Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany believes he might have acted differently toward five Ohio State players who were allowed to play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl despite NCAA violations had he known the information that has since been uncovered.
The players were permitted to wait until this fall to begin serving a five-game suspension for accepting money and tattoos from the owner of a Columbus tattoo parlor. It wasn't until more than a week after the Buckeyes' 31-26 victory over Arkansas that school officials realized coach Jim Tressel had known about the violations for more than nine months.
"Based on what we knew, we just spoke on behalf of the kids and the NCAA made the decision it made," Delany said Thursday at the annual Bowl Championship Series meetings in New Orleans. "But I don't think anybody had the knowledge that we have now."
The NCAA is investigating Tressel for knowing about potential major rules violations but not telling Ohio State officials about it. The ruling body of college athletics sent a 13-page "notice of allegations" to Ohio State last Friday that said Tressel "failed to deport himself ... [with] honesty and integrity" and accused him of lying when he filled out a compliance form in September that said he had no knowledge of NCAA violations by any of his players.
Tressel and Ohio State are scheduled to go before the NCAA's infractions committee Aug. 12.
"I'm concerned about it. I think it's a serious situation," Delany said. "The facts are fairly well known and I think the institution will get in front of the infractions committee and then they'll render their opinion in a timely way."
Ohio State believes the case is closed on the five players -- starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, offensive lineman Mike Adams, tailback Dan "Boom" Herron and wide receiver DeVier Posey, along with backup defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.
Delany said he had no qualms about speaking up for the players.
"I spoke on the fact that it wasn't a recruitment issue -- it wasn't an agent issue, it was an extra benefit issue, and it was an extra benefit issue that to our knowledge was isolated and confined," he said. "So it was on that basis that I appealed on behalf of the school. But we didn't have the information we have today."
Tressel, who makes about $3.5 million a year, initially received a two-game suspension and $250,000 fine for not passing along the information. The ban was extended to five games to coincide with the players' punishment.
Also Thursday, Ohio State released a letter from a U.S. attorney dated Dec. 7, 2010, in which the school was notified of numerous football jerseys, cleats and other memorabilia discovered during a raid on the home of Edward Rife, the subject of a federal drug-trafficking investigation. It was the letter that eventually led to the players' suspensions.
The letter stated Ohio State players had received between $12,000 and $15,000 in cash, free tattoos and reduced-price tattoos for providing the merchandise, some of which was signed.
The letter revealed that there was far more memorabilia found in the raid than previously reported and that it was worth thousands more than originally thought.
Tressel and the players participated in spring workouts and are cleared to take part in all preseason and 2011 regular-season practices. They must only be away from the team for Saturday games against Akron, Toledo, at Miami, Colorado and Michigan State.
The NCAA could accept Ohio State's self-report and the school's sanctions handed to Tressel or it could lengthen his suspension, add to the university's sanctions and even issue a "show cause" to the coach, making it extremely hard for Ohio State to retain him -- or for any other NCAA university to hire him.
Delany served as an NCAA enforcement committee representative from 1975-79. He was asked if the NCAA's standard for coaches is comparable to that for student-athletes.
"Higher," Delany said. "Just because they're the adults, teachers. They're very different than kids."