Jim Tressel: Losing his job had to happen
Someone on the radio the other day asked me if the NCAA was finally going to do something about Ohio State and its football scandals under coach Jim Tressel. I said sure, the NCAA is so mad at the Buckeyes, it’s going to put TCU on probation.
You remember, during these periodic new revelations about the problems at Ohio State, the NCAA announced a probation for Boise State over minor violations.
But the NCAA never was going to be the arm of justice for Tressel. That was always going to have to fall on Ohio State itself, primarily sanctimonious president Gorden Gee. And justice arrive Monday morning, when Ohio State asked for and received Tressel’s resignation.
Tressel is out for the same reason that Chuck Klein eventually made the Baseball Hall of Fame. As Bill James wrote years ago, there’s just too much there. And there was too much for Tressel, from repeated reports of NCAA violations to coverups by Tressel himself.
Ohio State and Tressel had a pristine reputation until the last six months. Tressel’s professorial image contrasted with that of, say, the cocky Pete Carroll at Southern Cal. But with every new report, Tressel’s role in the problems at Ohio State dwarfed those of Carroll at USC.
Tressel’s past was full of questionable practices. Maurice Clarett, the star of Ohio State’s 2002 national title team, was found to have a number of NCAA violations. A booster-payment scandal was found at Youngstown State when Tressel was coaching that school to Division I-AA prominence.
Truth is, you can’t judge a coach by his cover. Displaying protocol and spouting ethics is no assurance that a coach is playing by the rules. Tressel’s sweater vest was a shroud.
Tressel’s primary crime was his lying to NCAA investigators. But in the wake of the Dez Bryant scandal, it’s good to know that prominent coaches like Tressel and Bruce Pearl (Tennessee basketball) are held to the same standard — though with the coaches, it seems the NCAA is requiring employers to do the dirty work.
And finally, Ohio State was willing to do just that. My impression of Ohio State football culture is that the Buckeye fans might be a little less fanatic than the supporters of national powers farther South. I had dinner with a couple of Ohio State fans in Dayton, Ohio, in March. Big Tressel fans, but also deeply fearful that everything come out was true, and if it was, there was no expressed defense of Tressel. That impressed me.
I think those kinds of thoughts eventually got to Gordon Gee.
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