CINCINNATI - Memories of Jermaine Hopkins' death in a gang dispute in 1996still haunt Jim Tressel. The Youngstown State star defensive endwas shot in the head as he tried to quell a disturbance nearcampus. He was and always will be 21.
A long time friend of the Ohio State coach told me tonight thatthe incident and hope of heading off future tragedies led him toquickly comply with federal authorities' requests to keep quietabout their investigation of a tattoo shop owner.
I'm told that Tressel was inclined to feel that playing along,even though Ohio State and the NCAA were technically entitled toknow, would help take dangerous criminals off the street.
He naively thought a greater good was being served by hisdiscretion. Naturally the Buckeyes' coach is deeply troubled bythis mar on his reputation.
I'm told that while he didn't mention it Tuesday night topossibly mitigate the headlines, much more will eventually berevealed about the situation. At which time I'm assured, JimTressel will be proved to have done the right thing, if not in thecorrect manner.