Major - Stories of NCAA Scandals
About the podcast Major - Stories of NCAA Scandals
Hosted by former NCAA staff member, Chris Brown, the Major podcast explores college sports scandals long forgotten. Revisit the most iconic scandals from the Southern Methodist University "Death Penalty" case to the tragic murder of Patrick Dennehy.
The MacMurray College Tennis Scandal
Hey everyone, welcome to the fifth episode of Major – Stories of NCAA Scandals. In this show we will be covering the most gripping, gruesome, and groundbreaking scandals in the history of the NCAA. My name is Chris Brown and I’ll be your host, guiding you through every twist and turn these stories have to offer. For the last nine years, I’ve worked in NCAA Rules and Regulations, including four years on the NCAA staff. If you are anything like me, you love a good sports scandal. I started Major, as a way of exploring both well-known and unknown NCAA scandals. But enough about me, let’s start the show. While not unknown, today’s case isn’t really well known either. That’s because today’s case involves the mysterious world of Division III. On March 18, 2005, Neal Hart, head men’s and women’s tennis coach of MacMurray College was forced to appear before the NCAA Division III Committee on Infractions to address allegations of NCAA violations. Was Neal Hart, a ruthless coach seeking to win at any cost or just a naive college professor who got caught up in a crime he didn’t know he was committing? On this episode of Major Stories of NCAA Scandals, we dive into the MacMurray College tennis scandal. Neal Hart grew up in the small village of Arenzville, Iillinois, where his father, A.C. Hart served as President of First National Bank in 1929. Growing up, Hart had dreams of leaving Illinois and exploring the world. After Hart graduated from Illinois College with a degree in math education, he did just that. Hart picked up and left home traveling out to Kenya to begin his teaching career. Following time in Kenya, Hart would go on to teach in Botswana, Liberia, Egypt, Antigua and estimates he travelled up to different 90 countries. Following his world travels, Hart returned to the US working briefly at Sam Houston State University as both an instructor and international advisor. In 1999, Hart and his wife Dianne, decided to return back to Illinois to help support his ailing parents. He quickly secured at MacMurrary College serving as both a mathematics professor and tennis coach. Now MacMurray at this time is not an athletics juggernaut. When Hart took one the role, he knew it would be difficult to recruit top talent. That’s why when a colleague invited him to a match to view two Argentinian players during the summer of 2000, Hart had some reservations. While he wanted to go and watch the match, he knew that he had no means of recruiting top talent to MacMurray. Even recognizing an uphill battle, Hart attended the match and was impressed by what he saw. Hart even went as far as to have the two recruits come for a visit to campus prior to returning to Argentina Later that summer, Hart received an email from one of the recruits, seeking assistance to come to the U.S and play at a university. The recruit claimed that both he and the other recruit had been swindled by the promotor of the tennis tournament they had attended earlier in the summer. It’s worth noting, that while we were unable verify if these particular recruits were swindled by promoters, these stories are really commonplace. Opportunities to come to the United States and earn an education while playing at a college are highly coveted by international athletes. Many recruiting and scouting services take advantage of international athletes by promising them exposure to college coaches. Recruits pay a handsome sum of money, often times thousands of dollars and in return, they get nothing. Knowing that both recruits intended to play tennis in college, Hart decided that the two deserved an opportunity to receive financial assistance to earn an education. Perhaps thinking of them as more of “students” rather than “athletes”. Now before we go any further, we need to discuss NCAA Division III. Let’s go all the way back to 1973, when Richard Nixon was President and Marvin Gaye dropped his hit song “Let’s get it on.” Every year in January, the NCAA has a convention to discuss the state of college athletics and vote on potential changes to its rules. However, in special and emergency circumstances, the NCAA can convene what’s called a Special Convention. In 1973, the NCAA held its first ever special convention. So what was the pressing matter? While I could paint you a picture of an everchanging higher education landscape with sports at the forefront of this landscape, let’s skip to the crux of the issue…money. At the time NCAA members were spending varying amounts of money on their athletics programs. However, the revenue distribution model was such, that smaller schools spending less on athletics, were still able to reap substantial benefits. Of particular interest was the revenue being generated through football television rights. When the NCAA first began broadcasting football, all contracts were between the NCAA organization and the broadcasting companies. Now while this may sound radical living in a world where conferences and individual schools have their own networks, this was actually the norm all the way up until the 1980s. As is a trend in college athletics history, when the larger schools don’t feel they’re getting their fair share of money, drastic changes have to happen. So the NCAA came together and reorganized its membership into three distinct differences. While this did not create the harmony that everyone was hoping, it did establish a Division for colleges who did not want to provide scholarships for athletics participation. This concept of no athletics aid would become the hallmark of Division III and is a rule that is still in place today. While it may be worth exploring the nuances of Division III legislation in the future, for today, just remember: You cannot provide a scholarship in anyway based on athletics in Division III. Alright, now, back to the story. Recognizing a mutually beneficial opportunity, Hart came up with what he characterized as a "scheme" to provide the Argentinian recruits with scholarships and appease the NCAA, the institution and the IRS. He approached his father, who was nearly 100 years old at the time, and asked him to establish a scholarship for international students. Once the father agreed, Hart met with MacMurray’s vice-president for enrollment management and the vice-president for finance at the institution; together they set up the family's Scholarship for International Students. While normally scholarships have specific criteria and requirements for applicants to meet, not the Argentine-Kenyan Scholarship. Yes, that is the real name of the scholarship. Can’t make this stuff up. The Argentine-Kenyan Scholarship had no requirements. Hart would simply select the recipients and award money as needed. Unsurprisingly, the first two recipients of the scholarship, were the two Argentinian tennis recruits Hart had previously corresponded with. During the 2000-01 academic year, each athlete received approximately $5,000 per semester and competed as members of the men's tennis team. The next academic year, $16,720.70 and was provided to three different athletes hand selected by Hart. The amounts would only escalate from there. The next year, the total amount of financial aid awarded from the scholarship account was $55,405. During the 2003-04 academic year, the family would take a slight step back, awarding only the total amount of financial aid awarded from the scholarship account was $36,647 and was provided to six student-athletes. Now, let’s pause for a second. Thus far, over $118,000 worth of impermissible scholarships have been awarded, but we’re not done. Hart’s philanthropic efforts did not go unnoticed. He received messages and calls from many recruits. In one instance, Hart received a call from an international student located outside of Kenya and Argentina. Since the young man did not meet the sole criteria for the scholarship, Hart simply asked his father to write a check to help the student. In total, Hart distributed $162,027.86 to ten different athletes over the course of ten years. Once discovered, the institution received a visit from NCAA Enforcement Investigators. After a review of all the information, the school went before the NCAA Committee on Infractions on March 18, 2005. For