But when the door closes around 8:30 a.m. and the hearing begins, what's in the air shouldn't matter. The 10-member committee will decide Ohio State's sanctions based on the evidence the NCAA enforcement staff provided and the words of the OSU administrators.
"You focus on the record and the people in front of you," a former committee member said. "You do not have in mind outside agendas or talk about summits or even media reports. You build a box around your head and keep that stuff out."
"If we had known, myself, [Ohio State athletic director] Gene [Smith] and the NCAA all would have handled it a little bit differently," Delany said before departing BCS meetings Thursday.
Delany appealed along with the school for the five players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, to be considered for participation in the Sugar Bowl. A little-known rule loophole allowed the players' five-game suspensions to be deferred.
Cicero said when he asked Tressel to keep the e-mails confidential, he meant that he would not go to the media or the public, not that Tressel couldn't inform the school or launch his own investigation.
"I wanted him to know that the kids had been hanging out with a person who was the subject of a federal investigation," Cicero said when asked why he told Tressel about the players' relationship with Eddie Rife, the owner of the tattoo parlor. "As a result of that, I also heard that they had been exchanging memorabilia with this particular person. And I outlined that in the e-mail. I threw it out there, quite frankly, it was just to tell him [Tressel] that that's what it was."