COLUMBUS, OHIO (AP) - Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel received an e-mail last April telling him that two of his players were caught up in a federal drug-trafficking case and the sale of memorabilia, breaking NCAA rules.
Tressel responded: “I will get on it ASAP.”
But he never mentioned it to Ohio State’s compliance department or his athletic director for more than nine months.
On Tuesday, Tressel was suspended for the first two games of the 2011 season and fined $250,000 for violating NCAA rules by failing to notify the school about the players’ involvement. He also will receive a public reprimand and must make a public apology.
The NCAA is still investigating and could reject Ohio State’s self-imposed penalties and add more sanctions.
“Obviously I’m disappointed that this happened at all,” Tressel said. “I take my responsibility for what we do at Ohio State tremendously seriously and for the game of football. I plan to grow from this. I’m sincerely saddened by the fact that I let some people down and didn’t do things as well as I possibly could have.”
Last December, the NCAA suspended quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four teammates for the first five games on the 2011 season for selling jerseys, championship rings and trophies to a local tattoo parlor owner. The suspensions came just 16 days after the U.S. attorney told the school of a federal investigation that included players.
The school did not learn until January, however, that Tressel had been tipped off to the federal investigation back in April.
Yahoo! Sports first reported Tressel’s prior knowledge of the possible improper benefits on Monday.
“I think that your No. 1 critic is yourself,” he said, tears welling in his eyes at a Tuesday night news conference. “You spend time thinking about how you can do things better. I don’t think less of myself at this moment. I felt at the time as if I was doing the right thing for the safety of the young people and the overall situation.”
Asked when he first realized that he had violated NCAA rules, Tressel blinked, faltered and hesitated _ momentarily speechless.
With Ohio State again being investigated by the NCAA, college football is digging out of yet another scandal. The 2010 season was weighed down from start to finish with NCAA issues, from North Carolina being investigated for players having improper contact with agents to the play-for-pay scheme involving Cam Newton’s father that was uncovered in November.
Last week, Oregon announced the NCAA and Pac-10 was looking into the school’s arrangement with a recruiting service.
The NCAA has faced criticism for going easy on rule-breakers, especially for letting Ohio State’s guilty players participate in the Sugar Bowl and for not punishing Newton, the Auburn quarterback, for his father’s misdeeds.
Tressel said he never thought of resigning, and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said he never seriously considered firing Tressel for violating his contract, which specifies that he must immediately report any _ the word is underlined in the contract _ information which pertains to violations of NCAA, Big Ten or Ohio State bylaws and rules.