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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Jim Tressel Had Us All Fooled

Scott Enyeart |
May 30, 2011 | 4:19 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter


The once revered coach's character is now in question. (Creative Commons)
The once revered coach's character is now in question. (Creative Commons)
Jim Tressel is not the man we thought he was.

The man they called "The Senator" while he roamed Ohio State's sideline as the Buckeyes' head coach has been removed from office.

So long, sweater vest.

On a day reserved for remembering the men and women who fought for our country, we are instead scratching our heads trying to figure out if anything of what we remember about Jim Tressel is even true.

We thought he was a man of high character, interested in helping boys become men on and off the field.

We thought integrity was more important to Tressel than winning.

We were wrong.

Tressel apologists will tell you he was just doing what he thought was right, that he was trying to protect "his kids."


He was trying to protect his job. He was trying to protect his win-loss record. He was trying to protect his "stars" so he could protect his legacy.

One could argue that Tressel's hand was forced by the ultra-competitive world of collegiate athletics, where one bad season can cost you your job.

But Tressel was supposed to be about more than that.

The success of Ohio State's football program hinged on the play of Terrelle Pryor and the rest of the players that we've now come to know as the "Tattoo Five."

Tressel knew that, and he acted accordingly.

He acted as though his squeaky clean reputation would justify his actions.

He acted selfishly.

If Tressel had received an email last spring about, oh, I don't know, Jon Lorenz instead of Terrelle Pryor, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

You see, a kid like Lorenz is a mere walk-on defensive lineman. His spot on the team has little effect on wins and losses.

If it was Lorenz who was getting tattoos, cars and selling his championship memorabilia, Tressel would have called the kid in to his office, walked him down to compliance and then cut him from the team. 

At least, the Tressel we thought we knew would have.

Had Tressel been the man he portrayed himself as, he would have told compliance what he knew instead of signing a letter in September saying he knew of no violations in his program. Pryor and the gang would probably have sat out the Toledo game and that would have been the end of it.

Instead he decided winning was more important. 

If Tressel cared about others, he wouldn't have withheld information from his compliance department, from his athletic director and from his university president.

If Tressel was "just looking out for his kids," he sure has a funny way of doing it.

His "kids" will likely vacate the season they just played.

His "kids" promised they'd stay in school if they were reinstated for the Sugar Bowl.

His "kids" will now be calling someone else "Dad." In the interim, that will be Luke Fickell.

And what's even worse is that someone else's "kids" will now suffer.

When the NCAA gets around to completing the Ohio State investigation and handing down punishments, Tressel's successor will be the one dealing with potential bowlbans, scholarship losses and more.

Someone else's team will be the one that pays. 

The Jim Tressel we supposedly knew wouldn't have let that happen.

As the weeks and months go on following his resignation, more information will surely come out about the Jim Tressel era. We'll learn more about the coach who won a BCS Championship, seven Big Ten titles and led his team to eight BCS bowl games.

We'll learn more about the real Jim Tressel.


Reach Scott by email, or follow him on Twitter.



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