those of you just tuning in, the Committee on Infractions decides the outcome of enforcement cases. Made up of athletics directors, compliance administrators, conference commissioners etc., the Committee on Infractions is the jury of your peers in an NCAA enforcement case. On the day of the hearing, Coach Hart, did not prepare remarks…a very bad idea. Coach Hart insisted that the financial aid had nothing to do with athletics ability. To support this point, he noted how one player who received the scholarship, only joined the team out of gratitude for receiving the scholarship and wasn’t very good. While not the best defense, it is worth noting that MacMurray tennis wasn’t a great team. Under Hart’s leadership, the team earned a 6-7 record during their best season. Unlike most cases we discuss, it’s debatable if this team really got a competitive advantage. While the Committee on Infractions would acknowledge the philanthropic nature of Coach Hart, it was uncovered that Coach Hart had previously referred to rules regarding financial aid as a joke, something that would truly bother the committee. Which makes you wonder, had Coach Hart shown remorse for his wrong doings, would he maybe have gotten away with merely a slap on the wrist? The Punishment MacMurray College’s men’s tennis team would be banned the squad from competing in intercollegiate competitionfor two years. This was the first time the NCAA has levied its ultimate punishment on a Division III program. Now, many view the penalties as extreme. However, during the investigation, it was noted that the university had no systems in place to even detect the wrong doings. Therefore, they demonstrated a lack of institutional control. To add icing on top of all of this, the athletics director at MacMurray College resigned mere days before the school was set to appear before the committee. So if the school had another defense, it wasn’t presented. Mr. Hart had said he was dumbfounded by the infractions committee’s ruling and that being lumped into the same category as the most extreme cases in NCAA history. However, Gerald Young, who served as the chair of the Division III Committee on Infractions, would say: "These penalties are justified. The coach disregarded one of Division III's most fundamental and best known rules." In the end, Coach Hart would never coach tennis again, but remained at teacher at the university. Now, unfortunately, this story has an even sadder ending. In March of 2020, MacMurray College announced that it would be closing its doors after the 2020 spring semester. After years of financial challenges, the college was unable to remain financially viable. Conclusion So, the question is, does the punishment fit the crime? And was the crime really an actual “crime” to begin with? Was Professor Hart just trying to do something nice for his players by setting them up with some money for college to secure a good future? Of course, the NCAA gave their verdict, but what would you have done? Do you think banning the team from playing for two years was a fitting punishment or would you not have punished the team at all? We here at Major – Stories of NCAA Scandals hope you enjoyed our first episode covering the world of NCAA scandals. If you want to keep it going, give us a follow on our social media at brown_athletics on twitter or major podcast on Instagram. Thank you everyone for tuning in, again I’m your host Chris Brown wishing you a good day and life free of scandal! Sources https://www.stltoday.com/sports/college/life-after-the-ncaas-death-penalty-at-macmurray/article_1ce13601-eb4c-5a7f-a407-3d5a6e472237.html https://web3.ncaa.org/lsdbi/search/miCaseView/report?id=102214 https://web3.ncaa.org/lsdbi/search/miCaseView/report?id=102500
Bruce Pearl - Part 2
Introduction Hello folks, welcome to the fourth episode of Major – Stories of NCAA Scandals. In this show we cover the most gripping, gruesome, and groundbreaking scandals in the history of the NCAA. My name is Chris Brown and I’ll be your host, guiding you through every twist and turn these stories have to offer. For the last nine years, I’ve worked in NCAA Rules and Regulations, including four years on the NCAA staff. If you are anything like me, you love a good sports scandal. I started Major, as a way of exploring both well-known and unknown NCAA scandals. But enough about me, let’s start the show. This week is the promised part two of Bruce Pearl’s perilous plunge into predatory practice… and if that sounds like a mouthful just wait for what’s next. As mentioned at the end of last episode, it’s a rare enough thing to be caught in the middle of a major NCAA scandal, but in the case of this controversial coach, it seems that’s only half the story… or rather a third. To recap last week for all those who missed it, Bruce Pearl was assistant coach for the University of Iowa basketball program all the way back in 1988. He was ramping up for a big season, trying to score a top Chicago recruit, when surprise surprise, The Illini swooped in and made the steal. Fast forward to the infamous call and our lovely two week special subject, Bruce Pearl, was found to have recorded Deon Thomas (the lost recruit), without his knowledge as he badmouthed his own school and revealed evidence against them. While Thomas made it out relativity unscathed, Illinois suffered from the investigation and Pearl’s reputation was forever harmed… lucky for him the great state of Tennessee knows how to forgive. Thus, Pearl’s scandalous journey begins, and our show has more to report. What happens from here? Where’s Pearl now? And what does his story tell us about the sports world we watch? Listen up and take notes because we’re diving deep and the story’s just getting started! Discussion The Road to Tennessee Now I should clarify that the jump from Iowa to Tennessee wasn’t overnight. Following the Deon Thomas incident, Pearl was forced to pay the piper and leave Division one basketball, something that should come as no surprise to our week to week listeners following the pattern of college sports scandals. A move to division two or three is pretty par for the course… getting out of it, now that’s less common. So, after Iowa Pearl lands a head coaching job at Southern Indiana, where he spent several years and rebuilt his reputation. Laying low, fundraising well, and pulling in four Great Lakes Valley Conference Titles and a division two national championship appearance seemed to serve Bruce well (especially the titles, something we’ll hit on later in the episode). After 9 years with the Screamin Eagles, Pearl had apparently put in his time and done the impossible, worked his way bag to the big leagues. Signed on to replace Bo Ryan, previous head coach of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Bruce Pearl had found his new home in Division one basketball, somewhere he’d stay for the next four years. While relatively low radar, it’s important to note that Milwaukee was forced to self-report a recruiting violation made by Pearl during his stay in the great dairy state. The violation… visiting a high school junior recruit at an off campus site. Seems unimportant but keep that in mind as we keep on chugging. Regardless of the tiny road bump, Pearl had finally made it back to a major Division one team, this time as a head coach for the Tennessee Volunteers in 2005. Back on top, on his way to the headlines. A place Pearl found familiar. The Tennessee Barbeque There’s no denying that Pearl found genuine and immediate success in Tennessee. After only a couple season’s Pearl and the volunteers captured a SEC regular season title and the school’s first ever number ranking on an AP top 25 poll. And this is something we should hit on before we reach the scandal. While Pearl’s career can be summed up by a string of scandals (hold on I promise their coming) another common thread is his real success coaching. Part of Pearl’s controversy is the exchange between good and bad. We’ll cover this more later but it’s worth remembering that the man’s not getting the second chances for nothing. He’s risen out of pits by his record of success… and often brought back down into the pits we all remember. Regardless, all this talk of downfall must have the mouth watering. Watering for scandal? Sure. For Barbeque? I mean… not what we’re expecting, right? Pearl’s next trip in to coverup and scandal takes place at a backyard barbeque, or if you like it more sinister, a mass meeting of illegal recruits. Late in 2010 reports started to surface that Pearl had been once again