Ohio State's defense in its case before the NCAA is likely to depend heavily on turning Jim Tressel into the villain and arguing that the university has plausible deniability about what the sweatervested coach might have been up to. So how exactly does the latest public-records dump play into that? It helps the Tressel-as-villain theme, but maybe not so much the deniability proposition.
Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was told by the school that he did a poor job of self-reporting NCAA violations years before he failed to tell his bosses that players were selling championship rings and other Buckeyes memorabilia, a cover-up that cost him his job.
In an evaluation of Tressel's job performance from 2005-06, then-athletic director Andy Geiger rated Tressel "unacceptable" in terms of self-reporting rules violations in a timely manner. The coach was also warned in a separate letter that he and his staff needed to do a better job of monitoring the cars the players were driving -- an issue that would arise again this spring.
As you can probably imagine, there's more. Tressel gave a jersey to a recruit in the summer of 2001, just months after he took over as head coach. Not that all the allegations contained in the documents are bombshells. The pettiness of NCAA regulations appear in a reprimand for allowing a recruit's mother to make a call paid for by the university, a violation worth a whopping $7.93. And there are a range of accusations in between.
There's now little question left -- and really has been for a while -- that Jim Tressel's image of the rule-abiding coachmarm was a carefully constructed fraud. But it's become harder and harder to argue with a straight face that Ohio State didn't know that all along.