OSU’s Terribly Tangled Web – and “Actually, We Really Don’t Want to Know”

Some excellent reporting by Sports by Brooks, and others, showing today that there is plenty of heat to go around in Columbus.  The chances of the big three: Pee  Wee Gee, Gene Smith, and JT all being gone by August have just doubled.  In fact someone should put in a call to Jim Tressel to ask JT whether he by now  has decided that Pee Wee must be fired.

The Omission of Sarniak Emails — Intentional? (By-Law 10 ethical violation) or Inadvertence? (Lack of Institutional Control/Failure to Monitor)

Recall the March 8 Pee Wee Gee, AD Smith, and JT Press Conference (which Gee now admits was a “disaster.”)  It was at that podium that JT claimed he didn’t forward the emails from Atty. Rife (about OSU players trading memorabilia for cash or tattoos) to OSU Compliance, or his boss, or any OSU lawyer, because he was  apparently paralyzed with fear, and that the sender, Atty. Rife, had requested “confidentiality.”

We now know that this JT claim was preposterous, but only because it came out on April 25 this year that JT (despite being so “scared”), had the calm presence of mind to forward those very emails to Mr. Sarniak, Pryor’s “mentor” back home in Pennsylvania.  Poof!, up in smoke went JT’s laughable claim of “confidentiality” or of “paralysis from fear.”

These Sarniak emails were allegedly “inadvertently” (to quote the OSU Compliance Officer Lynch) left out of the list of emails provided to media at the March 8 Press Conference.  This huge admission alone suggests some cover-up.  But more critical for OSU is that OSU’s written “self-reporting”to the NCAA on March 8 also apparently excluded those whoppingly important Sarniak emails.   Assuming that omission in the OSU NCAA filing, the NCAA will be investigating to determine whether it was “inadvertent”, or intentional.”  Either way, it’s not good for OSU.

Intentional:  All those characters involved in the March 8 OSU filing are subject to inquiry to determine their state of mind, and state of knowledge, about the events leading to that very material omission.  And that would presumably include taking statements, (though one can usually presume nothing other than that the NCAA will shrivel away from any facts which might more seriously implicate a member institution) from Pres. Gee and even the attorneys involved. The inquiry of Gee might go like this:   “Uh, Mr Gee, before OSU filed this March 8 filing, you reviewed it, did you not?   And you agreed with it, right?  Did you ask anyone if ALL of JT’s emails for the previous two years had been printed and reviewed, prior to preparing the filing?  Did you ask whether that review showed whether JT sent the Rife emails to anyone?  Did you ask JT himself if he had sent the Rife emails to ANYONE? (Recall back to the March 8 Press Conference, where Pee Wee allowed as how he had just had a three hour “meeting” with JT at Gee’s house.  What did they discuss?  Did Pee Wee go through all the emails there?)

Most likely, Gee is going to say he relied on the work of others, to show he had no personal intent to fool the NCAA about what JT knew, and did, with the emails.  And that’s the likely position which will be taken by persons in the “chain” below  Gee, i.e., “I didn’t know anything about those emails, I just depended on someone else’s review.”  Proving an intentional failure to hide facts from the NCAA will be difficult. But the stakes are high, because any effort by any character within the OSU system to defraud the NCAA leaves the program subject to serious By-Law 10 ethical sanctions, and leaves the individuals involved subject to serious sanction from both the NCAA and OSU.

[One tangent about a very important overweening principle driving “in-house” investigations by a university of its’ athletics program, and also the NCAA’s investigations: OSU Compliance guy Lynch will likely fall on his sword, and say it was his simple, unintentional mistake.  Assuming this is how it turns out, the chances of OSU clobbering him with some job sanction are VERY low, just because OSU (if they behave like other member institutions subject to NCAA investigation) is motivated not only to avoid firing or sanctioning those low-level “sword-impalers”, but more specifically to keep them well-supplied with boxes of chocolates while the NCAA is sniffing around — to keep that person “friendly”.  That was, in fact, the completely upside-down bad-faith approach former Michigan AD Bill Martin took with former Dir. Of Football Ops Brad Labadie.]  Which illustrates that overweening principle:  “Actually, We Really Don’t Want to Know.”  In other words, the vast majority of such NCAA or University investigations are a sham, meant to fool the public into thinking that they want to get to the bottom of it, when, in actuality, they know that they are tromping around in a cesspool, and have little interest in doing a thorough fact-finding.  And this AWRDWK  policy is itself strong evidence that most every program “lacks institutional control.”

Inadvertent: So Compliance guy Lynch says he was the reviewer, and he just goofed.  THAT”s when the NCAA moves to the “LOIC/FTM” charges — and goes back to Pee Wee.   “Uh, Mr. Gee, we have to ask you this, we went back to look at that March Presser  video and you actually said there that the real question was whether Coach Tressel was going to “fire you.”   Mr. Gee, can you blame us for concluding that this statement alone is evidence of a Lack of Institutional Control over your Big Time Football program?   And that your failure to ask your underlings to be sure to review EVERY JT email for the last two years — and report to you on it in great detail, as to ANY RELEVANT DATA, before anything is filed with the NCAA is a major and inexcusable breach of what is now entirely pedestrian, well-known procedure in any even very minor investigation? Do you realize that this whole thing stinks? — and that the Feds are still bouncing all over Columbus, along with all those pesky reporters, asking questions of people — so we at the NCAA REALLY have to pay attention and do our homework?

About brewonsouthu

lawyer, with interest in college sports and NCAA oversight and decisions, and sports generally.
This entry was posted in Gordon Gee, Jim Tressel, NCAA Enforcement, NCAA Investigation, NCAA Investigations, NCAA Violations, OSU Football, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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