meeting with junior recruits outside of campus locations. This of course was denied by Pearl, a deny ‘til you die fanatic, all the way up until photos surfaced of Aaron Craft (yes the famous Ohio state buckeye’s, Aaron Craft) at a backyard barbeque held by Pearl. With no other choice, Pearl came out with a teary-eyed press conference, a showing of emotion that, for better or for worse, is common for Pearl. Some take it as genuine, other’s as fake, but no matter what side you’re on you can’t deny the truth… it’s gets worse from here. First, only four days after that apology, Pearl, and his assistant coach we’re caught having “bumped” into junior recruit Jordan Adams outside, once again outside of campus boundaries. On top of that, it started to come out that Pearl had knowingly and purposefully broken this NCAA rule with his barbeque as he had informed the guests of the violation and asked them not to tell anyone. While I am not advocating for violating NCAA rules, if you are going to do so, it is probably a good idea to not announce it at a barbeque. Pearl was initially suspended for the first eight conference games of the season, with Tennessee eventually deciding to cut ties with the coach all together. Alongside Pearl’s loss of a job, he was also hit with a three year show cause penalty by the NCAA, one of the harshest punishments an individual can receive. Show cause penalties, can often end the careers of head coaches. So that’s the end for Coach Bruce Pearl, no coming back from that… I’m sure you see where this is going. The yoyo coach seems to always find his way in, this time as head coach for the Auburn men’s basketball program. The Auburn Meltdown In March of 2014, Auburn University hired Bruce Pearl, awarding him a six year contract worth $14 million and the… let’s call it honor of becoming the first coach in NCAA history to be hired while in the middle of a show cause penalty. Bruce Pearl truly is a pioneer of sporting scandals. After three years of somewhat uneventful basketball at Auburn, things started heating up around Pearl, as they seem to always do… but this time, Pearl wasn’t alone. September 27, 2017, became an infamous day in the NCAA and all of college sports as the FBI announced its investigation into college basketball. While a story of that magnitude must be saved for another day, it should be unsurprising that Bruce found a way to dip his toe into it. Pearl’s assistant coach Chuck Person was one of the four coaches to be arrested, later charged with bribery, fraud, and conspiracy. Following that debacle, Auburn would put two more staffers on leave and had to suspend players Austin Wiley and Daniel Purifoy due to violations associated with the investigation. Surely you are thinking at this point that Pearl has to be involved in some way or another, but it turns out, in the eyes of the FBI and NCAA, the guy was clean. But what about Auburn? Following the investigation, Auburn announced a second, this time internal investigation and asked for Pearl’s total cooperation in the process… unfortunately they didn’t receive it. In fact, Auburn’s president came out in a press conference and said this, “Having three of his employees suspended or terminated is troublesome at best. (Pearl’s) unwillingness to even talk to me about it is particularly troublesome.” So let’s trace back. We’re in the middle of Pearl’s third major scandal, his employers launch an internal investigation, and he, even to his own school, is unwilling to say a peep. Looks like the end of Pearl, right?... Wrong. Pearl, the next year would then go on to win a share of the SEC title, earn a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament and help the Tigers make their first final four appearance in school history. Auburn awarded Pearl’s outstanding season with a five year extension which started at $3.8 million during the 2019-20 season and will increase by $125,000 each year after that to a maximum figure of $4.3 million in the final year. Man vs. Victory This incredible and to many frustrating climax to Pearl’s still running story is what leads us into perhaps a greater question about the sporting world as a whole… Is it willing to forgive cheating if it means victory? As we mentioned, Pearl’s coaching history has been categorized by two things: Scandal and victory. And unlike many of the other coaching subjects we’ve discussed on the podcast before, Pearl is still out and kicking. He’s survived the scandals because whether we like it or not, your team will forgive you if you make it worth the while. But is it just the team’s forgiveness? Are fans guilty as well? And where does it end? Let’s get into it all with the host opinion hot seat. Conclusion Well there you have it folks, the story of Bruce Pearl, the conclusion of our two part special. But you’ve heard our thoughts, now we want to hear yours. Give us a follow on our social media at @brown_athletics on twitter and @majorpodcast on Instagram and tell us your thoughts on the king of scandal or as others see it, unsung hero of program resurrection. We here at Major – Stories of NCAA Scandal hope you enjoyed our latest episode covering the world of NCAA scandals. Thank you everyone for tuning in, again I’m your host Chris Brown and wishing you a good day and life free of scandal!
Bruce Pearl - Part 1
Introduction Hello folks, and welcome back to Major – Stories of NCAA Scandals, the number one hotspot for the most gripping, gruesome, and groundbreaking scandals in the history of the NCAA. My name is Chris Brown and I’ll be your host, guiding you through every twist and turn these stories have to offer. For the last nine years, I’ve worked in NCAA Rules and Regulations, including four years on the NCAA staff. If you are anything like me, you love a good sports scandal. I started Major, as a way of exploring both well-known and unknown NCAA scandals. But enough about me, let’s start the show. On today’s episode we’re covering what many call the hotbed of college sports scandal, the holy grail of rules breaking, the place where the shady stuff tends to go down….Recruitment. It’s easy to imagine why this is the case. Getting the right player, putting together the right team, it’s the foundation of a championship season. Given college sports has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry a lot is at stake. While there is an appreciation for a coaches ability to nurture young athletes and to ensure their athletes are graduating, a coaches job is dependent upon wins and losses. But how far will some coaches go? What does it take to turn on a rival? On a another player? Well listen up and listen good cause we’re taking you all the way back to the Midwest in 1988 where the chase for basketball recruit Deon Thomas pitted big ten members against one another and brought out the inner espionage of one coach: Bruce Pearl. Discussion The Background In the 1988 season at Chicago’s Simeon High school, one Junior basketball player was at the height of his appeal. Deon Thomas had just led his team to a Chicago Public League title and would go on to cap of his senior year with being named Illinois Mr. Basketball and staring in the McDonald’s All-American Game, alongside future superstar Shaquille O’Neil. Now if Thomas’ accolades were not enough, he was coming from an elite high school program. Simeon High School is recognized as one of the best programs for producing basketball talent, including the number one ranked player in the country Ben Wilson and NBA point guard Derek Rose. Unsurprisingly a player of this caliber catches the attention of schools across the country. However, the Big Ten, took a particular interest in Deon Thomas. Specifically, two teams, the University of Iowa and the University of Illinois went full throttle in the all-out war for Thomas’ commitment. When it was all said and done, and the dust had settled it was Jimmy Collins, the assistant coach for University of Illinois that had made the big score, except… the dust hadn’t really settled quite yet. Bruce Pearl Now to understand what happens next, you have to really get to know Bruce Pearl. Pearl is originally from Boston, Massachusetts and attended Boston College, graduating in 1982. While at Boston College, Pearl served as a manager for the men’s basketball team. The time Pearl spent with the Boston College program, is considered by most the darkest time in the team’s history. In 1979, the BC men’s basketball team was implicated in a point shaving case involving former Mafia member: Henry Hill. If you don’t know what point