Ohio State's Smith weighs in on 'nightmare'

One subplot of the Ohio State/Jim Tressel/NCAA situation is its impact on the relationship between Tressel and athletic director Gene Smith.

By all accounts, the two men have an extremely strong bond, better than many head football coaches and athletic directors. They communicate regularly and have enjoyed a ton of success together since Smith became AD in March 2005.

Example: I visited Columbus the day after the NCAA men's basketball tournament concluded, and Tressel told me that he had been exchanging text messages with Smith, the chair of this year's tournament selection committee, throughout the Connecticut-Butler championship game.

"He texted me at halftime and said, 'What do you think of this defensive battle?'" Tressel said. "And I texted him back, 'The silver bullets would like that one. I bet you're going to be happy to get home.' He said, 'Oh, my, I can't wait.'"

The Tressel-Smith connection made it all the more surprising that Tressel didn't share information about potential NCAA violations involving football players with his boss. I've talked with quite a few folks around the league this spring who expressed surprise that Tressel didn't keep Smith in the loop.

Smith had to feel a degree of anger and betrayal by not being informed. Although he and Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee both supported Tressel at a March news conference, Smith expressed his disappointment with the situation.

The AD had some interesting marks Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press about a situation he called "a nightmare."

Although Smith couldn't discuss specifics of the ongoing NCAA investigation, he touched on several items:

  • Smith said Tressel was supposed to apologize at the March news conference but did not do so. "Then we got with him and he got better at it," Smith told the AP. "It's an emotional thing."

  • Tressel's $250,000 fine for the violations likely won't cover the school's costs for the investigation. Smith didn't provide a specific figure for how much the investigation will cost but told the AP that Ohio State has hired two "expensive" companies to assist and might have to dip into its Sugar Bowl appearance money. "It'll probably eat up the whole $250 [thousand]," Smith said. "I'm not sure. We haven't done any projections."

  • Smith said the cases involving the five suspended players are closed, but Tressel's case could drag on for a while. The AD is hopeful for a quick resolution and said Ohio State has worked closely with the NCAA from the start. "We're in the investigation," he told the AP. "Who knows when it will be resolved? And it's just hanging."

Also from the Associated Press story:

Ohio State released a copy of Tressel's NCAA compliance form to the AP on Tuesday through a Freedom of Information Act request. In the form, dated last Sept. 13, Tressel certifies that he has reported any NCAA violations to his superiors. Yet he had known for five months that the players had likely broken NCAA rules -- and had told no one except for forwarding the emails to Pryor's 67-year-old mentor and friend in Jeannette, Pa.

The compliance form, which all Ohio State staff members must sign, states: "By signing and dating this form, you certify that you have reported through the appropriate individuals on your campus (OSU President, Gordon Gee; OSU Athletic Director, Gene Smith; Faculty Athletics Representative, John Bruno; or the Athletic Compliance Office) any knowledge of violations of NCAA legislation involving The Ohio State University that occurred during the 2009-2010 academic year through the time you sign this form." Tressel printed his name, signed his name and then dated it.

It's tough to predict when the investigation will conclude and when we'll finally get some definitive answers on any additional penalties for Tressel and Ohio State. These things tend to take a while.

I'll be interested to see how things progress with Tressel and Smith. A friendship exists there, but also a working relationship that might have been damaged.