Jim Tressel is no longer the head coach of the Ohio State football team. He resigned yesterday amidst a growing scandal which involved OSU players selling memorabilia in exchange for tattoos and other items.
The fallout was pretty predictable. Buckeye fans were asking what the big deal was. “After all,” they reasoned, "it’s only tattoos.” It’s not like OSU was paying players to come play football and giving their parents homes like USC did with Reggie Bush. Or having an ACTUAL PAYROLL like SMU did back in the 80’s. This is just a couple of autographs that were exchanged for tattoos. No harm, no foul.
The problem with that argument is that it ignores the real violation.
According to the official timeline, Tressel first learned of the memorabilia-for-ink scandal back in April of 2010 when he received an e-mail from a Columbus lawyer stating that some of his players were selling OSU memorabilia, a clear violation of NCAA rules. At that point he should have reported this to the University. But he didn’t. He sat on the email because, according to him, he “couldn’t think” whom he should report it to. The NCAA rules are pretty clear. Any violation MUST be reported to the coach’s superiors. Tressel failed to do this.
In December of that same year, the U.S. Justice Department informed Ohio State that they have uncovered evidence that OSU players were selling memorabilia for tattoos. (Justice was investigating the owner of the tattoo parlor for drug trafficking.) At that point, Tressel said he had no knowledge that his players were engaged in such activity, which was a lie. He knew what was going on back in April.