him to the violations. Student-athletes have since given sworn statements that they were threatened and pressured to point the finger at Mr. Cohane, even though they never saw him do anything wrong. The litigation then went on a complicated but potentially significant procedural journey to determine whether the NCAA could be considered a “state-actor,” a necessary step for Mr. Cohane to claim Fourteenth Amendment due process protections. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said since (if the facts were proved) the NCAA essentially acted along side the (undeniably state actor) public university to investigate and discipline Mr. Cohane, it could be considered a state-actor in this circumstance.
What does all this mean? Until now, this issue had clearly been settled by the United States Supreme Court in Tarkanian v. NCAA, when it said the NCAA is not a state-actor and therefore does not have to afford due process rights to those it investigates and punishes. This flexibility has allowed the NCAA to be more aggressive with its investigations and have a lower burden of proof in order to impose penalties. But now with Cohane, an example may exist whereby due process rights would have to be provided, and higher burdens of proof would have to be met. The distinction between the two cases boils down to the level of cooperation between the university and the NCAA during the investigation. In Tarkanian, the university and its coach Jerry Tarkanian were denying all the allegations, and fighting together with the NCAA as their common adversary. Therefore the Court said the NCAA was not a state-actor in that instance. In Cohane, however, the university was acknowledging the violations against Mr. Cohane and allegedly working with the NCAA in “joint activity” to make sure the allegations stuck to him so he could be fired for cause. So in that case the 2nd Circuit says the NCAA could be a state-actor. (The NCAA appealed the 2nd Circuit’s decision, but the Supreme Court declined to hear the case). This is a case to watch through its completion, as it could dramatically change how both the NCAA and universities conduct investigations in the future, and the level of due process afforded individuals who find themselves in the middle of them.
All that and we haven’t even touched Miami or Penn State. Looking back on this series of posts, it’s overwhelming to think about what the the NCAA faces in the coming months and years. My view is the NCAA’s back is against the wall, and it must reinvent itself or it will become obsolete, if it isn’t already.
Follow Daniel on Twitter at @DanielHare.
(This is the first installment in a series of posts addressing the future of the NCAA. There are so many facets to this it wouldn’t do the topic justice to cover it all in one post. We’ll look at the idea of super-conferences and/or the complete separation of the BCS schools in a future post, as well as the impact of ongoing and possible legal troubles. Today, however, the topic is enforcement.)
The NCAA has problems, particularly when it comes to the enforcement of its rules. The problems are now so deep that John Infante in his Bylaw Blog has floated the idea of a federal government takeover of the enforcement program. Whether it be USC, Ohio State or Miami, recent investigations have been sloppy and endless, with unsatisfying results.
The crux of the issue is the NCAA has an inherent problem with its investigation and enforcement procedures, in that it does not have the same discovery tools at its disposal that an attorney would in preparing for a trial. Specifically, the NCAA does not possess the power to subpoena witnesses to testify, nor can it compel the production of documents. Worse, whatever testimony and documentation it does get doesn’t come under oath (with penalty of perjury if it’s untrue), lessening its value.
It must be unbelievably frustrating for the NCAA’s enforcement staff. Step out of athletics for a moment and imagine a typical legal situation: a guy runs a stop sign and slams into your car. In the legal system you would have the ability to compel witness testimony (under oath) both in depositions and at trial, as well as compel the production of any and all documents relevant to your case (like for example his expired drivers license!). In the NCAA system, however, you can’t compel much of anything. You’re stuck looking for people willing to talk to you and for documents people are willing to share with you. All of a sudden what seemed like an open and shut case (“he ran a stop sign and slammed into my car”) becomes a lot more challenging, and takes a whole lot longer. It was these frustrations that apparently led NCAA investigators to find a (potentially unethical) way around these cumbersome limitations in the Miami case. Perhaps more telling, an NCAA investigator defending the tactics to the Sun Sentinel raises the concern that this wasn’t one individual going rogue but rather manifestations of a much larger cultural issue.
So how can we improve the rules investigation and enforcement process? It’s true that if the federal government took over it would have all the discovery tools of the legal system and we’d avoid some of these issues. What comes with those advantages though are several major disadvantages, two of which stand out. First, as Mr. Infante noted, politics is injected into the process – never a good thing. And don’t think for a second our senators and congressmen are above getting involved in this. We saw several key political figures weigh in on conference realignment, and now the Pennsylvania governor and other legislators are trying to bully the NCAA on the Penn State case. Second, timeliness – you thought the NCAA was slow? How about the federal government. The Office of Civil Rights took 14 years investigating a Title IX complaint into USC’s rowing facilities. 14 years! (For more on this check out the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Title IX Blog.) So there’s definitely a risk that with the federal government you’d be replacing bad with worse.
