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Jim Tressel Press Conference Transcript: Federal Drug-Trafficking Investigation Forced Confidentiality, Says Ohio State Coach

Jim Tressel spoke for a few moments during the press conference on the investigation into whether he misled NCAA investigators on when exactly he knew about the infractions committed by Terrelle Pryor and other Ohio State football players. Tressel claimed that he was not forthcoming about the timeline because he’d been told by an attorney that a federal drug trafficking investigation involving multiple Buckeyes players was ongoing, and that he should keep certain information confidential.

I may have missed a line or two, but here’s almost all of it:

Last spring practice, I received some emails regarding an ongoing federal criminal drug-trafficking case. And in those emails, and I think you may have them, I’m not sure, it was pretty graphically outlining some of the parties involved and was obviously of tremendous concern to me … It elicited obviously a different emotion than you typically get from someone who needs a hospital call or a visit. It kind of jogged in my mind some of the toughest losses i’ve ever had in coaching. I get a lot of good emails saying that people enjoy the job that our guys do or their professors not happy with their behavior in class.

This one was obviously much different than that. I’ve had a player murdered. I’ve had a player incarcerated. I’ve had a player get taken into the drug culture and lose his opportunity for a productive life. So it was tremendously concerning. Quite honestly, I was scared. Especially the fact that two of our current players were mentioned in the emails, and as we sit in homes, we talk about how we’re gonna take care of these young people, and we’re gonna treat them like they’re our own.

Admittedly I probably did not give quite as much thought to the potential NCAA part of things as I read it. My focus was on the well-being of the young people. In those emails it was very emphatic that there be confidentiality. The tenor, as I read them, perhaps because of my emotion, was that it was serious and that confidentiality was critical. As I thought about a plan of action, the most immediate thing that I did is ramp up the discussions that we have about the importance of who you associate with, where you are, company you keep, and so forth.

[Video failed for a moment. Don’t think I missed too much.]

With the seriousness of what was discussed in the emails, and also the confidentiality component, we worked very hard to make it a teachable moment, and as time went on, in my mind what was most important was that we didn’t interfere with a federal investigation.

Confidentiality was requested by the attorney, so I followed that

When December came and we were given info from the Attorney General’s office that six of our athletes were involved, that was concerning. It was encouraging that no one was involved in any federal drug trafficking and there was no criminal investigation. That was a huge relief. At that time I knew there would be NCAA ramifications that we would deal with immediately, which we did.

I also felt during that entire [ordeal? Definitely missed a word] that I upheld the highest confidentiality that made it safer for our young people … I asked for a little advice as to how i should’ve taken this forward. I’ve learned that I probably needed to go to the legal counsel person at the university and get some help as to how you handle criminal investigations and confidentiality and perhaps gain the protection that you might need from within the process.

I’m disappointed that this happened at all. I take my responsibility for what we do at Ohio State seriously. And for the game of football. And I plan to grow form this, and I’m sincerely saddened by the fact that I let some people down and didn’t do things as well as I could possibly do. I am pleased that the young people involved are safe. They’re not involved in any criminal activity. They’re all in college and they’re all going to graduate from Ohio State.

To me thats what it’s all about. But I understand that we’ll have sanctions, I will have sanctions. But the only thing that I’ve talked to our team about after there was discussion in the media last night, was a quote I had heard George Bush say that the most pathetic thing is a leader who’s looking for self-pity. So at no point in time in this moment or on the moments ahead with my team am I looking for anything other than doing what needs to be done.

For more on Tressel and Ohio State, visit Along The Olentangy, SB Nation Cleveland, and Off Tackle Empire.