shaving is, go back and listen to episode two. The scandal resulted in a player going to jail and embarrassment for Boston College. Now it is hard to say whether or not this would have an impact on Pearl’s moral compass but it is certainly a unique experience for a 20 year old aspiring men’s basketball coach. Following his time at Boston College, Pearl would move on with Coach Tom Davis at Stanford University. When Davis accepted the head coaching job at the University of Iowa, Pearl, one of his top recruiters, would follow him. Now depending on the side you take it was either a desperate act of self-preservation or a ruthless attack against a rival program that led University of Iowa assistant coach, Bruce Pearl to throw the University of Illinois and Deon himself right under the bus. But before we dive deeper into that infamous call it’s important to do a little review on NCAA recruitment regulations and the relationship between Pearl and Deon. As discussed in a previous episode, there are very strict regulations for how recruitment can take place between a coaching staff and an athlete. Without going too deep, the core of these regulations revolves around the very simple idea that you can’t pay prospects. One more time, you can’t pay prospects. Let’s say it all together because it keeps happening, you can’t pay prospects. It’s common that the biggest scandals in sports boil down to money and luxury to pull in a big recruit. Whether you agree with the rules or not, these are the regulations coaches agree to follow. It was an accusation of breaking said rules that allegedly put assistant coach Bruce Pearl on the defensive. Pearl had failed to sign Deon Thomas. While Thomas had verbally committed to the Hawkeyes, he ended up signing with the University of Illinois. Now something to keep in mind, when it is comes to recruitment a verbal commitment mean absolutely nothing. Athletes commit and decommit multiple times throughout the recruitment process. Until a prospect actually signs a National Letter of Intent, a school is never guaranteed that they will play for them. The Recording Post failed recruitment, Pearl started hearing rumors that he had violated NCAA rules in his efforts to acquire Deon. On top of that, Bob Hambric, the head coach of Chicago’s Simeon high school and presumably not a fan of Pearl’s, had called the University of Iowa’s head coach to tell him that Bruce Pearl had made an improper offer to Thomas. Hambric would later go on to criticize Pearl further by saying “high school coaches in Chicago know how Iowa operates. Iowa's not going to get anybody out of here. And if you're in the Big Ten, you need Chicago.” Hambric would further criticize Pearl of inappropriately crashing a tournament trip to Amsterdam and giving Deon money while he was there. Regardless of what it was exactly that led to the incident, according to Pearl it was fear of his own reputation that led to him to hatch a plan to catch the University of Illinois in its recruitment of Thomas. The plan was simple, Pearl would call and record Thomas admitting to receiving impermissible benefits when being recruited by the University of Illinois. The recorded call began with Pearl asking if he had done anything wrong during his recruitment process, to which Thomas replied that there had been no wrongdoing on Pearl’s part. Onto the bombshell, the call then moved over to his recruitment and commitment to Illinois. Pearl asked if Thomas had been promised payment of eighty thousand dollars alongside the gifting of a new car, for his commitment to Illinois. While he would later refute it, Thomas seemed to confirm this as true, a major violation for the University of Illinois who were finishing up probation from football violations committed a few years prior. Outside of the whether or not the claims made on the tapes were valid, there was a question of legality when it came to recording the call, because the recording was made in secret. This boiled down to where Pearl was when he made the call. In Deon’s state of Illinois, it’s illegal to record a call without the consent of both parties, however in Iowa, where it was later proven Pearl was when he made the call, it is only required that one party consent to a recording before a call is made. Regardless of the legality, many inside and out of the NCAA believed Pearl’s actions to be unethical, something we’ll cover a little deeper in the aftermath. The Scandal This is where things get sticky so prepare for a whole lot of, he said she said. The release of the tapes by Pearl were apparently brought out once again by means of self-preservation. According to Pearl, NCAA investigators approached him over misconduct in the recruitment efforts of Deon Thomas and Pearl in a plea for his own innocence shared what he had recorded. Illinois claimed that this was a targeted effort to dismantle the recruit of a rival team by inviting the NCAA investigator, but a reliable NCAA informant told me that’s most likely untrue as it’s common for these investigations to occur around high profile recruits. The release of these tapes led to a strong counterattack by both Deon and his father. Deon claimed that he had only made the statements about the Illini’s recruiting violations get Pearl of off the phone. He would then later go on to claim it was Pearl himself that had offered the eighty thousand dollars and car, something that Pearl simply denied, stating “it was an effort to discredit the witness”. On top of all that, Deon’s father went on to claim that Pearl had offered to move Deon’s mother to Iowa as part of the deal and had threatened false accusations against his son if he didn’t commit to Iowa. While it is hard to know whether or not any of these accusations are true, one thing remained certain, if Illinois was found guilty of a major violation such as this one it would mean a strong possibility of an NCAA death penalty, being shut down for at least a year, and the firing of Illinois assistant coach Jimmy Collins. The Verdict After passing a lie detector test, in which Deon stated clearly that he had not been offered the money or car by Illinois, the NCAA found Illinois not guilty of the violation, stating the evidence provided was not credible or compelling enough to warrant penalty. However, in a strange twist to the story, the NCAA investigation did uncover several other violations made by the Illinois coaches. Among these was Illinois’ third major violation in a six year span, giving the NCAA cause and reason to charge them with “lack of institutional control” resulting in several recruitment violations and a one year ban on post season play. While things could have been much worse for the University of Illinois, it left a sour taste in the mouths of many Illini fans. The Aftermath While the penalties we’re powerful, the real aftermath of this scandal was the lasting affect on relationships and reputations. Deon Thomas went on to be the all time leading scorer for University of Illinois and the overall 28th selection in the 1994 draft by the Dallas Mavericks. Although this is true, Deon never actually played a single game in the NBA, rather he went on to play in an Israeli league, a country strongly tied to his nationality. Once there he continued to reject offers for the NBA and go on to become one of the most successful all time American pro’s in a European league. While for most, this would have ended their coaching career, Bruce Pearl actually landed another job. After coach at the University of Southern Indiana, Pearl would land the head coaching job at the University of Wisconsin Milawkee where he would face an old foe: Jimmy Collins. During their four -ear span coaching for opposing teams in the horizon league, neither Pearl nor Collins ever gave the other a post-game handshake. Deon when later asked whether he had forgiven Pearl for the recording went on to state, “it was hard to forgive a snake”. And many among the industry blackballed Pearl from ever becoming part of their coaching staff. College Basketball Analyst Dick Vitale went as far as to call Pearl’s actions “completely unethical” and compared it to “committing career suicide”. However, as you will learn in next week’s episode, this wasn’t the last time Bruce Pearl would be involved in a major violation. Conclusion For better or for worse, this week is another example of the whistle getting blown on and off the court. Was Pearl wrong in his actions? Did he act in self-interest? Will there ever be a level playing field in an industry with so much money involved? We’ll