I do, however, think there is real merit to the idea of outsourcing the enforcement process to an outside group. It may not have subpoena power, but at least it can operate objectively and without the natural conflicts that exist when you’re policing your own membership (I think this is something that should be looked at with individual campuses as well – outsourcing the investigation / enforcement component of the compliance function to avoid conflicts within the department). I’d also be interested in exploring the possibility of placing language in employment contracts for coaches and staff, and financial aid agreements for student-athletes, which imposes a penalty for not cooperating with investigations for some limited amount of time after they leave the institution. This could certainly be financial or for student-athletes it could be something like putting a hold on transcripts. For non-university people of interest, you could impose penalties similar to what the NCAA currently does for “boosters” found to have participated in violations: no involvement with the university’s athletic program (e.g. can’t donate, can’t sponsor) for some period of time. Further steps could include bringing the professional sport leagues into the process so that players and coaches can’t avoid cooperating by going to the next level.
The NCAA’s investigation and enforcement process is certainly broken; it will be interesting to see what, if anything, is done in the coming months and years to fix it. In the meantime, at least the NCAA can say it doesn’t take 14 years to complete an investigation.
Follow Daniel on Twitter: @DanielHare
Today is the first in a series with Ruling Sports on the NCAA presidential retreat currently taking place. There are three major issues on the agenda: finances, academics and integrity. Today I’m posting on the financial discussion. Tomorrow, Alicia Jessop of Ruling Sports will write about academic issues, and Friday both Alicia and will post about integrity issues.
Yesterday, NCAA President Mark Emmert met with over 50 university presidents in the first day of a two-day retreat. The topic of the day was finance and it seemed there was a genuine desire to work toward revising NCAA regulations to allow for scholarships that cover full cost of attendance. To coincide with the discussion, I showed you how much it would cost athletic departments to increase scholarships to cover cost of attendance.
“There was an absolute, complete consensus that we would never move to pay-for-play. No one, including me, believes that paying student-athletes is even remotely appropriate in the collegiate model. We talked directly about that and there’s not a single president that I’ve ever met that thinks that’s an appropriate thing to do and certainly not this group here.”
Why the firm rejection to the idea of paying players? Perhaps because it would change the entire landscape of college athletics. I’ve been working through a chapter in my upcoming book, Saturday Millionaires: why college athletes will never be paid and other uncomfortable truths about college football, and I want to share with you something I’ve explored that I think effectively ends the discussion on pay-for-play (if Title IX wasn’t enough).
No one can say for sure, but somewhere not far beyond cost of attendance is employment status, either as an employee or as an independent contractor. The definition of “employee” varies according to various federal acts and also state legislation. It’s unlikely a court, Congress or the National Labor Relations Board would find a student athlete is an employee based on a scholarship that covers cost of attendance, as many academic scholarships and other financial aid cover up to cost of attendance. However, any amount paid over that amount could surely be used to make a strong case that a college athlete is an employee.
If a court, Congress or the National Labor Relations Board ruled college athletes were employees, a host of new issues arise, as do costs. In addition to the compensation provided to athletes, as an employer the athletic department would have to pay the following for each athlete: Social Security at a rate of 6.2% on the first $106,800 of compensation (in 2011), 1.45% for Medicare, with no cap, federal and state unemployment tax and worker’s compensation insurance, which varies in expense by state by averages 2-3 percent.
The real cost, however, is in the athletic department losing its tax exemption under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). Currently, athletic departments (which are generally a separate legal entity from the university), athletic foundations/booster clubs and bowl games enjoy tax exempt status because they “promote amateur athletics,” an exempt purpose under the Code. If college athletes were compensated and found to be employees, revocation of this tax-exempt status would surely follow.
This would also be the case if college athletes, instead of being compensated by the athletic department, were allowed to profit from endorsements. It would only take a finding by the Internal Revenue Service that these athletes were no longer amateurs (ad I’m sure they’d hate to add another revenue source). And if college athletes are no longer amateurs it’s not just athletic departments who lose their 501(c)(3) status, it’s bowl games as well.
In addition to the taxes each athletic department would have to pay on any income, they’d likely lose large amounts of revenue as a result of donors no longer being able to make tax-deductible contributions. How would that impact athletic departments, which rely heavily on donor contributions to survive? A CFO at one FBS school told me a “very conservative estimate” would be athletic departments losing 50% of their current donations. I polled ten athletic department executives in total and the range was 25-50 percent.
