Today is a day for mixed emotions. On Memorial Day when our thoughts should be with those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to make this country so great, instead those of us who reside in the Buckeye Nation must struggle with our emotions as Ohio State announces it has accepted the resignation of Jim Tressel.
Unlike many in my profession, I wish it had never come to this and I will remain unconvinced Tressel had to go. Already this morning, the great philosopher Brent Musberger has opined that Tressel’s resignation will not mitigate pending NCAA sanctions against the OSU program. Musberger believes the NCAA will hit the Buckeyes with similar penalties as the ones handed down to USC that include vacated seasons, reduction of scholarships and a postseason ban.
Based upon the outside chance that Musberger isn’t conjuring his opinion out of thin air, why did the Ohio State Board of Trustees feel the need to pressure university president Dr. E. Gordon Gee and athletic director Gene Smith for Tressel’s resignation? And why did Gee and Smith accept it?
It seems to me that Tressel was the only one ready to go to battle. Why else would he have hired an attorney with vast knowledge of the innerworkings of the NCAA Committee of Infractions? I have always believed that with any kind of support – and I mean real support and not the vacuous kind he seemed to be receiving – Tressel could have weathered the storm. An expanded suspension and additional fine could have been in the offing, but he could have remained the coach. Instead, those at Ohio State who made the ultimate decision couldn’t stand the heat. Bowing to a crush of recent stories – none of which contained new information – the trustees and administration have taken the easy way out by caving and casting aside one of the most successful coaches in program history.
We can debate forever the merits of Tressel’s decision to withhold information after he learned his players were involved in improper activities. What is not up for debate is that this is one of the darkest days in Ohio State football history.
Those of you taking sanctimonious victory laps today have gotten your wish. When your euphoria wears off, I wonder how long it will take you to realize just how far back Tressel’s exit just set the Ohio State program. Then again, maybe you got bored beating Michigan every year, stringing together a record number of the Big Ten championships and playing in meaningful bowl games.
Some may believe Tressel’s resignation will begin to bring this whole sordid mess to a close. Speaking strictly for myself, I think it’s the beginning of a nightmare.
Tressel made a mistake and there is no denying that. But he did not pay his players, he did not commit recruiting violations and he did not run a rouge program. The majority of his players graduated on time, his program’s academic standing was exemplary and his production on the field was superlative. Add to those successes the untold number of charitable donations of both money and time that Tressel made over the past decade and you have one of the giants of his profession.
And still his superiors could not muster the fortitude to stand behind him when the heat was on? I would never in a million years have believed that could happen at The Ohio State University.