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Marla Ridenour on Sports

Scandal 'scares' one of Tressel's biggest fans

By Marla Published: March 10, 2011

Akron resident Bebe Webner, aka ''Buckeye Bebe,''  wore scarlet and gray Wednesday. She said she'll probably be wearing Ohio State colors for at least three days.

But Webner, who considers Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel practically one of her sons, is worried about the scandal involving Tressel that resulted in his suspension for the first two games of the 2011 season and drew a $250,000 fine from the university.

 The NCAA is investigating Tressel's cover-up of his knowledge that two of his players were receiving improper benefits from the owner of a Columbus tattoo parlor who was also the subject of a federal drug trafficking probe. Tressel received e-mails from a Columbus attorney (a former OSU football player) about the rules violations in April, 2010, but still played the two players all last season. The matter did not come to light until December, before OSU defeated Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.

Five players were eventually suspended by the NCAA for the first five games next season for selling memorabilia and a sixth for one game. Tressel never notified his superiors of the situation. The e-mails were discovered during a university investigation of another matter.

"The NCAA is not going to let that ride,'' Webner said Wednesday. "It scares me a little bit. Tressel doesn't really need all of this. Do you think he would ever say goodbye, the heck with it? He doesn't seem like that to me. I hope he doesn't collapse over this.''

Webner, 84, whose suggestion for a Statute of Liberty play for the 2007 Ohio State-Michigan game landed her in Sports Illustrated, wrote Tressel a note of support Wednesday. But she admitted deciding what to say was difficult.

"I said, 'We've got your back, and there's thousands of us around,''' she said.

Still on Tressel's Christmas card list, Webner was upset by the battering Tressel was taking on ESPN and from radio host Jim Rome. She appreciated that ESPN's Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg mentioned how much good Tressel had done for the university and the community.

"To me it's like my kid getting in trouble,'' Webner said. "I think he went about it the wrong way. He should have thrown the whole thing to the athletic director. He's getting so much criticism and it's a shame for how much he's done. He's a great teacher, an inspirational guy. It makes me sick.

"It's like your best friend. If he's your best friend, he's always your friend. Everyone makes mistakes on occasion.''



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