Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ohio State might not be done just yet

Question of the day: When ESPN and Ohio State are telling two different stories, which one do you believe? That's particularly relevant given this potentially awesome news/rumor from Pat Forde:
The NCAA notified Ohio State by letter last week that it is still investigating other issues involving the program. The result could be a second notice of allegations and a second trip through the NCAA justice system.
Yay? Maybe:

OSU spokesman Jim Lynch said president Gordon Gee got a letter from the NCAA on Aug. 3 but that it said "absolutely nothing about additional allegations."

"The university has not received any additional allegations from the NCAA." Lynch said. "As a member institution, we are committed to working together with the NCAA to examine any information concerning potential violations of NCAA legislation. We do not anticipate discussing any additional allegations with the Committee on Infractions on Friday other than those self reported in March, 2011."

There's some impressive legalese in there, but before I get to that, let's back up a second: If Forde's right, this will be other shoe we've all been waiting for since ESPN, Yahoo, Sports Illustrated, the Columbus Dispatch and every other media organization in the Western Hemisphere started uncovering piles of major violations. It didn't make a whole lot of sense when OSU reportedly was told just a couple weeks ago that there weren't "any new violations" and there was "no evidence that Ohio State failed to properly monitor its football program." Words like that seem to indicate a certain sense of finality that was hard to reconcile with what we were seeing with our own eyes.

This mostly buried sentence in the ESPN story provides a bit of explanation:
The July 21 case summary also addressed only the allegations related to the tattoo parlor -- no statement was made in the NCAA's 17-page report about the status of any the other allegations that have come forth since scandal erupted.
So there ya go* -- everything other than the TatGate stuff apparently was put on the backburner during the initial probe, and the July 21 report was referring ONLY to the previously recognized violations and not the overarching investigation.

But getting back to my "legalese" comment, the wording in Ohio State's statement is interesting (reading between the lines FTW). The school says that the letter didn't mention "any additional allegations," but it might have referenced an ongoing investigation, which is what Forde's saying. And the fact that OSU doesn't "anticipate discussing any additional allegations with the Committee on Infractions on Friday" is obvious; if there's more stuff being investigated, it would have to be encapsulated in a second notice of allegations, which would lead to another hearing with the Committee on Infractions and amended/additional penalties.

So the school's not really saying anything that directly disputes the ESPN report. What they're doing is public-relations damage control, which I imagine they've become quite good at over the past six months.

As for the rumored investigation, I'm reserving judgment until we see (a) what happens at the hearing on Friday and (b) if a second notice of allegations is issued in the relatively near future. My skepticism meter is set to "high" with regards to everything the NCAA does nowadays. But if the really shady stuff -- Pryor's loaner cars, all the Dennis Talbott shenanigans, the "missing" equipment, etc. -- ends up getting thrown into the investigation at some point and leads to a dragged-out case with truly meaningful penalties, it will restore about 1 percent of my faith in the oversight of college football. And that will bring it all the way up to 1 percent.

* I'm still a little confused about that "case report" from the TatGate stuff: Sending a letter that basically says "you're in the clear" while still investigating the most severe allegations seems more than a little disingenuous.


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