On Saturday, we reported that the Colts had hired former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel without league approval, and that Commissioner Roger Goodell would take a hard look at whether, like former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, his entry to the NFL should be delayed.
And it will be delayed.
The Colts have announced that Tressel will begin working for the team in their seventh game, which means that Tressel will be suspended for six games.
“After the announcement of Coach Jim Tressel’s agreement to join the Colts as a game day consultant, questions were raised with respect to the equity of his appointment as opposed to suspensions being served this season by present and former Ohio State players,” Colts vice chairman Bill Polian said in a statement released by the team.
“Over the weekend Coach Tressel, Mr. Irsay, Coach Caldwell and I had a discussion of the issue,” Polian added. “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.”
In other words, Polian has conceded that the Colts hired Tressel without letting the league office know in advance.
“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,” Polian said. “We have informed the league office of our decision and expect that they will be supportive of it.”
It’s technically not a “suspension,” but in reality it is. And the fact that Tressel got one more game than Pryor seems to suggest that the league and/or its teams view coaches who violate NCAA rules as being more culpable than players.
The Colts’ decision to impose the suspension on Tressel helps the league office avoid creating a crystal-clear impression that the NFL has now become an active participant in the enforcement of NCAA rules. Still, the somewhat-less-than-crystal-clear impression remains — the NFL and its teams, in deference to the curators of the league’s free farm system, will erect barriers to the commencement of employment in order to encourage compliance with NCAA rules.
With that line now crossed, the question becomes when, and if, the NFL will take action against folks whose NFL employment already has begun.
We think it’s more a question of when than if.