Posted September 05, 2011

Colts pick up NFL’s mess, ‘suspend’ Jim Tressel

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After Terrelle Pryor's five-game NFL suspension, questions emerged as to whether Jim Tressel would receive similar treatment when hired by the Colts. (AP)

The Colts released a statement Monday morning announcing that Jim Tressel would serve, in essence, a six-game suspension before joining the team in his role as a game-day consultant. The team isn’t calling it a suspension, but by telling Tressel not to show up for work until the season’s seventh game, that’s basically what it is.

With several Ohio State players sitting out the first five games of the season due to improprieties under Tressel’s watch, and Terrelle Pryor banned from Raiders games and practices until after Week 5 by Roger Goodell, Tressel’s punishment seems to fit the crime. Indeed, he would have been suspended for OSU’s first five games if he didn’t resign.

One question, though: Why are the Colts doing Roger Goodell’s job?

Just before Oakland took Pryor in the supplemental draft, Goodell and the NFL levied that five-week suspension on the ex-Buckeye. Amid the highly-publicized decision, the league argued that Pryor flouted the draft rules in order to reach the NFL this season.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello tweeted of Pryor: “you can’t break rules that undermine the integrity of our eligibility rules and get a free pass into the NFL.”

At the time, everyone wondered what would then happen in Tressel jumped to the NFL, especially given Pete Carroll’s scot-free jump from sanction-blasted USC to the Seahawks. We found out not that long after, when Tressel joined the Colts staff: nothing.

The NFL did nothing, and worse yet, gave no indication that it had any intention of doing anything.

Here’s part of Colts vice chairman Bill Polian’s statement Monday:

“Over the weekend Coach Tressel, Mr. Irsay, Coach Caldwell and I had a discussion of the issue. In addition, we had a conversation with league officials to apprise them of the details of Coach Tressel’s employment and the issues we were reviewing.

“At Coach Tressel’s suggestion, and with Mr. Irsay’s concurrence and support, we have decided to begin Coach Tressel’s employment effective with our seventh regular season game. We have informed the league office of our decision and expect that they will be supportive of it.”

Why wouldn’t the league be supportive of it? The Colts basically took on all the responsibility of something the NFL should have had to deal with. Whether the idea for a six-game “suspension” came exclusively from Tressel, as the statement indicates, or the Indianapolis front office pushed for it, the fact of the matter is that the Colts did not have to punish Tressel at all.

Having Tressel up in the coaches’ booth probably won’t make or break Indianapolis’ success this season, but the Colts obviously believe he can help or they wouldn’t have reached out to him in the first place. There was nothing preventing them from ignoring Tressel’s Ohio State transgressions or chalking up the loss of his job there as punishment enough.

Goodell’s power has grown and grown in recent years, to the point where he’s almost untouchable in NFL circles.  The double standard served up in this Pryor-Tressel mess shows why that might be a problem.

Given the league’s vehement stance against how Pryor entered the supplemental draft — and its lengthy delay in even declaring him eligible for said draft in the first place — this whole turn-the-other-way approach to Tressel’s situation is staggering. Maybe the NFL would have shown more interest if Tressel had landed a head coaching job. Carroll’s situation hints that’s probably an unlikely conclusion.

Fortunately, in this case, the Colts had enough integrity to punish Tressel in line with sentences handed out to Tressel’s former players. It’s a shame the NFL did not feel it necessary to handle the situation itself.

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