leave that for you to decide. In the meantime, We at Major - stories of NCAA Scandals hope you enjoyed part 1 of Bruce Pearl. Join us next week when we explore how a BBQ landed Pearl in hot water. If you want to keep it going, give us a follow on our social media at brown_athletics on twitter or @major podcast on Instagram. Thank you everyone for tuning in, again I’m your host Chris Brown wishing you a good day and life free of scandal! Sources https://vault.si.com/vault/1990/02/19/tale-of-the-tape https://www.sbnation.com/college-basketball/2019/4/4/18295241/bruce-pearl-final-four-timeline-infractions-auburn-lowa-deon-thomas-wire-milwaukee-violations https://www.rockmnation.com/2017/3/20/14949360/cuonzo-martin-missouri-purdue-illinois-deon-thomas-bruce-pearl https://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/news/story?id=5714649 https://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/news/story?id=6243862 https://www.al.com/auburnbasketball/2019/10/bruce-pearl-not-worried-about-potential-ncaa-notice-of-allegations-confident-in-auburns-process.html https://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/news/story?id=5575856 https://247sports.com/college/tennessee/Article/Documents-describe-interviews-that-sank-Bruce-Pearl-at-Tennessee-32452/
The First NCAA Death Penalty
Introduction Hey everyone, welcome to the second episode of Major – Stories of NCAA Scandals. In this show we will be covering the most gripping, gruesome, and groundbreaking scandals in the history of the NCAA. My name is Chris Brown and I’ll be your host, guiding you through every twist and turn these stories have to offer. For the last nine years, I’ve worked in NCAA Rules and Regulations, including four years on the NCAA staff. If you are anything like me, you love a good sports scandal. I started Major, as a way of exploring both well-known and unknown NCAA scandals. But enough about me, let’s start the show. Today we’ll be covering a rarely used NCAA penalty, a penalty so scary, it earned the name “Death Penalty.” A Shaky Death Penalty It’s January 1951, Junius Kellog is a star on the Manhattan College basketball team. At six foot eight, Kellog is hard to miss by anyone. One winter day, he catches the attention of former Manhattan College basketball player Hank Poppe. Poppe approaches Kellog with a proposition. If Kellog fixes the game against DePaul, he will receive $1,000 dollars. For Kellog, this is no insignificant amount of money. Remember, this is 1951, $1,000 dollars then is closer to 10,000 dollars today. Kellog comes from a poor family in Virginia and even with his scholarship is working at a local custard shop to make ends meet. Now he has the chance to significantly improve his financial outlook and all he has to do is engage in a little point shaving. Now before we continue, it’s important that we discuss point shaving. Let’s take a moment for a quick sports gambling lesson. Quick Gambling Lesson So let’s keep things very simple. When it comes to gambling, sports like basketball are bet on based on the margin of victory or loss also known as a point spread. For example, let’s take two schools, School A and School B. School A is favored to win at minus ten points. While school B is the underdog at plus ten points. If you were to bet on School A, then in order to win money, School A must win by more than ten points. If you were to bet of School B, then in order to win money, School B would have to lose by less than 10 points. Traditionally, point shaving occurs when School A purposefully works to ensure they win but win by less than 10 points. This allow match fixers to bet on the underdog and be guaranteed that they will win. Point shaving is difficult to track in that the team still wins the game and it is difficult to determine if the match is fixed or if a player or players are having a bad game. Thus it is the perfect set up for match fixers. Now Back to the Story A man of high integrity, Kellog immediately notified his Coach Ken Norton. Norton in turn, notified Manhattan College’s President Brother Boneventure Thomas who would immediately contact the police. For those of you who listened to last week’s episode, this is how the flow of information is supposed to work. The police and Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan instructed Kellog to pretend that he was going along with the scheme. During a second meeting between Kellog and Poppe. Kellog was instructed that make sure that Manhattan won by less than ten points. According to Rosen’, Scandals of '51, Hank Poppe would tell Kellog: It's easy! You can miss a rebound once in a while. After you get a rebound don't look to pass it down court. Hang on to it and give the defense a chance to set up. Then you can try shooting your hook shot a little hard. And don't try to block the other guy's shot. Throw the ball away when you get the chance. Just remember that Manhattan doesn't actually have to lose the game. All you have to do is control the margin of victory. It's easy Junie. Everybody's doing it everywhere all over the country. The pros too. But whatever you do, Junie, don't stink up the joint. Make it look like you're trying. Kellog did just that, with the team winning 62-59. With enough evidence, Poppe was arrested and immediately turned in coconspirator Jack Byrnes. The duo would implicate thirty-three players over the course of 80 games involving at least seven schools. Now we will have an entire two-part episode dedicated to the point shaving scandal and its impact on college basketball but for today, we were going to head down to Lexington, Kentucky. Home of the University of Kentucky Wildcats. In 1951, there was no bigger team in college basketball than the University of Kentucky Wildcats. The team was coached by Adolph Rupp, at the time, arguably the most influential coach in all of basketball. The team was coming off of National Championship wins in 1948, 1949 and 1951. Not to mention that the Kentucky starting five were all members of the gold medal winning 1948 US Olympic basketball team. The Kentucky teams were juggernauts and Coach Rupp knew it. When news of a point shaving scandal began rocking college basketball programs across the country, Rupp was quoted as saying: “They couldn’t touch my boys with a 10-foot pole.” These are words Rupp would soon come to regret. On October 20, 1951, former University of Kentucky players Dale Barnstable, Ralph Beard, Alex Groza and Bill Spivey were all arrested for receiving bribes in exchange for point shaving during their 1949 National Invitation Tournament game against Loyola University Chicago. At the time of arrest, Barnstable, Beard and Groz, were no longer students at the university. Spivey on the other hand, was still a star player for the Wildcats. While initially, all players would deny any involvement in point shaving, mounting evidence and convictions across the nation, would make denial harder. Barnstable, Beard and Groza would all confess to receiving $500 in return for point shaving during the game against Loyola University Chicago. Spivey would maintain his innocence long after his former teammates admissions. If point shaving wasn’t bad enough, in the midst of investigating the point shaving case, it was uncovered that it was common for players to receive cash gifts following wins in big games. Thus, this legal issue, quickly became an NCAA issue. Flashback Now, it is important to remember why the NCAA was founded. Mounting health and safety concerns related to college football had necessitated presidential intervention. Theodore Roosevelt on two separate occasions convened meetings with collegiate leaders. The meeting ended with an ultimatum, regulate college football or it will no longer be played in the United States. Officials heeded the Presidents warning and in 1906, the NCAA was founded. The organization quickly grew in responsibility by conducting championships, but the NCAA had no rules enforcement mechanism. In fact, most schools at the time were doubtful about the organizations ability to self-govern. This self-governing ability had been tested just a one year prior to the point shaving scandal. In 1948, NCAA schools voted to implement the “Sanity Code.” The Sanity Code limited athletes to receiving scholarships and job opportunities based only on a demonstrated financial need. However, when a survey was sent out in 1949 to gauge whether or not schools were adhering to this code, seven schools self-reported that they were indeed violating the agreed upon code. A school found in violation