The Nightmare Aftershock Urban Meyer Hasn’t Seen Coming: Sarniak Will be Deemed a Long-Time OSU Booster

In my previous posting, I suggested that there were not one, but two different sets of April 2010 “smoking gun” Tressel emails. The media have focused on the Attorney Cicero emails which informed Tressel of the illegal memorabilia sales by players; but the emails which Tressel then almost instantaneously forwarded to Terrelle Pryor’s “advisor”, Ted Sarniak (also “purposely hidden” by Tressel), constituted whopping evidence — newly discovered after NCAA staffer Jackie Thurnes decreed in Sept. 2008 that Sarniak was not an OSU “Booster” — that Sarniak was, all along, in fact a critically necessary OSU booster.

I also noted that we have new, unappealed and, therefore, final findings by the NCAA on Dec.20 that Jim Tressel engaged in a long pattern of intentional concealment, and “not credible” statements. Those specific findings create prima facie evidence that Tressel may have similarly lied and concealed as a part of the 2007-08 NCAA investigation into Sarniak’s booster status.

Either of these factors — the bombshell Tressel-to-Sarniak email on April 2, 2010, or the fair presumption that Tressel also lied and concealed to the NCAA in 2008 — taken alone should mandate, under the only reasonable interpretation of NCAA bylaws, that OSU file a new Self-Report of possible ByLaw 10.1 ethical violation to the NCAA, which should then trigger re-opening the Sept. 2008 “Sarniak-Not-Booster” NCAA finding. (Remember, the bylaws require a Self Report when a “possibility” of violation is discovered by the school; “certainty” is not the standard.) And, just to reinforce how important this Self-Reporting duty is, one ought refer to page 1 of the explicit in-house OSU Reporting of Violations “Protocol”, which reads:

Any employee, student-athlete or other individual associated with The Ohio State University Athletics Department must notify the Compliance Office immediately of any possible or potential violation of University, Big Ten, or NCAA rules.

Obviously, OSU President Gee and AD Smith didn’t file any such new Self-Report immediately after their discovery on Jan.13, 2011 of the bombshell April 2010 Tressel-Sarniak emails. And there’s no evidence yet that OSU has filed such a new Self-Report based upon the Dec. 20 NCAA findings. Based on a now one-year pattern of concealment and dissembling by both Gee and Smith, it’s difficult to imagine that they will file such a new Self-Report.

Here’s what OSU’s Gee did say, in his first comments about the Dec.20 NCAA decision, to a Columbus Dispatch reporter who wrote (in a column entitled  “Gee Accepts OSU’s Spanking by NCAA”):

In his interview, Gee revealed that Provost Joseph A. Alutto advised him to fire Tressel after the discovery of the emails in January. But Gee stuck by the coach until a fuller investigation revealed a total of four instances in which Tressel avoided revealing the truth or lied.

Many major college football programs are “lying machines”;  Gee and Smit sit atop one of them. This intentionally vague Gee statement preposterously suggests that, as of the Jan. 13 discovery of the double-bombshell and “purposely hidden” Tressel emails — which were obvious, open-and-shut, written and incontrovertible evidence of lies by Tressel — Gee somehow still needed ADDITIONAL evidence that Tressel had fraudulently concealed and lied repeatedly. First of all, Gee and Smith’s actions after Jan.13 initiated their long pattern of covering-up since. Secondly, even six months later, Gee and Smith filed OSU’s July 2011 formal NCAA response, offering the patently absurd – and morally-empty- defense of Tressel’s obvious lies and concealment as just Tressel’s “indecisiveness.”

I’ll assume for a moment here that there might be a few more charitable interpretations of the above-quoted Gee “spin”:

1) that Gee and Smith have decided not to appeal the Dec.20 NCAA findings that Tressel “hid” and was “not credible,” which will now cause Gee to recognize for the first time OSU’s duty to file, any day now, a new Self-Report of “possible” Tressel “hiding” and “not credible” statements to the NCAA (and OSU) in 2008; and/or

2) that Gee and Smith undertook, at some time in 2011, a review of ALL Tressel emails going back to 2007, and found the additional “instances in which Tressel avoided revealing the truth or lied” which Gee alludes to in his statement. Note that these emails — going back to 2007 — would logically be very probative on the issue of Tressel’s potential lying to Thurnes on the Sarniak issue — and that this set of emails going back to 2007 is precisely the set of emails which Gee and Smith are refusing to produce in the ESPN legal action.

These more charitable interpretations both suggest some immediate plan by Gee and Smith to file a new Self-Report leading to a re-opening of the Sarniak Booster determination.

Don’t hold your breath. But take note that, if the second explanation above holds true, then Gee and Smith are using the “educational records” defense in the ESPN lawsuit in an effort to shield from public view more fraud and concealment by Tressel and OSU.

The reason I suggest you not hold your breath is because Gee and Smith actions since one year ago (Jan.13, 2011) have shown a determined intent to cover-up. More on that in the next posting.

About brewonsouthu

lawyer, with interest in college sports and NCAA oversight and decisions, and sports generally.
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