The OSU & NCAA Dust-up: OSU and AD Smith Have Little Credibiltiy with the NCAA

AD Smith speaks in tongues and half-truths, again. So we make some educated guesses. OSU’s Athletic Dept hits a new low in dysfunction. The 3 Player Suspension and TP’s case are related and the subject of ongoing joint investigation. Smith preps his excuse for the stiff sanctions he is expecting.

Everything we heard from OSU early last week made quite clear that their three suspended players- cornerback Travis Howard, starting tailback Jordan Hall,  and safety Corey Brown – would be back on the field for the Sept. 1o game against Toledo. By the end of the week, many things about this suspension were cloudy – except for the fact that the three would not play in that Toledo game.

OSU AD Gene Smith’s comments to the Associated Press on Saturday just twisted things up more: 

“No, I’m not confident. We do have to provide some more information to the NCAA. We’ll start that process tomorrow. We’ve got some meetings tomorrow and Monday, and we’ll get them the additional information they want and then go from there.”

Stop here a second. These three players attended a charity event.  And  Terrelle Pryor was there .  Take a look at this photo here from that event, as posted by Sports by Brooks who, as usual, is right smack on top of these events.        Does this make you wonder: is this event connected to the ongoing investigation by the NCAA of Pryor, Sarniak and Tressel?  If it doesn’t, consider that the NCAA stated, about these three players other than Pryor:

“the facts submitted by the university have raised further questions that need to be answered before the reinstatement process is complete.

And then look at Smith’s next quoted statement to the AP this past Saturday:

“But the NCAA felt that they deserved a (longer) penalty.”

Freeze Frame:  This Smith statement cannot be true.  And this is typical of Smith’s M.O.  I don’t know; maybe what I believe is healthy skepticism is unhealthy, but this statement made me stop and think skeptically — as do most statements by Gene Smith. (Which tend to be pretzels of non-sequiturs, passive-voiced ostensible explanations, and even his schoolboy affirmations about what he “feels” about his football coach, or what OSU did – which is irrelevant.)    And there is no way that the NCAA could have told Smith that the events in question deserve a longer penalty.  Instead, what they told Smith, I am sure, is that the players needed to remain off the playing field until credible questions about their eligibility remained oustanding and under investigation.  (This is the same point the NCAA made in the July Ga. Tech decision.)  And this is completely different than what Smith has described.

Smith, by the way, seems a good-hearted sort, but the events of this past week reinforce the earlier very strong indications that his department is highly dysfunctional, for the following reasons.

First of all, if you  read Jim Tressel’s Feb. 8 NCAA transcript, there is the suggestion that JT and Smith had very little contact, and that Smith knew few details of JT”s daily doings. (Though this description was generated in the initial stages of what appears to have been an assiduous cover-up by many in the OSU Athletic Dept –  a coverup which gained power and intensity leading up to the entirely bad faith “witness buy-off” of JT – orchestrated by Smith and Gee –  by way of the July 7 “retirement” agreement that gave back to JT the previously imposed $250G fine, and gave him clear and unimpeded access to all his considerable retirement benefits. So on Feb. 8, JT might have just been starting in on his newest course of deception, which was to work hard on being the “fall guy” for OSU, in order to protect people like Smith.  So this version of the “distance” which JT described between JT and Smith might have been at least partially concocted,  or embellished.)

Secondly, Smith “put on” that scary movie which was the March 8 press conference and NCAA Self-Report.  Even though a good bit of that must have been the result of “sage” advice provided by Chuck Smrt of “The Compliance Group,” the appearance is that — even after that massacre — Smith has kept Smrt around as his principal advisor — so Smith has to accept the blame for keeping on a knucklehead to guide him after that March presser.

And third, this little speed-bump here this last week involving the more extended suspensions of the three players.  Might it be fair to state a big-picture summary here, which is that this snafu is some evidence that: a) OSU and the NCAA are not “on the same page?”  b) relations between OSU and the NCAA might be more than a little “strained?” and 3)  The overall credibility of OSU —  and Smith –  in the eyes of the NCAA, is substantially damaged?

And, fourth, Smith and Gee have again (and by again, see our past posts which show the patently false material statements made by Gee and Smith in the principal written Self Reports or Briefs to the NCAA) dissembled with the NCAA.  Let’s look a little closer at Smith’s comment on Saturday.  Though Fickell and Smith had made clear that this was just a perfunctory one game suspension, for “receiving $200 payments each”, it looks like there’s more to it:  Smith says that the NCAA wants more information!  So the NCAA is still seeking more facts!  It’s not, therefore, a matter of OSU and the NCAA disagreeing as to the mere severity or length of the appropriate penalty: the NCAA apparently has made it crystal clear to Smith that they have not even finished gathering all the pertinent data. The investigation on this matter is not finished.

