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Gene Marsh: Jim Tressel's rep could help

Those of you who follow high-profile NCAA infractions cases probably know the name Gene Marsh.

Marsh served as chairman of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions from 2004-06 and was part of the committee for nine years. He also has been retained by several schools, including Auburn and Michigan, to assist them when the NCAA is investigating potential violations. So he has been on both sides of these cases.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises recently caught up with Marsh to discuss the Jim Tressel situation at Ohio State. Marsh thinks that while Tressel made a major mistake by not coming forward with information about his players selling memorabilia items -- the coach violated NCAA bylaw 10.1 by keeping quiet -- Tressel's previous track record with the NCAA could prevent the hammer from dropping.

"I think if you have a lifelong good record, that should weigh into how things turn out," Marsh told the Plain Dealer. "If it doesn't, then what is the use of living life right?"

Some other interesting comments from Marsh:

"While the violations are very serious, they are not the kind of violations that somebody makes a movie out of," said Marsh, who specializes in NCAA compliance issues with the Alabama law firm of Lightfoot, Franklin & White. "It's not some gigantic academic fraud, it's not some slush fund that a coach was using for paying players. Although they are serious ... I'd say after nine years on the infractions committee, they don't break the bank as far as severity."

"There are human beings on the enforcement staff and human beings on the committee," Marsh said. "It's not a machine, it's not a calculator. It's folks. In the end, folks take a look at things like a life's work, the inner workings of their entire profile and their character in their life as a coach and in their life as an individual."

As many have stated, Tressel's image plays a huge role in how this all shakes out. While his actions have sullied his image for many people, including Ohio State's former provost, he still has the support of Ohio State's president and athletic director. And if he can convince the Committee on Infractions that this was an isolated incident that he sincerely regrets, he could escape major repercussions.

The big thing for Tressel is no more setbacks, which could be tough with the number of people now looking into the Ohio State program. Although he has a few situations in his past, he has never faced a quandary like this one.

The Committee on Infractions only will review information it knows about, so if nothing else surfaces between now and the time Tressel appears, the Buckeyes coach could be OK. Then again, the NCAA is under a lot of pressure to make a statement, and imposing stronger penalties on Tressel/Ohio State would qualify.

The days of Teflon Tressel are over, but Marsh's comments give hope for the coach.