The university noted that its corrective measures for the admitted violations – stemming from players selling OSU memorabilia and equipment and accepting discounts on tattoos – included suspensions for the players involved, the acceptance of head coach Jim Tressel's resignation and an active assessment of the school's compliance programs that could lead to extensive changes and argued that those actions should spare the school from further punishment.
"We are fully cooperating with the NCAA, and we look forward to working together to bring a resolution to these current matters," athletic director Gene Smith said. "Throughout the entire process since we discovered possible infractions, Ohio State has consistently acted to investigate any allegation, self-report its findings to the NCAA, communicate transparently about its findings, and take necessary remediation steps.
"Now, consistent with the direction set by our Board of Trustees, we are taking a very hard look on our own at all aspects of our athletic programs to identify and implement improvements designed to ensure that we uphold the highest ideals of honor and integrity."
The NCAA will now decide whether those measures are sufficient at a scheduled hearing between OSU and its Committee on Infractions set for Aug. 12.
The university also announced that it had reached an agreement with Tressel, 58, turning his resignation into a retirement. OSU noted the agreement resolves any issues arising out of his employment with the school, while its response to the NCAA admits the school "sought" the May 30 resignation of the popular coach.
Tressel also released his own statement, his first public comment since tendering his resignation.
"I take full responsibility for my mistakes that have led to the ongoing NCAA inquiry and to scrutiny and criticism of the football program," he said. "I am grateful for this opportunity to retire from the university that I so deeply respect and that I will continue to support."
As required, Tressel released his own formal response to NCAA allegations that he did not report his knowledge of possible violations committed by his players when alerted in a string of emails last spring by Columbus-area lawyer Chris Cicero.
In his letter to the NCAA, Tressel listed the same reasons for his actions as he did when an original suspension and fine for the head coach were announced in March – that he feared for the safety of the student-athletes, that he did not want to interrupt a federal investigation into tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife and that he respected the confidentiality requested at one point by Cicero.
However, not reporting the emails to Smith, athletics compliance or anyone else at the school was a violation of his contract and NCAA bylaw 10.1. In Tressel's response, it is noted that the coach "acknowledged the serious mistake he made in not reporting information concerning potential violations of NCAA legislation" and "should have taken the matter to officials at Ohio State."
Tressel's violation was one of two major violations laid out by the NCAA in its Notice of Allegations, delivered to Ohio State in April. The other concerned the six student-athletes from the 2010 team and one former player who had sold memorabilia and accepted the tattoos. Ohio State first became aware of that issue when contacted in early December by the U.S. Department of Justice, which had seized the memorabilia from Rife as part of a narcotics investigation.
Of the six, five – since-departed quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, wideout DeVier Posey, offensive lineman Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas – were suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season, while Jordan Whiting – who did not profit from any equipment or memorabilia sales – was given a one-game suspension.
In its response, the school says it believes those "corrective and punitive actions are appropriate" and ask that no further action be taken by the NCAA.
In a new development, another student-athlete, whose name is redacted, is also accused of receiving 12 tattoos, valued at $900. That player did not sell memorabilia, and his reinstatement is listed simply as "pending."
In addition, the release notes that the players who sold memorabilia did not know it was illegal and were facing financial hardship at the time, though the specifics of each case were redacted.
Among changes to the school's compliance and monitoring programs, the letter notes OSU will require proof of possession for previously disbursed memorabilia and not hand out "rivalry" apparel – likely the Gold Pants charm for beating Michigan – until the end of each student-athlete's career.
OSU is also expanding its compliance staff from six to eight and beefing up educational programs to student-athletes regarding compliance. The school previously announced a plan to study whether compliance should be moved out of the athletic department and instead be overseen by the school's legal counsel.
As far as punishment, the university's response to the NCAA repeatedly notes that institutional responsibility is limited and that the school self-reported issues and acted swiftly in dealing with them – including in its actions against Tressel.
Ohio State notes in its response that it could be subject to repeat violator punishment after a 2006 investigation into men's basketball recruiting, but the university argues it should not be subject to such penalties because of the dissimilar nature of the two situations.
A full copy of Ohio State's response to the NCAA Notice of Allegations and other related documents are available at http://www.osu.edu/news/ncaadocs.