Tressel Buckeye Bounced

For those of you living in a cave the past 15 hours or so, this morning Jim Tressel resigned as football coach at Ohio St effective immediately.  Personally I was saddened by these developments, but events had probably brought it to the point of inevitability.

At its essence, Jim Tressel failed to heed the lessons of Watergate.  Its not hard to draw the analogy at all.  It can be debated whether President Nixon was actually aware in advance of the break-in at the Democratic headquarters, or for that matter other “dirty tricks” and the break-in of the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, or if he simply assembled a team of shady men and gave them instructions to make sure his reelection campaign would not be outmanuevered, whatever it takes.  It can be debated whether Tressel was actually complicit with the likes of Mickey Monus at Youngstown St or Sarniak with Terrelle Pryor or if he simply turned a blind eye with the calculation that this happens with every major college big time program and its a necessary component to having winning talent.  Even John Wooden did it.  In both cases it was the coverup that killed them; in Nixon’s case it was 25.5 months from the Watergate break-in until “I shall resign the Presidency at noon tomorrow.”  In Tressel’s case it was roughly 14 months from when he got those emails until today.  Things move faster in the internet age (and Tressel didn’t have the CIA at his disposal).

The pathetic thing is its really over not that much.  One can genuinely ask why players aren’t allowed to sell memorabilia that was given to them like championship rings and gold pants trinkets (autographing and bartering game-worn equipment could be different if that stuff was technically school property).  Ohio St football of the Jim Tressel era is certainly not the only, first, or last team to have players that get sweetheart deals on cars or jobs with cushy duties.  But Tressel was explicitly advised of the memorabilia for tattoos and he lied about it, first covertly by keeping the emails secret, then more overtly by not revealing it with the September standard NCAA disclaimer or during the initial scandal investigation in December.

And so I am sad for several reasons.  Primarily Jim Tressel was a damn good football coach and I liked that my team had him.  I enjoyed the over .800 winning percentage, the 9-1 against Michigan, the fact they have been in the AP Top 25 for 100 consecutive polls, the conference titles and co-titles.  As long as the team was winning I wanted him to remain the coach.  There, I said it, I liked him because he won football games.  Call me shallow if you like, but I was born and raised an Ohio St fan too young to remember Woody Hayes (I was a toddler when he attacked the Clemson player) whose prior reference is therefor ‘Ole 9-3 Earle and the Big Game Choke Artist (to this day my dad has a term for a really dumb coaching decision.  He calls it being “John Cooper stupid”).  So the Tressel Decade was a refreshing summer evening breeze from the improbable victory over Miami (talk about a program with a less than clean background story) to “vest-bump” white-knuckler over Arkansas a few months ago.

Secondarily I am saddened for all the residual damage this has caused and is causing.  I hope I am wrong but I fear a sizable segment of Buckeye Nation is going to blame Terrelle Pryor for this.  The kid isn’t perfect to be sure.  But I think a fair analysis of the situation is that Pryor did not cause the downfall of Jim Tressel; Jim Tressel caused the downfall of Jim Tressel.  The same goes for the other members of the Tattoo Six, or Maurice Clarett, or other players whose transgressions are popping up on Tressel Timelines today.  Also Buckeye Nation, the protective clan that it is, has lashed out at those that dare question or probe or investigate.  There are certainly those in the media that are not exactly fair when it comes to Ohio St (I am thinking of you, Mark May) but I would hope that people would be able to relax and understand honest dialogue when they see it.  Perhaps the saddest I’ve been the whole past few months is when I heard Kirk Herbstreit was compelled to move out of Ohio.  I really do hope cooler heads will prevail.

So at some points thoughts do have to turn to 2011 and beyond for Ohio St football.  I wouldn’t want to guess what the NCAA will do to the football program as a whole.  I hope that a postseason ban is avoided but I wouldn’t care to bet money on that.  I really don’t know, and I suppose it is certainly possible that the facts of the situation will change, and that change will inform the NCAA’s decisions.  All indications are 2011 will be with Luke Fickell at the helm and the University not doing a coaching search until after the 2011 season.  What does Fickell have to do to avoid that search and get the job permanently?  If the sanctions are bad does the University have to suffer a few mediocre seasons with him and then look to build back up later in the decade?  Is someone, while publicly saying Fickell is our guy, quietly placing a phone call to Urban Meyer to see if he’s had enough family time yet?  If the team doesn’t stick with Fickell and Meyer isn’t in the cards would Bob Stoops think this is a good time to leave Oklahoma with the Big XII seemingly waning as a conference?  Bo Pellini, like Stoops, is an Ohio guy from Youngstown, and that would certainly add some spice to the Big Ten.  I’m sure the 2011 season will produce a flavor of the month candidate or three not currently on our radar screens.  Stay tuned.

Bottom line; let’s hope that Tressel’s resignation brings a sad end to a sorry chapter in our history.

One Response to “Tressel Buckeye Bounced”

  1. floyd Says:

    I truly feel bad for the situation that JT found himself in and understand he should’ve handled it better. I also believe that if the FBI hadn’t been investigating the tattoo parlor, this would all be ignored and that most of the big programs have infractions at least this bad. The ‘Vest’ gave us perhaps the best decade of Buckeye football and will be missed by many fans.

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