Jim Tressel did receive a self-requested three game extension of his existing two game suspension for lying to NCAA investigators, bringing the total games to be served up to the five games Terrelle Pryor and three other players will sit out for their role in an improper benefits case. The NCAA did uphold the existing five game suspensions of the players involved, and the Ohio State University did issue a statement describing all this. Superficially, this did all resolve itself last night, and technically speaking, the matter of “Tatgate” is done in the eyes of the institutions involved.
There is one loose thread, however: Tressel’s three game extension, which he requested, was likely a concession to the NCAA stalling future action concerning Tressel’s violation of NCAA bylaw 10.1, the one barring “unethical conduct.” This is the point where things get squirrelly, because we are talking about the NCAA and rule enforcement, and that is a mysterious matter at best in the year 2011.
If Tressel’s suspension was made with the tacit approval of the NCAA, that would mean that Ohio State would face no further action in the case. This kind of communication during the self-imposed penalty phase is not uncommon in these cases. When Cecil Newton admitted to shopping his son Cam Newton’s services in the fall of 2010, Auburn University consulted with the NCAA in order to create a solution they found satisfactory. (That solution was ultimately to declare Cam Newton ineligible for a day, and then reinstate him based on the player’s lack of knowledge of the situation.)
This discreet approval of Ohio State’s actions by the NCAA could be one scenario. The other is that this is a bone thrown in the direction of an organization that could could in theory still punish Ohio State further for Tressel’s lies to investigators. Tressel claims an overlapping confidentiality conflict with a federal drug investigation caused some confusion over what he could say to the NCAA, but technically that conflict caused a violation of 10.1. As you will hear several hundred times when reading about this case, 12 coaches have violated rule 10.1. Eleven of those were fired as a result.
This all hinges on the NCAA acting in a predictable and consistent manner, and that may be the biggest wild card in this entire case.