of NCAA rules could be punished in only one-way, complete loss of membership, a punishment, that member schools had been hesitant to ever use. Ultimately in 1950 the Sanity Code was repealed and the schools in question weren’t even punished. Therefore, when the it emerged that the University of Kentucky had won games with ineligible players, few believed the NCAA would or even could take action against the school. However, the NCAA’s newly hired 29-year-old executive director had other ideas. Walter Byers, a man who would forever shape the landscape of college athletics, viewed the University of Kentucky case as a test of the NCAA’s legitimacy. To address the issue, Byers would establish a subcommittee to investigate infractions and secretly partner with the Southeastern Conference to ensure the right outcome. Repercussions - The Team Prior to NCAA penalties, the University of Kentucky would first have to deal with the Southeastern Conference. After an investigation into the point shaving scandal, the SEC voted to bar Kentucky from participating in SEC basketball for one year. Much to the surprise of many, University of Kentucky President Herman Lee Donovan did not fight the penalties. Believing they had received their final penalty; Kentucky began planning a non-conference schedule for the year. In fact, the school had made a national schedule featuring sixteen different schools. This immediately changed when in November of 1952, Walter Byers informed the University that they would be on probation and barred from playing against any other NCAA institution. To reinforce this penalty, Byers sent a letter to every member of the NCAA reminding them of a constitutional provision that required NCAA members to only play against teams that followed NCAA rules. Kentucky would once again not fight the penalty. Later, Byers would concede that had Kentucky challenged the penalty, they most likely would have prevailed given a lack of true enforcement authority at the time. In his book Unsportsmanlike Conduct, Byers would state: Had they (UK) fought us on the technical, legal grounds so many university-hired lawyers used in later years, Kentucky probably would have carried the day at the convention in January 1953. Instead, their decision to accept the penalty erased the haunting failure of the Sanity Code. It gave a new and needed legitimacy to the NCAA's fledgling effort to police big-time college sports." Additionally, the suspension of athletics participation as a penalty would later be codified in NCAA legislation as the repeat violator provision. In the 1980s, media would label this punishment, the death penalty. Repercussions – The Players Now the players received pretty substantial penalties. Barnstable, Beard and Groza would receive suspended sentences. In addition to suspended sentences, Judge Streit placed the trio on an indefinite probation and barred them from all sports for three years…..I didn’t even know a judge could do that. Now formerly on pace to be NBA stars, Barnstable, Beard and Groza were banned from ever playing in the NBA by Commissioner Maurice Podoloff. Arguably, Bill Spivey would pay the steepest penalty. Spivey maintained his innocence throughout the entirety of the process. The University of Kentucky would preemptively disassociate from Spivey. The former All-American had been deserted by his school. To make matters worse, while there was not enough evidence to convict Spivey on bribery charges, discrepancies in testimonies resulted in perjury charges. Although Spivey was not convicted, the damage was done. NBA Commissioner Podoloff banned Spivey from ever playing in the NBA. Spivey would later sue the NBA and receive a $10,000 settlement but would spend the majority of his career, travelling around the country playing for smaller league teams until retiring in 1968. Repercussions - The Coach Now throughout the entirety of the investigation, Coach Rupp maintained he had no knowledge of point shaving within his program. Oddly enough t, the Loyola game which was the focal point of the investigation, was one that Coach Rupp could not forget. Following his team’s 67-56 loss to Loyola, Coach Rupp was distraught. While drink whiskey, he would tell athletics director Bernie Shively: I don't know...Lordy. But I think there's something wrong with this team. Historians agree that while Rupp was not involved directly in point shaving, his relationship with local bookies and casual discussions with players regarding gambling was problematic. On one occasion, the team was scolded for not scoring enough points in a game. Rupp would comment that the team cost his friend money. The impact of the culture of Kentucky was reinforced during the sentencing of Rupp’s former players. While Rupp was not charged, Judge Streit, would use player sentencing as an opportunity to express his thoughts on college athletics, particularly at the University of Kentucky. In his opinion, Judge Steit wrote: "I found that intercollegiate basketball and football at Kentucky have become highly systematized, professionalized and commercialized enterprises. I found covert subsidization of players, ruthless exploitation of athletes, cribbing at examinations, 'illegal' recruiting, a reckless disregard of their physical welfare, matriculation of unqualified students and demoralization of the athletes by the coach.” Now, as you can imagine, University of Kentucky President Donovan was quite upset following the embarrassment brought to the university on the part of its basketball program. However, President Donovan’s support for Coach Rupp, never wavered. In a letter to Rupp, Donovan wrote: My Dear Coach Rupp, I want you to know that I shall not desert you in your hour of need. This is a good time for you to find out who are your real friends and who are your fair weather friends. In Kentucky, the "Baron of the Blue Grass" was more powerful than Judge Streit. In fact, President Donovan was so disturbed by the comments made by Judge Streit, that he sought to gain potentially compromising information about the Judge. After reaching out to other University Presidents seeking this information, President Donovan was advised to back down and to move forward. Advice that he ultimately took. While officials at the university and the SEC acknowledge that a resignation on the part of Coach Rupp would have lessened the penalty, Coach Rupp’s ability as a coach out shadowed any desire by the university to move on to a new coach. Additionally, Coach Rupp would hold a grudge with Walter Byers saying: "I'll not retire until the man who said Kentucky can't play in the NCAA hands me the national championship trophy." A promise that he would later fulfill, when the Wildcats won the 1958 NCAA Championships. This scandal would have a ripple effect for one other member of the SEC, the University of Alabama….Now at the time of the scandal, the University of Kentucky’s football program was led by a young Paul “Bear” Bryant. As the scandal unfolded, Bryant expected and many say was that Rupp to resign or be fired, making an opportunity for football to become the marquee sport at the University. Bear Bryant would be quoted in Sports Illustrated as saying: "If Rupp had retired as basketball coach when they said he was going to I'd probably still be at Kentucky. The trouble was we were too much alike, and he wanted basketball No. 1 and I wanted football No. 1. In an environment like that one or the other has to go." Bryant resigned and took his talents to College Station before finding his way to Tuscaloosa Alabama as head coach of the University of Alabama. As the head coach of the Rolling Tide, Bryant would win six national championships and make houndstooth fashionable. As a sports fan, you can’t help but wonder, what would have happened had Bryant stayed in Lexington… Closing Thoughts It has been almost 69 years since this scandal occurred. It would be great to say that since this scandal, college athletics has become less commercialized. But that just isn’t the case. Both college basketball and football are far more commercialized and professionalized than in the 1950s. To make matters worse, on September 27, 2017, the FBI and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced the arrest of 10 individuals on suspicion of fraud, bribery and money laundering in a college basketball recruiting scheme. But, you know what they say: those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. Conclusion We here at Major – Stories of NCAA Scandals hope you enjoyed our second episode covering the world of NCAA scandals. If you want to keep it going, give us a follow on our social media at brown_athletics on twitter or @major podcast on Instagram. Thank you everyone for tuning in, again I’m your host Chris Brown wishing you a good day and life free of scandal! Sources http://www.bigbluehistory.net/bb/Statistics/1952-53.html http://www.espn.com/classic/biography/s/Bryant_Bear.html Figone, A., & Figone, A. (1989). Gambling and College Basketball: The Scandal of 1951. Journal of Sport History,16(1), 44-61. Retrieved August 22, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43609381 Nelli, H. (1986). Adolph Rupp, the Kentucky Wildcats, and the Basketball Scandal of 1951. The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society,84(1), 51-75. Retrieved August 22, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23381140 https://web3.ncaa.org/lsdbi/search/miCaseView/report?id=101754
