Brigham Young University messed up the media sheets last week when it dismissed Brandon Davies from the men's basketball team for violating the school's honor code.
The offense: He allegedly had premarital sex with his girlfriend. Among the things in BYU's honor code: being honest, abstaining from alcoholic beverages, tea, coffee and tobacco and living a chaste and virtuous lifestyle.
On Tuesday night, Ohio State modeled Davies and did the same thing with its football coach Jim Tressel: Forget integrity.
Not that we should be surprised. Look how the university handled the "Tattoo Gate" situation in the first place.
In the case of Davies, BYU decided abiding by its honor code was more important than the success of its basketball program, which was ranked No. 3 in the country at the time of the decision.
But at what cost?
The cost was a loss for BYU in its very next game at home to New Mexico, 82-64. When you stand by your convictions and tell your sophomore center, who is averaging 11.1 points and 6.2 rebounds a game, that he will no longer represent his team this season, that is the consequence. BYU, which had an opportunity to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament next week, chose to stand by the integrity it claims to represent within its university.
In the case of Tressel, he chose to withhold information in the honor of protecting confidentiality when the NCAA rules and his contract say he was obligated to report any violations to the school's AD and compliance department.
The result: information doesn't come out about Tattoo Gate until December, conveniently after the season, despite the fact Tressel has known about the violations all season long. The six players are suspended, but the suspensions don't begin until this season.
But at what cost?
Tressel was fined $250,000 and suspended the first two games of the season against Akron and Toledo, which seems more financial than substantial.
Of course, that's OSU's self sanctions. The NCAA could come down with a bigger hammer than that. And they should. In OSU's self report, which can be found on the school's athletic website, they detail that in February, Tressel admitted he knew not reporting it was a violation and that he thought eventually the affected players would be ineligible.
But given it was the NCAA who handed down the suspension of the six players involved in the Tattoo Gate situation, my confidence in the NCAA is a bit shaken. While five of the players got a five-game suspension (and the other player just one), none of the suspensions will start until the 2011 football season, despite the Sugar Bowl still being on the schedule. The NCAA called the Sugar Bowl "a unique opportunity." Yes, it was, for substantial ticket sales.
Tressel said he wouldn't suspend those players for the game either if they promised to him they would return to the team next season and not skip to the NFL to avoid the penalty.
The university is, of course, appealing the NCAA's ruling. They have a road trip to Miami the third game of the season, which ironically Tressel will be back on the sidelines for, and then two home games against Colorado and Michigan State. When you figure they'll be a preseason favorite to win the national title, the Buckeyes can't afford any early season trip-ups.
That logic is the same one Tressel probably thought of in April when he first received e-mail notification his players were allegedly getting free or reduced tattoo services. To think he didn't know what players were involved is to be ignorant, and given the Bucks were ranked No. 2 in both preseason polls, trying to hold those players accountable could have disastrous effects. I mean, look at what happened to BYU's basketball team when it chose to enforce the rules.
What I don't get is how the confidentiality of an attorney, who had no bearing on the criminal investigation, outweighed the consequences. Tressel can paint a picture all he wants of how he was concerned about the student athletes involved and their well being, but I'm having a hard time putting the brush to the canvas on where the student athletes were in any danger.
He talked about in the press conference how suspending the players involved would have raised suspicion and he didn't want to interfere with a criminal investigation. The criminal investigation, according to the self report, had to do with the tattoo parlor owner, not the players.
AD Gene Smith and university president Gordon Gee raved about how great their football coach was. You would have thought he was retired or had died, instead of having a press conference to announce the "tough" penalties they were doling out to their great coach.
"When you think of the body of work this gentleman has put into this program and into this profession; you think about who he is; there's no question in my mind, that his decision was from the heart," Smith said. "Jim Tressel is the coach of young men and we support him 100 percent. I've worked with a lot of coaches. There was no intent with what he did."
When talking about how it was unusual for the president to be at such a press conference, Gee continued the love for his coach.
"This is an unusual time for the university and this is an unusual coach," Gee said. "This is an individual that I have tremendous respect for. I can tell you that there is a great deal of grief in this man. And by that I mean, he feels very sorry about this and it has been very difficult for him because this is a man who by every fiber and every action believes in the law of integrity and has lived that way.
"Indeed, he's had great success on the football field and we applaud that. He's had great success in working with young people and we applaud that. But I think equally importantly, he's had great success in building the character and reputation for this university, which I'm entirely grateful for. He's done so by example."
The example: Do now and seek forgiveness later.
When asked later if he ever considered firing Tressel, which I'm also not in favor of, Gee left me wondering who is in charge of who in Columbus.
"No. Are you kidding? Let me be very clear, I'm just hopeful the coach doesn't dismiss me," Gee said.
In two instances, the university has had the opportunity to send a message about violations not being tolerated. OSU could have said the Sugar Bowl is too sweet a treat for rule breakers. The university could have put a more severe penalty on its coach than suspending him against Ohio's version of directional schools. Why not let the coach spend the first five games of the season spending quality time with the fellow rule breakers he spent so much time protecting?
Instead, Ohio State has embraced the idea that winning comes first, integrity second.
"If one takes a look at him, his integrity and the body of his work, it's really quite remarkable," Gee said. "The integrity of this program and the integrity of this coach is absolutely superb."
I'm beginning to think the Gee's bow tie is tied a little too tightly.
The treatment of Tressel and how OSU handled this whole "Tattoo Gate" situation emulates the actions of the SEC schools that we fans of the Big Ten have come to despise.
There's no denying Tressel's success on the football field. He's won a national championship. He's owned Michigan. And year in, year out, he has one of the best football teams in the nation.
But at what cost?
Sadly, the only unique thing in these two stories is BYU, the university that stood by integrity, even at the cost of success.