Much of this is extrapolation is from small points of data; but I don’t think it’s unfair.  At this point, it would seem to me, Gene Smith (and Fickell) have stepped in major-league doo-doo by making a public statement assuring the return of three suspended players – only to be publicly and squarely contradicted by their overseers at the NCAA.  I am going to assume, for example, that Smith has paid someone something in the range of $10G to $40G  to get “advice” and “PR consult” which led to this public rebuke by the NCAA.   What gives?   And the NCAA made it very clear that the players may not be on the field next weekend!

What I am suggesting here involves some reading of tea leaves, though my instinct is that these are good leaves.  Here’s another reason why I think my instincts area good –   Look at Smith’s next characteristically mangled statement. (The man cannot speak in clear concise sentences; it’s as though marbles barge around not only his head, but his mouth. It’s painful to listen to him. But remind yourself: his entire goal these days is not to get to the bottom of the entire problem. He sprinting away from the truth, and trying to hide it.  For the last months, at least since January, the OSU Athletic Department has had  alot more office doors shut tight all day long, the occupants ‘laying low.)

No, it’s kind of a separate issue. [the” prior” JT/Pryor/Sarnai/tat-gate case which was the subject of the NCAA COI Aug. 12 hearing] . “What we want to do is deal with this issue [involving the latest three suspended players], get it behind us, and move on and finish up the other issues.”

Well, now, this is interesting.  Smith suggests that the “new” 3-player suspension/investigation is separate from Tat-gate, but then explains only that treating it that way is what OSU wants to do.   Take a look at that photo at the charity event from which the 3 Players walked off with $200 each, and note who is seated, as the apparent star of the show, at the center of that table: Terrelle Pryor!  Think both cases might be related?

Why do I say that this AP interview shows that Smith understands many of these nuances here (despite the fact that he appears to talk in bizarre circles)?   Look at his extremely defensive followup statements:

“We basically had individuals who stepped outside of our system and made individual decisions.”

This is Smith-speak, and is one of his major self-defensive themes, part of a larger OSU pattern since last December to insist that all wrongdoings were either “isolated” incidents, or the actions of one or two “rogue” coaches or players.

Let me revisit one set of facts: OSU found out on Jan. 13 that JT had emails which put him on notice of Tat-gate issues some 9 months earlier, in April 2010. OSU [read: Smith and Gee] covered-up that information for three weeks.  They failed to forward these emails, which were squarely relevant to a pending matter before the NCAA, to the NCAA staffer who was on the case at that very time.  Three weeks is more than enough time, for example, to arrange events so that they appear to have been the actions of  individuals who “stepped outside of our system….

So Smith and Gee affirmatively covered-up for three weeks in January; not good as a matter of principle.  But here’s why it’s relevant to this “dust-up” public rebuke of Smith by the NCAA this last week:  It might be evidence that the NCAA is beginning to see the long pattern here, and may be seeing that they have been deceived or manipulated too many times by OSU —  including (but not limited to) the fundamental institutional cover-up in January.

The most revealing Smith statement is his last.  This is his “Safety Net”, which he thinks will save him even if his wire breaks below him, or he slips, because he’s laying the careful CYA groundwork here for blaming someone else.  It shows, I think, his state of mind, and it suggests his real answer to the real question:

Mr. Smith, do you think that the Aug. 12 hearing is going to result in sanctions significantly more severe than the ones OSU and you decided to self-impose?

Here’s Smith’s answer to that question:

“The thing that I’ve always shared and was a concern of mine (is) that if they did a postseason ban, and I don’t think our case merits that,” Smith said. “But because we’re a repeat violator they can do anything they want.”

He is saying, in Smith-speak,: “I think the NCAA is going to hit us hard, but it’s the fault of that basketball coach long ago.”

This dust-up this week is more evidence that the NCAA  is going to hit OSU hard.  And it’s not the fault of some  basketball coach long ago. It’s an Athletic Department which is dysfunctional, lacking in institutional control, and leaders of that department and the university who have generated their own independent Rule 10.1 ethical violations.

 

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About brewonsouthu

Michigan and Big Ten fan, former lawyer, with interest in college sports and NCAA oversight and decisions, and sports generally.
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