July 31, 2014

Bruce Pearl Firing Completely Unrelated To Jim Tressel

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.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    Garry,

    Great Ron Burgundy reference…and it’s pronounced San Dee-aahhh-go. Ha!

    I think you’re right. In the end, the NCAA will probably put enough of a penalty on Tressel to be able to say to the world, “look…we did something!”

    And overall, I do think Tressel’s a good guy. Count me out of the angry mob that wants him run out of town…hardly the case. He just held back information, thus lying by omission to the NCAA, and he’ll take his penalty and move on.

    I just like a good ethical debate. But mostly, I don’t like the “everyone’s doing it” argument, and that’s where many people will need to agree to disagree. I don’t think OSU has been singled out any more than Dez Bryant, Tenessee, USC, or any other player or institution that has gotten into trouble with the NCAA (with the VERY notable exception of Cam Newton…in my mind, that case is HARDLY closed).

    This too shall pass…but it’s not past us just yet.

  • Garry Owen

    It means “Whale’s . . . “

  • Tom

    Some are trying to suggest that because the players violated a “dumb” rule by selling “their” possessions, that this is much ado about nothing.

    Two problems with this thinking…First, the players cannot sell “their” gear, awards etc. until AFTER they graduate or complete their eligibility. There is a good reason for this rule since some unscrupulous schools (never tOSU, of course!) might suggest to their recruits “we can’t give you cash but we can send you to someone who will pay you very handsomely for ‘your’ gear”. It would be a very simple money laundering scheme.

    Second, What Tressel did, to some degree, us separate from this situation created by the players. He didn’t do what an honest coach, or a coach with integrity would do. His hypocrisy is apparent to all. He didn’t do the right thing: report it to his AD or his compliance department. His justification for not doing so is insulting to one’s intelligence. The real reason would appear to be that he wanted to keep those players on the field to give his team the best chance to win. Again, this is not what a man/coach of integrity would do. He lied when he allowed people to think he knew nothing about all this (and feigned disappointment in the players’ judgment…give him an academy award!) and he also lied when he signed compliance documents indicating that he knew nothing of any possible rules violations within his own program.

    Now, having acknowledged his serious error in judgment, the University administrators bungled the situation by prattling on an on about what a great human being he is. Granted, but great human beings sometimes have lapses in judgment that bring serious consequences. I think they rushed to apply consequences because they wanted to do damage control in the media. Their actions had the opposite effect. The media ridiculed their “consequences” and it didn’t take long for Tressel and OSU to realize this…so now Tressel has suggested that he get the same consequences as the players (even though his “infraction” is completely different).

    Administrators should have suspended him without pay pending an investigation, then applied appropriate consequences that had been a little more carefully (and less hastily) thought out.

    Either way, the NCAA will rule, and if I were an OSU fan (I am not), I would be nervous about what sanctions may be coming down the road whether Tressel stays or not. Moreover, I have lost respect for a man who has always “preached” integrity, honor, and such virtues. I am saddened by this.

  • UTDave

    You are definitely correct that UT abandoned CBP. The NCAA and SEC Commisioner Mike Slive gave them no choice. (I am surprised nobody tied together the Pearl suspension by Slive and Slive’s work on the Illinois case where Pearl accused Illinois of paying a recruit). Pearl should have been fired in September. In hindsight, it would have been better for both Pearl and the University. I just hope Hamilton gets the axe before football season starts so we can start with a clean slate for 2011-2012. As far as Tressel goes, I guess it depends on how you look at it. Pearl’s problem was lying about a minor voilation, a barbeque at his home with Juniors in attendance. While this is a “recruiting” violation, it is very minor. Tressel covered up violations to keep players eligible. It seems to me this violation is worse. Don’t worry, I think many feel OSU will get the proverbial slap on the wrist. Time will only tell.

  • Dan

    A cover up is a cover up. As for recruiting. The players at the time of the BBQ were all committed to play for Bruce. Tressel lied to protect his players? Hogwash, he lied to protect WINS. Playing those guys in the bowl game was ridiculous.
    Yes, I am a TN fan but I said from the beginning (Sept of last year)FIRE BRUCE. He lied and he should have been fired from the beginning. Our AD is an idiot and made this case even worse. So yes, these cases are similar, they both lied, they both tried to cover the event up and they are both Sorry,,,,that they got caught!! I am constantly mistified at OSU fans entitlement attitude. Reminds me of Alabama…

  • Bert

    Let’s see – Pearl lied about a meeting with a recruit that he didn’t get. Definitely shouldn’t have lied, and should have been dinged for it, but it certainly didn’t help his program. (Didn’t that recruit end up at OSU?) Tressel lied about knowledget that probably would have made his players sit some or all of the 2010 season, meaning no BCS bowl. No doubt which got the most out of their lies.
    And yes, Pearl also had a couple of additional minor violations. Tressel as it turns out lied repeatedly about the situation until caught red-handed.
    You are right, the two situations are not the same. Tressel gained much more from his pack of lies than Pearl did, and hopefully the NCAA will pressure OSU to cut him loose like they did with UT.

  • Virgil Mincy

    True, the Pearl case is not the same as Tressel’s. True, OSU has stood behind their coach whereas, ultimately, UT did not. Equally true, Pearl lied and Tressel failed to tell the truth…when required by contract to do so. Tressel appears to have conceded that point so there is no further point in any debate about it.

    Which leads us to this conclusion: UT failed to support a confessed liar and OSU supports a confessed non-truth teller. Does that lead to the conclusion “the cases are totally different? Guess it just depends on what color sweater one wears.

  • Corey

    Nice try, but the only thing Tressel has on Pearl is that Ohio State isn’t afraid to take on the NCAA, as a matter of fact OSU has very valid reasons to expect a minor slap on the wrist from the NCAA. The NCAA will not willingly punish the Buckeyes as it would hurt the only cash cow they have in the Big 10. Pearl’s misfortune is he worked for a University that was so scared of the NCAA that they quit fighting before the bell rang for round 1.