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Mahone column: OSU's Tressel getting off fairly easy

Somebody please tell me why Jim Tressel is still the football coach at The Ohio State University.

Stupid of me to ask because we know the answer - he wins football games.

For nearly a year, the highly-successful football coach has been living a lie. Since April 2010, Tressel knew that five of his football players, including quarterback and one-time Heisman Trophy candidate Terrelle Pryor, were running afoul of NCAA rules. They were selling memorabilia items to a local tattoo-parlor owner, who was under federal investigation.

Instead of doing the right thing and reporting it to school and NCAA officials once he got word of it, Tressel just swept it under the rug. There were Big Ten Conference football games that had to be won, and the Buckeyes had a better chance with Pryor directing the offense.

It has been revealed that a Columbus, Ohio, lawyer forward e-mails to Tressel to let him know of his players potential misdeeds.

The original punishment for Tressel was a two-game suspension, $250,000 fine (petty cash for someone who makes a reported $3.5 million annually), a public reprimand, and he was required to make a public apology.

"Like my players, I am very sorry for the mistakes I made," Tressel said in the statement. "I request of the university that my sanctions now include five games so that the players and I can handle this adversity together."

Tressell knows better. It is in his contract to report alleged violations.

Once it was discovered that Tressel knew, he bumped his suspension to five games.

Instead, Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith should have showed Tressel the door. But the coach got a ringing endorsement from both the Smith and the school's president.

"Wherever we end up, Jim Tressel is our football coach," Smith said. "He is our coach, and we trust him implicitly."

Tressel got off easy not being handed a pink slip for his big lie.

Now, the football program is a wait-and-see mode as the NCAA completes its investigation into Tattogate. The NCAA still could vacate Ohio State's 2010 season because Tressel knowingly used ineligible players.

Tressel's defense in not reporting the possible rules violation is because did not want to "interfere with a federal investigation" and worried that sitting eligible players would raise a "whole new set of questions."

And lose some football games. This past season, the Buckeyes were 12-1 while gaining a share of the Big Ten championship. All five players were allowed to play in the team's Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas with the condition that they return to the university for the 2011 season instead of declaring for the NFL draft.

Now, coach and players will be allowed to practice this coming season, but sit out the first five games.

It just shows that winning is still above everything in today's college athletes.

Derrick Mahone covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Da.