Not only would donors no longer be receiving a tax deduction for their donation, an important reason for donations, but they could be paying for the pleasure of donating to the university, because their donation could now be considered a gift. The Internal Revenue Code prescribes a gift tax on any transfer of property (including money) for which something of equal value is not received in return. Ticket-related contributions would likely be immune to the gift tax, at least partially up to the fair market value of the ticket, but any portion that is currently tax-deductible would no longer be.
Other donations for which nothing is received in return would be subject to the gift tax, payable by the donor. The Internal Revenue Code allows for gifts of up to $13,000 to be tax-free (according to 2010 rates), so the largest decline would probably be in gifts above that amount for endowments and capital campaigns. Gator Boosters, Inc. tells me approximately $2.5-2.7 million of last year’s contributions were from gifts totalling over $13,000 for endowments or capital campaigns.
For an idea of the impact reduction in contributions would make, first consider that contributions are generally a larger source of revenue than conference distributions and NCAA March Madness combined.
Another area where expenses would be affected by a loss of tax exempt status would be capital costs. Currently, most athletic departments use tax-exempt bonds to finance renovation and construction costs. The interest on tax-exempt bonds is exempt from federal tax, and sometimes from state and local tax. In addition, the interest rates are generally lower than commercial lending rates.
If the university were a tax-exempt entity, it could issue the bonds, or be the beneficiary of an issue, and build athletic facilities. However, that could impact a university’s ability to build academic facilities. There is a limit to the amount of bonds that can be issued, based on revenue stream, before the university’s rating is impacted.
Combining the added cost of obtaining commercial loans for facilities and no longer being able to solicit tax-exempt donations could cost an athletic department tens of millions of dollars each year, on top of the cost of compensation for the new employee athletes.
The school isn’t the only one with new expenses. With compensation come expenses for athletes. Not only will they be taxed on the new income, they’ll also now be taxed on the value of their scholarship. It is unlikely the scholarship would fall under the exception for work-related education, which requires what it implies, that the education be related to the work. Hard to argue you need classroom education on sociology in order to play college football.
In my book, I detail examples of costs to universities and students. In some scenarios the student-athlete would owe 50-150% of his new compensation in taxes (before any deductions or credit), because he’s also be taxed on the value of his scholarship.
And don’t forget, if college athletes are employees, there’s the possibility of collective bargaining, lockouts and strikes, as I detailed last month.
Is it a certainty that it would all play out like this if student-athletes were paid above and beyond cost of attendance? No, but it’s a possibility – one that’s far too risky for college athletics.
As I’ve said many times before, it’s not as simple as deciding tomorrow that student-athletes should be paid.
If you read this site regularly or follow me on Twitter, you know that I am in Ireland from May 17-25th. While I’m away, I’m sharing with you the work of Patrick Rishe, my collegue at SportsMoney on Forbes.com.
By: Patrick Rishe
On June 10th, 2010, Yahoo Sports reported that the NCAA’s probe into USC’s athletics program resulted in:
• A postseason ban in football following the 2010 and 2011 seasons;
• A loss of 30 total football scholarships over the 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons;
• 4 years probation;
• A vacation of all football victories starting in December 2004 and running through the 2005 season, including the national championship win over Oklahoma in January 2005.
Many of these penalties were levied after the NCAA’s lengthy review of wrongdoing within the USC football program. Specifically, wrongdoing by Reggie Bush and his family which included multiple cash payments from would-be sports marketing agents, a house for Bush’s parents, an automobile outfitted with rims and a stereo system, airfare, hotel stays, limousine service, meals, auto repairs, clothing, furniture, and appliances.
Now there is no question that these penalties were quite severe. Partly because of the nature and the volume of infractions at hand (there were other infractions with USC’s men’s basketball and women’s tennis programs). And partly because, in my opinion, the NCAA had additional venom because they felt the USC athletics department and the Bush family were less than accommodating during the investigation.
Prior to the penalties being levied during the investigation, I can recall friends of mine who did and still work within the NCAA using words like ‘arrogant’ and ‘elitist’ to describe former USC athletics director Mike Garrett. An attitude that, at the time, permeated throughout the program.
An antagonistic, defiant attitude that showed little contrition or remorse over its actions. And thus, garnered little sympathy or leniency when the NCAA handed down its punishment.
Conversely, at least prior to December 2010, I don’t think the average college football fan would use those same words and sentiments to describe Ohio State athletics. I had the impression that NCAA Headquarters looked upon the Buckeye program rather favorably.
So that’s why the NCAA’s ruling and assessment of penalties for Ohio State on August 12th is so compelling.