Transcripts Introduction Hello folks, welcome to the inaugural episode of Major – Stories of NCAA Scandals. In this show we will be covering the most gripping, gruesome, and groundbreaking scandals in the history of the NCAA. My name is Chris Brown and I’ll be your host, guiding you through every twist and turn these stories have to offer. For the last nine years, I’ve worked in NCAA Rules and Regulations, including four years on the NCAA staff. If you are anything like me, you love a good sports scandal. I started Major, as a way of exploring both well-known and unknown NCAA scandals. But enough about me, let’s start the show. Today we’ll be covering two of the most controversial subjects in all of college athletics: The Ohio State Buckeyes and NCAA amateurism. So where do these two meet? How did it happen and who was involved? To answer that we’re taking you all the way back to Columbus, Ohio, 2010, for the infamous scandal aptly titled: Tattoo Gate. Cue tattoo music It’s January 1st, 2010. The Ohio State Buckeyes are celebrating their 26-17 victory over the University of Oregon to win the Rose Bowl. Star quarterback, Terrell Pryor had been named the most valuable player after passing for 266 yards and rushing for another 72 yards. We will learn a lot more about Mr. Pryor in a bit. Spirits could not have been higher in Columbus. The team had a renewed energy led by their sweater vest wearing coach: Jim Tressel. Since Coach Tressel’s arrival at Ohio State in 2001, the team had realized massive success. Including a 2002 National Championship win in only Tressel’s second season as head coach. As the 2010 season approached, the Buckeyes were ranked second in the nation and poised to make a run at a national championship. However, whatever hopes the Buckeyes had for national championship glory, would be quickly derailed on April 2nd, 2010. Email Noise On April 2nd, Coach Jim Tressel received an email from local attorney: Chris Cicero. Now communication between Tressel and Cicero was not abnormal. Cicero had been a walk-on football player for OSU while Tressel was an assistant coach in the mid-80s. However, Cicero’s message would be that of a warning. Cicero had been approached by Eddie Rife. Rife was the owner of Fine Line Ink Tattoos in Columbus. Cicero and Rife had previously interacted when Cicero represented Rife in an investigation. According to Cicero’s email to Tressel, Rife’s home had been raided by the federal government on suspicion of drug trafficking. In the midst of the raid, federal officials seized $70,000 in cash and a significant amount of Ohio State Memorabilia, including championship rings. Cicero would go on to warn Coach Tressel that his players had been given free or discounted tattoos in exchange for signed memorabilia. Cicero even went into detail about Rife’s checkered history with the law, which included convictions for forgery and involvement in a murder investigation. Tressel responded accordingly stating: “Thanks Chris…..I will get on it ASAP …Happy Easter to you as well! Go Bucks!! Jt” Now you might be thinking to yourself, what’s the big deal? Yes, the players should probably steer clear of Eddie Rife, but why can’t they sell their memorabilia? Well to answer that question, we have to dive into the complex world of NCAA Legislation. Quick NCAA Rules Lesson Name, image and Likeness! No three words spark more conversation when it comes to college athletics today. Even if you aren’t a sports fan, you have probably heard rumblings about the topic. To break it down simply, in order to participate at an NCAA school, an athlete must be an amateur. Now we could discuss the roots of amateurism, but we can do that another day. What matters is that to maintain one’s amateur status, an athlete cannot receive more than actual and necessary expenses for participation. Practically speaking, that means that athletes are able to receive tuition, room and board, books and a small stipend for the cost of attendance. However, they cannot receive compensation past that amount. Now to further maintain amateurism, a college athlete cannot profit off of their name, image or likeness. For example, under current NCAA rules, a collegiate athlete could not sell their autograph for money. This prohibition extends to any benefit brought in as a result of their status as an athlete. It’s not uncommon for these rules to be broken with famous violations ranging from Reggie Bush at USC, to Michigan’s Fab Five. The regulations surrounding amateur compensation through benefits or money has been a hot topic in the NCAA for years. Many argue these players are bringing in serious cash that they should see a part of. Others argue that college sports are built on a foundation of amateur athletics and the influence of money could destroy that. Either way, one of the biggest teams in college football, found themselves smack dab in the middle of this issue. Flashforward Now let’s go ahead and jump to the 2010 season, the Buckeye’s lived up to their always high expectations. The team went 11 and 1, taking a share of the Big Ten Championship and would be making an appearance in the Sugar Bowl to play the University of Arkansas. However, things were about to take a turn for the worse. On December 7th, 2010, the Ohio State office of legal affairs received a letter from the Department of Justice regarding football memorabilia seized during a federal investigation. Sound familiar? The letter included a list of the memorabilia items and how they were obtained. The items included Big Ten Conference Championship rings, trophies and uniform items. The purpose of the letter was "to make certain that neither the institution nor the players involved claim any ownership interest in the items being seized." University official quickly met with the athletes in question and began interviewing athletics personnel about the alleged violations. At the front of this headline was star quarterback Terelle Pryor. Now the word star may be a bit of an understatement. Coming into Ohio State, Pryor was ranked the number one overall football recruit in the nation. Highly recruited in both basketball and football, Pryor was the definition of a dual-threat. Pryor even was ranked higher than future NFL superstars Julio Jones, A.J. Green, and Andrew Luck. Pryor’s success easily translated at the next level. Over the course of three years, Pryor had amassed over 6.000 passing yards and 74 touchdowns but now, he was at the center of controversy that threatened to end his career as a Buckeye. Along with Pryor were running back Dan “Boom” Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey, offensive tackle Mike Adams, defensive end Solomon Thomas, and Linebacker Jordan Whiting. After confirming the violations, Ohio State reported the violations to the NCAA and sought reinstatement for the athletes. Pryor, Herron, Posey, Adams and Thomas were suspended from the first five games of the season but were permitted to play in the Sugar Bowl, due in part to a lack of education provided by the athletics department. Along with the suspension, Pryor was forced to pay $2,500 for the sale for his 2008 fiesta bowl sportsmanship award, Big 10 championship ring, and gold trinket pants awarded to players that beat Michigan. Dan Herron, was forced to pay $1,150 dollars for the sale of jersey’s, pants, and shoes, alongside the discounted tattoo’s amounting to $150. Wide Receiver DeVier Posey was forced to pay $1,250 for the sale of his championship ring and discounted tattoos. Offensive tackle Mike Adams, defensive end Solomon Thomas, and linebacker Jordan Whiting all received similar penalties, with Whiting