Monday, May 30, 2011
After months of trying to put band-aids on a severe and ever-widening wound to its reputation, Ohio State finally got the sad, but necessary surgery it had to have to make itself right again.
Jim Tressel, the once venerated Buckeyes football coach, is gone.
The Columbus Dispatch broke the news after obtaining a memo university president E. Gordon Gee sent to OSU trustees Monday morning.
“I write to let you know that later this morning we will be announcing the resignation of Jim Tressel as head coach of the University’s football program,” Gee wrote. “As you all know, I appointed a special committee to analyze and provide advice to me regarding issues attendant to our football program. In consultation with the senior leadership of the University and the senior leadership of the Board, I have been actively reviewing the matter and have accepted Coach Tressel’s resignation.
“My public statement will include our common understanding that throughout all we do, we are One University with one set of standards and one overarching mission. The University’s enduring public purposes and its tradition of excellence continue to guide our actions,” Gee wrote.
While Gee’s statement said Tressel resigned, it’s known that behind the scenes there has been growing pressure by several big-money boosters and influential OSU academics who wanted the school to remove the coach, not just for the NCAA violations that have happened under his watch, but for the way he hid those transgressions on numerous occasions from the university and the NCAA.
In the process Ohio State’s image has been getting more and more stained each week as additional revelations of wrongdoing and alleged wrongdoing keep coming out.
With growing scrutiny of its program nationwide and a pending NCAA investigation that could deliver an even more crippling blow, OSU power brokers might have determined enough is enough.
Or maybe Tressel came to that realization on his own.
Either way, this seemed like the only tenable move as the trouble kept mounting.
In this everybody’s-got-a-forum, tell-all age of Twitter and Facebook, one former Buckeye athlete after another told of questionable practices they witnessed or were a part of while at OSU.
Last week it was former Buck Ray Small who said he and other players sold memorabilia and got discounts on cars while playing football.
He said some players “don’t even think about NCAA rules”
He said he sold several Big Ten championships rings and said players received discounts from car dealerships
Six players—including starting quarterback Terrele Pryor, standout running back Boom Herron and top receiver DeVier Posey — have been suspended for those infractions, but Small alleged that there were more players involved. “They have a lot (of dirt) on everybody,” he claimed, “Because everybody was doing it.”
Recently the Columbus Dispatch found that at least 50 OSU athletes or their relatives had gotten cars from one Columbus car salesman, who may have discounted deals, a practice that could be in violation NCAA rules.
Last week former OSU basketball player Mark Titus wrote on his blog that he’d always wondered how Buckeye football players kept driving cars that most students never could afford, let alone scholarship athletes. “I’ll be shocked if the NCAA doesn’t find anything when they look into this car scandal,” he wrote.
Other former football players have also claimed they were part of or at least privy to the questionable actions that have gotten the current players sidelined for the first part of the season.
Tressel knew some of this was going on but he held it from his superiors and the NCAA, while secretly sharing the information with the Pennsylvania businessman who serves as Pryor’s so-called mentor.
Not only did he fail to fess up the matter for more than 10 months - until he was finally confronted by the facts his OSU bosses discovered while investigating another matter - but Tressel signed a statement to the NCAA that he knew of no violations in his program.
When you add in a couple of especially troubling situations from the past - the multiple violations that swirled around Youngstown State quarterback Ray Isaac and the incidents at Ohio State involving Maurice Clarett and Troy Smith - Tressel was starting to resemble the emperor with no clothes.
That’s too bad because while he was at OSU Tressel had done much good on the field and off of it. He won a national title, seven Big Ten championships and was 9-1 versus Michigan. He helped a lot of kids along the way and he and his wife were big donors to the university, especially its library.
Although it wasn’t that long ago that Tressel said he wouldn’t consider resigning - and he had hired a big-time attorney to represent him - the coach may have seen more trouble on the horizon, Maybe there are more revelations that are about to come out or maybe he got wind that the NCAA enforcers were going to drop the hammer.
Then again maybe the whole resignation matter wasn’t his choice at all.
Maybe folks at OSU - just as they once did with the beloved Woody Hayes - decided no one coach is bigger than a much-acclaimed school.
With Tressel leaving, assistant coach Luke Fickell - who was slated to guider the team as Tressel served an OSU self-imposed, five-game suspension to start the season - will guide the Bucks throughout the 2011 campaign.
And so athletics director Gene Smith summed it up Monday in a statement he released:
“We look forward to refocusing the football program on doing what we do best - representing this extraordinary university and its values on the field, in the classroom, and in life.”Tweet