Alamo Coaches Field Tough Questions

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and Oklahoma State coach Les Miles met the media this morning, answering questions for the final time before Wednesday's Alamo Bowl (8 p.m., ESPN). Tressel dealt with a number of questions regarding the suspension to quarterback Troy Smith. (Note: This story now contains football-related comments as well.)

His Ohio State football team is just one day away from playing Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl, but head coach Jim Tressel found football to be one of the last things anybody wanted to ask him about at his press conference this morning in San Antonio.

In the wake of an article in today's edition of The Columbus Dispatch, Tressel was quizzed about the report that a Springfield, Ohio, booster had provided cash for suspended OSU quarterback Troy Smith. The head coach deftly handled the questions during the 25-minute session, which also included a handful of questions for Oklahoma State head coach Les Miles.

Miles did not get off easy, either. He was twice asked by an Oklahoma reporter if he had any contact with LSU about its vacant head coaching job. Miles did not deny there had been contact, saying only that he did not want to discuss other jobs.

But Tressel likely fielded two-thirds of the questions during the question-and-answer session with many of those dealing with the Smith suspension and the program's reputation in the wake of the recent off-the-field allegations.

Tressel was asked if he was acquainted with the booster, identified by The Dispatch as 46-year-old Robert Q. Baker, a former executive with Poly-Care Services in Columbus.

"Do I know him? Yes," Tressel said without elaborating. "Has he ever traveled with us to any away games? I don't think so."

The Dispatch report revealed that Baker is considered an OSU booster since he owns a luxury suite at Ohio Stadium. The article outlines his possible ties to Smith, current OSU tailback Antonio Pittman and former OSU cornerback Chris Gamble.

"I am not that familiar with Poly-Care," Tressel said. "I do have a lot of confidence in what our compliance office does. They check those things out. Do I think they didn't do a good job checking that out? No, I always think they do a good job."

With Pittman's name mentioned in the article, Tressel was asked whether the freshman's eligibility was at question. When asked if Pittman would play in the Alamo Bowl, Tressel said, "Absolutely." When asked if he thought Pittman had not done anything wrong, he replied, "Correct."

Tressel was asked whether the volume of charges levied against the program rise to the level of a lack of institutional control. School officials have routinely maintained they had no prior knowledge of wrongdoing, something the NCAA traditionally cites when making findings of a lack of institutional control.

A reporter asked the coach if the continual use of this type of "ignorance is bliss" defense hurts the school's reputation.

"I don't know if anyone inferred if there is any bliss and, certainly, ignorance is not bliss," Tressel said. "Do I think we work hard in our compliance office within all of our teams' educational processes to make sure our young people understand what should be down and how it needs to be done? Absolutely. We work extremely hard at it.

"Are we flawless? No. But I don't feel bad at all about our intentions of doing things the best we can possibly do."

A reporter asked whether the volume of charges leveled at the program strikes at his reputation.

"We've talked about what does that word reputation actually mean," he said. "I guess it's in the eyes of the beholder. If I thought we weren't providing the type of support system and guidance for our young people, perhaps that reputation might not be in the way that someone would want to think of.

"But I feel good about the way our institution attacks helping young people and the job we do of creating educational opportunities."

Tressel than dropped a chilling observation that fit the day's revelation regarding the booster: "I worry a lot less about what goes on within Ohio State than I do about what happens outside the university."

According to reports, the university will likely disassociate itself from Baker as a result of its finding that he made payments to Smith.

"Obviously, there are consequences," Tressel said. "There are consequences for people who try to get around the program in that way. You talk about disassociation. You hate being a part of things like that, but it's real."

The Smith suspension was not the only touchy topic Tressel dealt with. The coach was also asked about the status of freshman wide receiver Albert Dukes, who stands accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl in his home state of Florida. Dukes, redshirting this year, was permitted to stay with the team and practice this week in San Antonio – even after news of his arrest broke shortly after the team's arrival here.

"He'll be back in school (winter quarter), taking part in every athletic and academic endeavor as a member of the team," Tressel said of Dukes.

Dukes reportedly has a court hearing set for Feb. 25 in Florida.

As noted, Miles did not get off the hook, either. He was asked about his interest in the LSU job and whether he had contact with anybody from that school.

"This game speaks to Oklahoma State versus Ohio State," Miles said. "I don't have any idea what's going on. At this time of the year, there is a lot of speculation. There has been speculation in the past. I take that as a complement for our kids, our team and the school I represent. I am focused and looking at the task at hand and going against a very, very talented Ohio State team."

Since he did not fully answer the initial question, Miles was again asked – point blank – whether he had contact with LSU.

"This is not the time to talk about other things," he said. "I am very happy in Stillwater. I love the job I have. I don't want to talk about other things or any job opportunities in any way."

Yes, There Is A Football Game

Contrary to popular belief, there will be a football game between these two schools Wednesday night at the Alamodome.

Here were some of the points discussed regarding the game during today's press conference:

* Tressel on the quarterback situation going into next year -- "Gosh, I have to say I have given that zero thought. The last thing Troy said to me, `I know I'm at the bottom of the totem pole and I'll be just fine.' "

* Tressel on Oklahoma State being No. 1 nationally in turnover margin -- "When I start looking at an opponent, I look at how they do in terms of turnover margin. You see if they understand and care about taking care of the ball. It also reflects on how much they fly around on the defensive side of the ball. If you look at that statistic, it is a telling mark in my mind."

* Miles on facing QB Justin Zwick instead of Smith -- "Our entire blitz package changed. We will probably explore the inside more than the outside. They run the same offense. Our plan will be somewhat changed. (Smith) is a gifted runner, but the other guy is very mobile."

* Tressel on Todd Boeckman's status as the backup QB -- "Our desire is for our seniors to have the best opportunity. If that means Todd Boeckman plays some at quarterback, then that's what it means. We have some other guys – Bam (Childress), Teddy Ginn and (walk-on QB) Ben Kacsandi – who have also spent some time there. You have to be able to take a snap. Our feeling has always been you have to have a pair and a spare."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories