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Tressel's Future

April 26, 2011 - Al Stephenson
When I use to teach a class in Sociology, I remember asking my students if there were any situations where lying would be permissable. Several such situations were discussed. Here are some of those.

A soldier is captured by the enemy and they want to know where his unit is located. Most would consider giving false information in this situation as not only legitimate, but expected.

A person goes into a theatre and asks the patrons to quietly leave because a malfunction in the projector will take a while to be repaired, when in fact there is a fire and saying so might induce panic. OK to lie here? Most would say yes.

Then there is the lies that are often told. The existence of Santa Claus, the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny. It is OK to be less than honest with out own children, yet when they get older we insist on honesty?

Should I even mention "does this dress make me look fat?" Abe probably still is regretting his nickname.

I bring up this scenario because the NCAA has given The Ohio State University a letter suggesting that football coach Jim Tressell lied. The NCAA doesn't approve of this kind of behavior and has asked for the coach to appear before a committee that has the power to punish him for his transgressions. Ohio State's response was that the letter didn't tell them anything that they didn't already know. They are aware that Tressell lied and have already punished him to the tune of a $250,000 fine and a five game suspension next season.

So now the university and its fans wait to see if there is more punishment forthcoming. The debate over whether Jim Tressell should even keep his job will continue to rage.

By now everyone knows the story of the players who sold their own personal memorabilia to a tattoo parlor owner for cash and discounts on the latest tats. This is an obvious violation of NCAA rules (yes, I am aware that many think the rule is a joke) and coach Tressell was made aware of it before last season began. He has a provision in his contract that says he must report any potential NCAA violations to the university and he chose not to do that. He then signed a form that said he did not know of any potential wrongdoing on the part of his players when indeed he did know. He lied. He has admitted it and used an interesting defense for doing so.

He feared for the safety of his players, he said. He didn't want to compromise a federal investigation, he says. Both noble thoughts. The two-part question that one must ask is this. 1) Do you believe him? 2) Is this a legitimate justification for lying? If you can answer yes to both of these questions, then there is a POSSIBILITY that I can agree to keeping him on as football coach.

The view from my seat suggests that Tressell's 106-22 record at OSU should not even enter into the discussion on his job security. His 9-1 mark against Michigan? Shouldn't matter. The money at stake for OSU? Who cares.

I am not so naive to believe that these are not part of the decision making process. A coach with a shaky record would have been fired last December. I just don't think that anything other than finding out the justification for lying should be taken into consideration. If you can justify it - he takes whatever punishment the NCAA might hand out and he stays. If you cannot justify lying - he goes regardless of the NCAA findings.

For me though, I would have to be convinced that Tressell's behavior was for the most sincerest of reasons. Until someone convinces me of that, I think he has to go.


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