College football fans know who Jim Tressel is. And they probably know that the embattled former Ohio State coach is charged with hiding information about players receiving impermissible benefits and with lying to the NCAA about his knowledge of those violations. They may not necessarily know, however, Gene Marsh, the man who will be sitting beside Tressel when the Buckeye coach, who resigned late last month, faces an NCAA hearing later this summer.
Gene, a 1981 graduate of Washington and Lee’s School of Law and perhaps the leading expert on NCAA compliance issues, has seen cases from both sides. He served as the University of Alabama Faculty Athletics Representative to the Southeastern Conference and the NCAA from 1996 through 2003. He also chaired the University’s compliance committee. He has extensive experience in the NCAA infractions process: he belonged to the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions from 1999 through 2008 and chaired it from 2004 to 2006.
So when Tressel found out he would need his own lawyer for the Aug. 12 hearing with the NCAA, he chose Gene, who practices with the Birmingham law firm Lightfoot, Franklin & White L.L.C. and has considerable experience in a variety of these cases. In fact, just last year Gene and a fellow lawyer from the firm represented the University of Michigan in its case with the NCAA. What’s interesting is that Gene is a Dayton, Ohio, native who received his B.S. and M.S. from Michigan’s bitter rival, Ohio State University. In stories about his decision to represent Tressel, Gene said that he was never a rah-rah Buckeye fan and didn’t even attend a football game while he was a student.
Perhaps a headline in the Birmingham News summed up the way many see Gene’s experience: “Jim Tressel brings out big guns for NCAA hearing: Gene Marsh.” And a columnist for CBS Sports wrote that “Gene Marsh is a pro. Gene Marsh has seen every angle of the NCAA enforcement process.”
That same columnist referred to Gene’s sense of humor, recalling what he once told an audience on academics and athletics: “Being a faculty athletic rep at a big Southern university is like working at a high school as the vice principal in charge of chastity. It’s a tough job.”