Will they punish the Buckeyes more or less than they punished the Trojans?
Will that decision be based solely on a comparison of the infractions at hand, or will the NCAA show leniency towards Ohio State because (a) they proactively imposed self-penalties once the truth was discovered and (b) are better liked by NCAA administrators because the program is perceived more positively than USC’s program?
To review the Buckeyes’ mess:
- Coach Jim Tressel was notified in April 2010 via emails from a Buckeyes fan and former player that Ohio State players were trading signed jerseys and other memorabilia to a Columbus tattoo parlor owner for cash and reduced-price tattoos;
- Even though his contract and NCAA rules required him to notify athletic director Gene Smith, Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee or the university’s compliance department about this information, Coach Tressel did not;
- It was not until more than 9 months passed—and five players including quarterback Terrelle Pryor had been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season—that Ohio State officials discovered the emails and confronted Coach Tressel. He finally admitted he knew of the players getting improper benefits;
- Coach Tressel was originally suspended for 2 games—later extended to the first 5 games this fall to match the punishment of the five players—and was fined $250,000, required to make a public apology, receive a public reprimand, and attend an NCAA compliance seminar which he will do June 6-10 in Tampa.
And just when you thought you heard the last of it, the Columbus Dispatch reported Saturday that the university is officially investigating used-car sales to at least eight football players and 11 players’ relatives from two Columbus, Ohio dealerships.
Now Ohio State, along with the rest of us, must sit back and await whether the NCAA chooses to impose further sanctions. The ruling is set for August 12th.
So this begs the question: “What is equitable punishment for Ohio State when comparing their infractions to the infractions and penalties imposed upon USC?”
As it relates to athlete-specific violations, it seems that Reggie Bush’s infractions were more severe than Ohio State players selling their own memorabilia and getting discounted tattoos…though if fire follows the smoke from the afore-mentioned car sales report, that “severity gap” closes. Especially if players and their relatives were getting discounted cars in exchange for Buckeye football tickets.
And I fear that ‘that’ fire might combust before summer’s end.
As it relates to the behavior of the coaches involved, at least former Trojans and current Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had the good sense to get out of dodge before the mess landed on his front lawn. Maybe he knew what Reggie Bush was up to, but it’s plausible that he didn’t. Whether you think him corrupt, naive, goofy, aloof, or all of the above, there is no evidence to date that he knowingly lied to his superiors or NCAA investigators regarding Reggie Bush.
Conversely, Coach Tressel knowingly LIED. He lied to his superiors at the university. And his calculated deception allowed ineligible student-athletes to compete for Ohio State during the 2010 season.
Student-athletes have the luxury of falling back on the ”young and dumb” argument in the court of public opinion. Coach Tressel does not have that luxury, especially since he and former players have had previous brushes with the NCAA both at Ohio State and his previous employer Youngstown State.
Just ask Tennessee and Bruce Pearl how the NCAA likes it when you lie to them. Pearl lost his job because Tennessee wanted to save face with the NCAA, and we’ll find out in a few weeks when they go in front of the infractions committee whether this firing curried any favor.
So if a coach’s lies are seen as equally afoul of the rules as a player’s inappropriate receipt of money and gifts, then we should expect that Ohio State will receive further penalties come August.
Vacated wins? Check.
Lost scholarships? Check.
Bowl ban? Check.
And, at the very least, a one-year suspension of Coach Tressel. It still would not surprise me if Coach Tressel resigned in light of the continued heat he will face in the upcoming months.
Yet, there’s a small part of me that thinks the NCAA may not be as harsh with Ohio State as they were with USC.
I go back to the animosity that NCAA officials had with the USC program. The NCAA went after USC the same way the federal government went after Barry Bonds. They were unrelenting in their pursuit of justice, and they ultimately ‘got their man’.
At least Ohio State has shown a level of contrition which USC never did.
At least Ohio State was willing to impose penalties upon themselves which USC never did.
And because the athletic department has been proactive once the truth was revealed, this might be just enough to lessen the severity of the oncoming and added sanctions.
A fortune teller I’m not, but I can tell you that Coach Tressel and Ohio State football are about to lose a fortune’s worth of credibility and respect.
Only time will tell how severe the upcoming sanctions will be, and whether said sanctions will jeopardize the Buckeyes’ stranglehold on Big Ten football dominance.
But the NCAA is on trial as well, and there will be many interested observers ready to critique if the Buckeye sanctions are inequitably different from USC’s.
Follow Patrick on Twitter @SportsDocRock or visit www.patrickrishe.net