receiving the lowest form of consequences with his suspension shifting to only one game with a $150 donation to charity. Tattoogate - The Coach Interestingly enough, the most controversial part of this scandal wasn’t even the actions of the players. What really made this become an eye-catcher among the public was the actions of Jim Tressel. Remember when Coach Tressel said he would “get on it ASAP?” Well…not quite. You see, the day after Tressel received the email notification of potential violations, rather than send them to the athletics director or compliance officer, Tressel forwarded the message to Ted Sarniakm, personal advisor to Tressel’s star quarterback: Terrel Pryor. Now Tressel would exchange four additional messages with Cicero during the summer of 2010, with Cicero continually warning Tressel of Rife’s potential negative influence on athletes at OSU. While Tressel would acknowledge brief conversations with the players in question, at no point did he directly discuss or advise against player interaction with Rife or the alleged violations. To make matters worse, in September of 2010, Tressel signed a document confirming he had reported any and all violations to the university’s compliance office when in fact, he had not. This lie by omission would later haunt Tressel. Initially, when the violations emerged in December, publicly, these violations were defended by Coach Jim Tressel, with him stating the money was used to support the players families in a harsh economic climate. Some felt this claim was a bit contradictory to the truth with the headline of the story being the purchasing of tattoos, something that was later once again defended by Tressel, with him stating the bulk of the benefits came from the sale of memorabilia, with that money going towards family support. Tressel himself would soon become the center of the scandal. Head Coach Jim Tressel, one of the most decorated coaches in Ohio State history at the time. When the allegations came out in December of 2010, Tressel pretended to have no knowledge of the events that transpired. Tressel’s denial, changed in April of 2011 when details of his inaction began to surface. It became known that Tressel had talked with players and learned of the violations yet chose not to come forward to the NCAA or Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith. OSU learned of Tressel's inaction and released the information in March of 2011. Tressel initially a received a $250,000 fine and two game suspension at the start of the next season. To demonstrate solidarity with his players, Coach Tressel would request that his suspension be increased to five games. While seemingly the end of it, Tattoogate would prove to be the ultimate downfall of this acclaimed coach, something we’ll cover as we dive deeper into the aftermath and repercussions of the scandal. Repercussions - The Team Beyond the players and head coach, the NCAA Committee on Infractions further sanctioned the entire Ohio State football program following the Tattoo Gate scandal. These sanctions included a one-year ban on postseason play, including conference championships, something that would prove to be a catalyst in an uneventful 2011 season for the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes also lost out on three scholarships yearly from 2011 to 2014. In addition, the NCAA allowed for players to transfer to a different school without facing the usual formality of sitting out a whole year. This made it attractive to second or third string players who could make an impact on a different team but did not want to sit out. Further penalties included a three-year probation, forfeiting revenue sharing totaling $338,811 for the 2011 Sugar Bowl, and all 2010 wins vacated, including the Big 10 Championship and Sugar Bowl. Repercussions - The Coach Originally starting as a fine and suspension, the repercussions of Tatoogate for head coach Jim Tressel only seemed to spiral, ending in what seems to be the conclusion of his career coaching football at the highest collegiate level. The stain to his reputation led to public pressure from fans and the media for further action by the Ohio State athletics program. However, when asked about potential termination of Coach Tressel, University President Gordon Gee stated: “No, are you kidding? ... I'm just hoping the coach doesn't dismiss me.” A joke that was not well received given the circumstances. Ultimately, in May of 2011 Tressel resigned from the Ohio State football team after ten seasons. On top of this, Tressel later received a five-year show-cause penalty, essentially barring him from a job in college football for half a decade and putting the final axe to his coaching career. Ohio State, while losing one of their most renowned coaches, actually used the scandal and resignation of Tressel to their advantage, landing coaching legend Urban Meyer as his replacement. Meyer, who had been on leave from coaching at the time, stated he had not planned on and would not have returned to coaching that season had it not been for the opening in Columbus. Meyer would lead the team to the 2014 National Championship before retiring in December of 2018. After a brief stint with the Indianapolis Colts, Jim Tressel now serves as the President of Youngstown State University, the same school he started his career as a head coach. Shortly after Tressel’s resignation, rumors of additional violations on the part of Terrel Pryor began to emerge. After refusing to participate in further investigations, Pryor would leave the OSU in June of 2011 and opt to enter the NFL Supplemental Draft being picked up by the Oakland Raiders. While Pryor did not materialize as a consistent NFL starter at quarterback, he found his role as a wide receiver in the NFL to be fruitful. Although a free agent, Pryor seems poised to come back for another NFL season. Pryors co-violators would all return to Ohio State the following year and enjoy breif careers in in the NFL and CFL. As for Eddie Rife, he spent three years in federal prison for intent to distribute and money laundering convictions. Finally, remember Chris Cisnero? The lawyer who tipped off Coach Tressel? Well he actually had his law license suspended for informing coach Tressel about Rife’s legal case and would later be disbarred for additional misconduct in 2019. Closing Thoughts So should student-athletes get paid? This is a question that’s been circulating college athletics from the very start. While many believe money brings in problems, problems that would ultimately bring a negative impact to the NCAA, others argue it’s unfair to profit off of these players while they do not realize any of the profits. Now fast forward to around 8 years after Tattoo Gate, and the NCAA made an announcement in 2019 that they will pursue legislation to allow players to benefit financially off their name, image, or likeness. Hearing this makes you want to question the true significance of Tattoo Gate. A coach was given a show-cause penalty, a storied program was forced to vacate wins and championships, and players were forced to sit out over something that could potentially be legal very soon. Conclusion So there you have it, a full-blown scandal, from players to coaches, to the very core of what makes the world go round: money; Tatoogate exemplifies the current controversy of amateur athletics. We here at Major – Stories of NCAA Scandals hope you enjoyed our first episode covering the world of NCAA scandals. If you want to keep it going, give us a follow on our social media at brown_athletics on twitter or major podcast on Instagram. Thank you everyone for tuning in, again I’m your host Chris Brown wishing you a good day and life free of scandal! Sources https://www.forbes.com/sites/sportsmoney/2011/12/21/top-10-lessons-from-ohio-states-tattoo-gate/#6ee1c42d390d https://bleacherreport.com/articles/719411-scandal-at-ohio-state-part-1-of-5-the-tattooed-five-tressels-cover-up https://law.marquette.edu/national-sports-law-institute/tattoogate-january-10-2012 https://www.espn.com/college-football/news/story?id=5950873 https://www.thelantern.com/2012/06/breaking-it-down-tattoo-gate-scandal-costs-ohio-state-almost-8m/ https://web3.ncaa.org/lsdbi/search/miCaseView/report?id=102374
About the podcast Major - Stories of NCAA Scandals
Hosted by former NCAA staff member, Chris Brown, the Major podcast explores college sports scandals long forgotten. Revisit the most iconic scandals from the Southern Methodist University "Death Penalty" case to the tragic murder of Patrick Dennehy.