Sometimes when major stories break, it can be difficult to follow the intricacies of the situation. As a result, it’s easier to just take the lazy way out and try to draw parallels and make comparisons that don’t necessarily exist.
By now everyone has heard that Tennessee has fired men’s head basketball coach Bruce Pearl. So of course, the natural thing to do is to jump to conclusions and connect imaginary dots between the two cases. In truth, for those who actually follow these cases and know the facts of what happened, the similarities aren’t very real at all.
Our old friend Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel is already informing us that Urban Meyer will be Ohio State’s head coach in 2012. Don’t worry, he has evidence to back his claim up. He cites a Bleacher Report article written by someone named Big House Bob. Big House Bob says that the Jim Tressel and Bruce Pearl cases are identical.
So are they? Well, consider the facts and decide for yourself.
First of all, Bruce Pearl’s violation is a recruiting violation, while Jim Tressel’s is not. You see, not only did Bruce Pearl commit the recruiting violation, but then he lied to Tennessee about the violation when they confronted him. You see, Tennessee was investigating Bruce Pearl for different recruiting violations (namely, excessive phone calls to recruits). At some point in the investigation they discovered the infamous photo of the cookout. When asked about it, Bruce Pearl lied about it. He only came clean several days later. So Bruce Pearl actually lied in the midst of an NCAA investigation.
In Tressel’s case, he was not the one who committed the initial infraction. It was the players who broke the rules. Again, not a recruiting situation, not a situation with agents or improper benefits from boosters. It was a situation where the players sold some of their stuff in exchange for tattoos.
Tressel was still wrong to not pass along the emails he received. That part is not up for dispute. But when Ohio State confronted Tressel with the emails, he came clean and cooperated with the investigation.
Secondly, Bruce Pearl was given his punishment on September 10, 2010. Just a few days later, Pearl committed yet another recruiting violation when he made illegal contact with a recruit at Oak Hill Academy. Then just this month Pearl was guilty of another infraction when his staff lied about the nature of Brian Williams’ absence from the team’s final two games (Tennessee officials claimed it was due to health when it was actually due to a substance abuse policy violation). This one was not an NCAA violation, but Tennessee saw it as a final breach of their zero tolerance policy.
Jim Tressel’s punishment is much more recent, but up to this point he has not committed any further violations. As long as Tressel is sincere in his repentance and doesn’t lie, cover up, or commit any further violations, there’s no reason to think Tressel’s fate will be tied to Bruce Pearl’s.
Finally, and this is ultimately probably the most important, but it was quite painfully clear that Bruce Pearl did not have the support of the Tennessee athletic department. When AD Mike Hamilton went public to point out that Pearl’s job was in no way safe just days before their first tournament game, the writing was on the wall for Pearl. He had lost the support of his emplyoers and his eventual dismissal was mere formality.
Jim Tressel, on the other hand, has full support of the Ohio State athletic department and he has full support of the University President, the board of trustees, the community, and most alumni not named Bruce Hooley. This is an important distinction to remember. While Tennessee was tripping over themselves to put distance between the school and Pearl, Gordon Gee was tripping over himself to show his support for Jim Tressel.
If Jim Tressel commits further violations, then I hope they do come to light and then Jim Tressel will justly be given a similar to fate to Bruce Pearl. But for now, everyone can stop with the nonsense that Pearl and Tressel are similar in any way. People may try to use the YSU incident, Maurice Clarett, and Troy Smith as examples of Tressel’s breaches in conduct, but it’s important to remember that in the Clarett and Smith cases, it was the players who did wrong, and Tressel and the University punished them accordingly.
Nobody expects players to be perfect. These are 18-22 year olds who are having fame and spotlight thrust at them. Of course, they’re going to make mistakes. It’s up to the coaches and administrators to punish players when they make mistakes. In most cases Jim Tressel does. In this case, he didn’t, and he is paying a price for it. If his transgressions end here, his punishment will end here, too. And that’s where he can separate himself from Bruce Pearl.
It would be nice if people like Mike Bianchi would bother to learn the facts before spewing their ignorance and riling up a nation of readers too lazy to consider that maybe, just maybe, Mike Bianchi in Orlando, Florida doesn’t know what’s all going on in Columbus, Ohio. Because really, beyond both being guilty of committing an NCAA violation, what happens in Tennessee with Bruce Pearl has absolutely nothing to do with what happens at Ohio State with Jim Tressel. This process will play itself out and in due time we’ll see what really happens.