Gee is for “Goners”: Tressel, Smith and Gee Weave Their Tangled Web

Great theatre, all this. And, yes, you heard it here first: It might take some time, but Tressel, OSU President Gee and AD Smith will all either resign or be fired over this whole stinking mess.  It’s going to get really ugly.
Watch the tape of the press conference.  Jim Tressel is the funeral director, sombre and earnest, who has spent all his OSU days (at exorbitant pay) dressing up the corpse which is college “amateur” status.
But he’s also a funeral director presiding over his own funeral.  He is a goner, and the excuses he’s trotting out don’t deceive anyone.  Now we all know, he is a sweater-vested phony, a liar, and a cheat, however desperately he now works to continue the charade.
AD Gene Smith? He’s the press conference  Carnival Barker. The head of the NCAA’s Billion-dollar March Madness TV industry, he might just as well be wearing a hound’s tooth jacket,  a toothpick dangling from his lip, handing out chintzy gold-football pants trinkets.
And OSU Pres. Gordon Gee? — He’s the eunuch court jester with rounded fuzzy slippers and bells on his toes.  Not a whit of integrity, guts, or savvy.  Pathetic.  And that cartoon voice says it all. A fool and a buffoon.
This is all a new public low for OSU.  What it suggests, however, is that, under JT, OSU’s football program has been in outlaw status for a long time. (Disclaimer: I have not been a Tressel-hater; I haven’t watched closely, but I’ve admired his apparent reserve and have been persuaded by his finely-crafted patina of low-key virtue. Which has now been revealed as the mask of a scoundrel.)
Let’s break it all down:
Tressel’s Whopping Lies: Tressel’s a liar.  It might be easy to suggest that he’s a stupid liar, but that’s just not true.  JT is brilliant. He has shown himself as extraordinarily clever in his “presentation of his everyday self” over the years, appearing as a thoughtful, judicious man of competence and probity.  We now know this to have been a grand deception. And he’s clearly a great football coach.  But here’s the point: his excuses for failure to act, and to report, concerning information emailed him by Atty. Cicero are, in fact stupid, goofy and internally inconsistent.  But just because the excuses are stupid doesn’t make him stupid.
In fact, what those phony school-boy excuses show is that he is a desperate liar forced to spin stupid lies —  because that’s all he has. His “hide-in-the-bushes” behavior since April 2010  is now open and available for all to see  – as captured red-handed by an email trail which even JT cannot talk his way out of — as deliberate, planned, and long-running.  That press conference was an embarrassment; JT might just as well have gotten up to talk about his favorite recipes — anything.  He was caught dead to rights.
But the excuses aren’t goofy solely because there were no good ones.  It’s that he is legitimately very fearful about what might be uncovered by the Feds, and a risk that he may have violated some duties and/or criminal statutes which would make the Feds very interested in what he has to say — and make him, potentially, right now the continuing subject of ongoing Fed criminal investigation.  More on that in a minute; let’s breakdown his excuses:
The “Confidentiality” Excuse, for the first two weeks after Cicero’s  first email:  As has been pointed out elsewhere, and is evident from reading the emails, Cicero never mentioned any need for confidentiality in the first email.   So we know for sure that that factor couldn’t have constrained  him from reporting during the first two week period after receipt of Cicero’s email.
The “I didn’t know who to report to” Excuse: If ANYONE takes this excuse at face value, then a necessary conclusion is that OSU has ZERO compliance training at all.  The NCAA’s stationary says “When in doubt, Ask” (or something like that.)   OSU must just close it’s entire Compliance operation, and start over, if JT’s claim is accepted.  It’s preposterous.   And even if JT had ZERO compliance training, he still is an adult who knows enough about the way the world works to “call the boss” and dump it in his lap — unless he wants to hide it all, which is what JT wanted to do.
The “I was scared” Excuse:   This excuse probably has a strain of truth to it.  JT was, and is, scared that his players are involved with drug dealers, and/or people who might have been “buying” memorabilia from the players.  But what JT means to suggest, it is apparent from his comments, is that “I was so scared that I was paralyzed to act.”   But look at  the emails: he certainly wasn’t so paralyzed that  he couldn’t “act” to send a responsive  — and quite chatty and casual — email back to Cicero each time.  is this a man who istruly paralyzed with fear?  Wouldn’t it have been just as easy to forward Cicero’s email, with one click, to ……   AD Smith?…. Pres. Gee?…. OSU Compliance? ….. any OSU attorney? It makes no sense.
