Boclair: Record of knowledge

Sunday, June 5, 2011 at 10:05pm

Coaching résumés throughout the country are gathering dust. Suddenly they remain tucked in a drawer without a second look. Email histories, on the other hand — all eyes are on those babies.

The circumstances of football coach Jim Tressel’s departure from Ohio State University has put the entire coaching community on notice the way George O’Leary’s aborted attempt to take over at Notre Dame once did nearly a decade ago. 

In case anyone has forgotten, Notre Dame hired O’Leary in December 2001, but he resigned five days later in disgrace when it was discovered that he lied about his academic and athletic history on his résumé. 

It was a defining moment in the history of college athletics that sent coaches in every sport scrambling to double-check their own qualifications and to clean up any inaccuracies — accidental or intentional.

It also led to a witchhunt in college athletics, as media outlets scrambled to try to catch other coaches and officials in lies so easily detectable. 

Vanderbilt ended up in the wake when it hired Tom Collen six months later to be women’s basketball coach. An apparent discrepancy between the academic qualifications he listed and the reality of his achievements led to his dismissal a day later. 

After a month of digging, Miami (Ohio) announced a clerical error led it to give false information to Vanderbilt, and that Collen had been truthful about his academic achievements, specifically the fact that he had earned two master’s degrees. 

Under normal circumstances, he probably would’ve been given time to sort it all out and ultimately would’ve kept his job. With the O’Leary fires still burning brightly, though, Collen was kicked to the curb as soon as possible.

Now we have Tressel, who was exposed as a liar by emails that showed he’d learned his players were selling memorabilia (an NCAA violation) long before he said he found out about it. That triggered a series of follow-up investigations and accusations, which led him last week just to walk away from it all.

Can’t you hear the Freedom of Information Act requests piling up, particularly in relation to colleges and universities with programs that recently received NCAA sanctions? 

It’s always tough to determine what a coach knows about his or her players’ off-the-field activities. Do the coaches arrange to have players paid, or is it simply a rogue booster at work? Do the players look to grab all they can get during their time on campuses, or are there elaborate programs in place that allow them to supplement the value of their scholarships?

These are not just matters of fact. They are ethical issues, and some believe that student-athletes should get money — one way or another — for their athletic service, which is of tremendous value to universities, athletics programs and cities in general. To put it another way: Cheaters can be accommodated and even forgiven. Right, John Calipari? 

Liars, on the other hand, simply will not be tolerated. Forgiveness of that sin takes a little longer. Just ask O’Leary. Or Tressel. Or Bruce Pearl, whose dishonesty was brought to light in a photograph. 

O’Leary and Collen eventually made their way back into the college coaching ranks, and each enjoyed some measure of success. Obviously, it’s too soon for Pearl and Tressel.

It’s not too late for coaches who still have their jobs to try to cover their tracks or come clean to their athletic directors and/or compliance officers about any potential misdeeds of which they are aware — particularly the ones for which there is a record of their knowledge.

David Boclair is sports editor of The City Paper. Follow him on Twitter @BoclairSports and email him
at dboclair@nashvillecitypaper.com.