To those who have no more connection to The Ohio State University than what they occasionally see on the football field, Coach Jim Tressel has come to represent all that their program could not be. Not only did Coach Tressel guide his team to eight BCS games in ten seasons — three of which were BCS National Championship games, he did it in a way that others did not. Where others would show bravado, Coach Tressel showed humility. Where others would let emotions run wild, Coach Tressel was refrained. He became an icon of dignity and honor that is too often missing in college sports.
But coach Tressel and his players didn’t just excel on the playing field, they excelled in the classroom. Just last week, 40 members of the Ohio State football team received academic honors including Chimdi Chekwa who was one of five Big Ten male finalists for the Medal of Honor. According to a report in The Lantern, over the past six years Ohio State has carried one of the highest APRs in the country–36 points higher than the national average.
Yes, Coach Tressel is a great football coach but he is also a great educator and mentor. During his ten years at Ohio State he has not only brought great pride to our football program, he has brought great pride to our university. And that is why it is so difficult to see him leave under these circumstances.
At this point it is fairly safe to say that resigning was not what Coach Tressel wanted to do. Given the choice coach Tressel would have chosen to be with his players, to face whatever came at them together, as a team. However, now that Sport’s Illustrated has taken their turn quoting anonymous sources and printing disputed allegations, it is obvious that there is no way Coach Tressel could stay. The media has deemed him guilty going so far as to say, “His integrity was one of the great myths of college football.” (SI investigation reveals eight-year pattern of violations under Tressel)
Without a doubt, Sports Illustrated is taking great joy at providing the final nail in the coffin of Coach Tressel’s career at Ohio State. They made a point of contacting Ohio State and asking that Coach Tressel be made aware of the allegations in the story. (What better way to sell magazines than to force the resignation the day before the issue hits the stands.) According to Sports Illustrated, instead of responding, Ohio State spokesman Jim Lynch told Ohio State to contact Coach Tressel’s lawyer Gene Marsh for any further comment. At that moment, the die had been cast and ending Coach Tressel’s tenure at Ohio State was only a matter of formalities.
More investigations and accusations will come. The Dispatch is reporting today that Terrelle Pryor is facing a much deeper NCAA investigation and it’s quite possible that his Ohio State career may also be over. The next few months will be a feeding frenzy as journalists quote every anonymous source who ever saw an Ohio State player walk past a tattoo shop or park a car.
Regardless what the NCAA decides to do with Coach Tressel, this is the end of his coaching career. Unlike other coaches faced with NCAA violations, he is not flying the coop for the NFL. In time, this will blow over and like Coach Hayes, who maintained a campus office in the ROTC building until his death, and Coach Bruce and Coach Cooper, who also maintain an active presence at Ohio State, he will find his place in Columbus. He has made a profound mark in the annuals of Ohio State history and will continue to be a presence at this great institution. As he said in his resignation letter, “We will be Buckeyes forever.”
This is not only a loss for Ohio State, this is a loss for all of college football.