The “Confidentiality Excuse,” after the second Cicero Email:  So Cicero talked about his information in his second email needing “confidentiality.”  How reasonable is it for us to accept JT”s loose suggestion that this actually constrained him?   There certainly was no strict duty of confidentiality — by law — which ran between JT and Atty. Cicero — there was no attorney-client relationship between them. (And any subsequent communication JT might have given to an OSU attorney, about Cicero’s information, would have had some attorney-client confidentiality, protecting JT.)
There is some suggestion in the emails that Cicero represents (Mr. Tattoo Parlor) Rife.  If, in fact that’s who Cicero represented, then Cicero might have been doing a good job representing his client, by “tipping off” JT that some of JT’s players were on-the-scene at Rife’s, and  were apparently pawning OSU football trinkets, and that Rife was involved with a Federal drug investigation.  Here’s where it gets serious, and one can see that there may be an entire distinct thread to this whole investigation which is outside the jurisdiction of the NCAA. One can speculate that Cicero may have had a legitimate, ulterior motive for “tipping off” JT, which is to encourage JT to go to his players to tell them to, among other things, “keep quiet” and “keep away.”  it’s a warning by Cicero, and one which appears directly consistent with his duty to try to protect his client Rife from further damage in a Federal drug investigation, since one can speculate that the OSU players might be either fact witnesses or even co-defendants on the drug or tax charges considered against Rife. More simply, Rife may be suggesting in the emails that JT be sure to “get to” his players and tell them to back off and shut up.  Let me emphasize: this is speculation, but these are real questions raised by JT’s conduct.  One might wonder, at this point, whether any phone calls occurred, during this time, between Cicero and JT, on these very issues.
The larger point?:  the Feds or the DA may be involved in a continuing investigation which might generate questions to JT, Pryor et al, and Rife.  Not pretty.
How’s the NCAA going to view all  this?
They are scared. Most NCAA investigatioins are a sham.  They generally — unlike every other legal or fact-finding system — refuse to analyze or use “circumstantial evidence.”   They almost always require “direct” evidence to impose any serious sanction.  Example:  where photos were produced which showed – contrary to what Pearl had testified to –  Bruce Pearl in his own back yard with his Tenn. recruits. Or the texts sent by Kelvin Sampson at Indiana.)
But this case has two sources of the kind of “direct” evidence which might box in the  NCAA, and JT (and OSU):  the emails, which show pretty clearly that JT lied for 9 months; and the factual trail developed by the Federal investigation.  There are, and will be, presumably, “parallel” investigations  1) The one by the NCAA (which in ordinary circumstances is often a cushy charade, with a whole lot of documents and interviews, but sanctions which resemble what your College Inter-Fraternity Council would impose against an errant frat-boy member; and 2)  The one by the Feds (which is the big boys, with endless time, money and determination.)   This scares the bejesus out of the NCAA, and increases the liklihood that even the NCAA’s disposition of this is going to be a whole lot more severe than the wonderful, but completely toothless, self-imposed sanctions AD Smith bragged about at the press conference.
Here’s one final point. How to explain the zany behavior of Gee and Smith at the press conference?  They may both be buffoons, and morally blinded, like most everyone else associated with college football  these day, but here’s another factor, I think:  Gee and Smith are scared to death.  They know that there is a suggestion or whisper of the  taint of drug use or sale, tax evasion, and federal criminal investigation surrounding their OSU football program, players and coaches, and they don’t know how far and where it will lead.  And they know that there is risk of very serious problems developing —  problems which, if they make it to JT, will in fact jeopardize Gee and Smith’s jobs.  That’s why they are acting so wacky at the press conference.
It’s gonna blow higher, is my prediction.  JT knew exactly what kinds  of issues he hoped he could contain by not passing on the information in Cicero’s email — and it had to do with his fears about drugs and selling of memorabilia.  Intentional and willful hiding of facts, for nine months, including filling out forms in September averring that he knew of no potential NCAA violations.    Mark my words.  JT, Smith, and  Gee will be gone within the space of 12 months, but probably sooner. This whole thing is UGLY, and it will get uglier. Smith and Gee will soon rue that they acted like 8th Grade cheerleaders for JT at this press conference.

About brewonsouthu

lawyer, with interest in college sports and NCAA oversight and decisions, and sports generally.
This entry was posted in NCAA Enforcement, NCAA Investigation, NCAA Investigations, NCAA sanctions, NCAA Violations, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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