Gordon Gee says mitigation not factor

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Last week's resignation under pressure of Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel was not a result of the university attempting to ward off possible NCAA sanctions, OSU President Gordon Gee said Tuesday.

Gee said the coach's Memorial Day departure followed an accumulation of issues which were troubling to the university.

Tressel, 58, resigned after revelations he failed to report allegations that several players had sold or traded memorabilia for cash and tattoos.

The NCAA continues to investigate Ohio State's football program, particularly in regard to improper benefits and cars.

"The NCAA's going to hear our case and we are very confident that we will be able to present all the facts, and that we'll be able to identify any of the issues that they have identified and that we have taken appropriate action," Gee said.

"But in terms of mitigation I don't think that this is the story that we have here," Gee said.

Gee and athletic director Gene Smith vigorously defended Tressel at a March news conference after the university learned Tressel had known of the memorabilia issue for months but hadn't told OSU officials.

Tressel had signed an NCAA compliance form in September saying he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing by athletes. His contract, in addition to NCAA rules, specified that he had to tell his superiors or compliance department about any potential NCAA rules violations. Yet he did not tell anyone, except to forward emails to Ted Sarniak, reportedly a "mentor" for quarterback Terrelle Pryor back in his hometown of Jeannette, Pa.

In March, the university based its decision on the facts in hand and the reputation of Tressel and his wife, Ellen, as "great citizens of the university," Gee said.

"Two months later I think that there were a lot of additional facts that occurred, and there also was a reality that we were facing serious issues," Gee said.

"And the coach realized that and made what I think is the best decision on behalf of the university, which was to resign."

Also Tuesday, the Columbus Dispatch reported that after Tressel learned of the potential NCAA violations on April 2, 2010 -- months before the university would become aware -- he exchanged 77 calls and text messages with Sarniak.

Tressel also sent 91 text messages to Roy Hall, the current Jeannette, Pa., football coach and another Pryor mentor, according to the Dispatch.

The newspaper reported the longest phone call between Tressel and Sarniak lasted 18 minutes and occurred on Dec. 21, two days before Ohio State announced Pryor and five other players would be suspended for part of the upcoming 2011 season.

Two days later, Ohio State called a news conference and revealed that six players, including Pryor, had traded autographed equipment, championship rings and other memorabilia to Columbus tattoo-parlor owner Edward Rife for cash and discounted tattoos.

Pryor and four others were suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season but were permitted to play in the Buckeyes impending Allstate Sugar Bowl game against Arkansas. They won that game, 31-26. Another player will sit out the first game this fall.