When the Indianapolis Colts announced that new consultant Jim Tressel would have to sit out the team’s first six games, they made it sound like that was a mutual decision between Tressel and the team. But NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says that if they hadn’t reached that mutual decision, he would have made the decision for them.
Appearing on ESPN Radio today, Goodell said that if the Colts didn’t sit Tressel down at the start of the season, Goodell would have done it himself.
“I didn’t have to get to that point,” he said. “But I think it was clear that if they did not take an appropriate action then I would have taken action.”
The question is, What constitutes an appropriate action? Tressel broke NCAA rules and lost his job as head coach at Ohio state, but when did it become the NFL’s job to punish people for breaking NCAA rules?
The answer to that question is that it became the NFL’s job when the NFL decided to suspend Tressel’s old quarterback, Terrelle Pryor, for the first five games of this season — the same number of games Pryor was initially suspended for the start of Ohio State’s season, before he ultimately left Ohio State and entered the NFL’s supplemental draft.
Once the NFL suspended Pryor, it would have been unseemly not to suspend Tressel. But suspending Tressel would also create a messy precedent: Does the NFL really want to get into the business of suspending coaches who leave colleges with an NCAA mess in their wakes?
As far as Goodell is concerned, the Colts’ decision to bench Tressel for six games means he won’t have to set any precedent.
“They made a determination not to allow him to start coaching until Week 7 and I support that decision,” Goodell said. “I think it’s a wise one.”
The question is whether Goodell will make the same decision the next time such a situation arises.