The bigger they are, the harder they fall
Jim Tressel brought a lot of things to Ohio State University but the last thing anyone expected was that he would bring shame to the school. Tressel brought winning seasons,
pride, a national championship, big name sports figures, the sweater vest
fashion trend, and money—lots of money!
Everyone loves a winner. The Buckeyes consistently placed in the top 10 nationally under
Tressel’s reign making him another OSU legend. He also did it with style and
grace. He avoided controversy at all costs always giving vague, non-committal
answers at press conferences earning him the nickname of The Senator. He preached
faith and family and wasn’t afraid to take the fatherly role and punish or “bench”
a player when needed. So how did he come to a forced resignation?
By now we all know the story of what is being called “TattooGate”. A few players sold
some of their championship rings, gold pants charms, and uniforms to an owner
of a tattoo parlor (who is now under federal indictment) for money and
discounts on tattoos. When Tressel heard about the incident several months
later he covered it up rather than taking it to the university compliance
office and the Athletic Director.
I like to think that it all began very innocently on Tressel’s part. Judging from the
love and respect his players publicly profess for him and his leadership, I feel
his first reaction was to protect his players who he viewed as his family. The typical
first reaction would be to wait until later to see how big of a problem this
might be. Why alert the National Guard if it is only a small domestic
But, unfortunately, this small step grew into a slight stumble and then a huge fall.
The first big mistake was in September 2010 when he signed an annual statement with
the NCAA stating he did not know of any NCAA violations he had not reported;
even though he first learned of the problem the previous April. By the time everything
came to light in December there was a huge problem. Ohio State had won the Big
10 Championship and was preparing to go to the Sugar Bowl.
That championship was won with ineligible players but NCAA and Ohio State officials were confident the problem was limited to just a few players. They were given the
green light to play in the Sugar Bowl but would have to sit out the first six
games of the 2011-2012 season. This decision involved millions of dollars. The Sugar
Bowl stood to lose millions by changing teams at the last-minute and the Ohio
State fans, who had already booked reservations for the game, would lose tons
Ohio State won that game but now may have to forfeit the whole season. This story wouldn’t be as tragic if Jim Tressel hadn’t portrayed himself as Mr. Do-Right. This tale
isn’t over and we may never know the full details. Was it an innocent mistake,
a tragedy of errors, an out-right lie, or a sacrifice to protect others? Did Coach
Tressel fall on his own sword to protect his players or someone in the
Who or what is to blame for this debacle? Is it the poverty or greed on the part of a few
players? Is it too much worship at the feet of the Great God of Greenbacks? Is
it the immaturity and inability to make good decisions on the part of the
players? Is it poor leadership at the top? Is it the culture of big time
college sports? Is it the trend of entitlement of today’s young people?
Although Coach Tressel made poor decisions, he did not create the problem. That began with a handful of players at a place they shouldn’t be, doing things they shouldn’t
do. Tressel is their coach, not their babysitter.
I heard twice today on sport talk radio and TV about entitlement and posses (as in a sheriff’s posse or a group of people with a common purpose.). High profile players are coming into colleges and universities accustomed to privileges and expecting more of the same. They expect to be put on a pedestal and catered to. The idea of a posse is new to me but Colin Cowherd said today on his radio show, The Herd, that this is a part of sports. These players come with their own group of hangers-on who do everything for them from carry their helmets to whatever.
Many are questioning Terrell Pryor and his fancy sports cars and life style. They say
once he arrived on campus everything changed. Pryor received special favors and
privileges, according to those in the know. He is also under NCAA investigation
according to today’s Columbus Dispatch.
All of these incidentals aside, the very root of the problem is money. College football is
no longer just a couple of rival hometown college teams gathering on a Saturday
to play for a bell or a wooden turtle. It has grown to a billion dollar sport. Let
us not kid ourselves, Ohio State IS Columbus’s pro football team.
I’m sure we will learn much more about all this as the investigations continue. But, for now, let us go back to a more normal life. The center of the spotlight, Coach
Tressel, is gone. Let us take a moment to thank him for some great games and
wish him well. He had to resign to deflect the glare of the lights from the OSU
football program as they prepare for the fall season—whatever that may be.
NOTE–Please read the attached link below. The interview with Tressel’s QB in Youngstown gives a whole new slant on Coach Tressel and controversy.
- Ex-QB disputes claim Tressel knew of his illegal actions (charlotte.news14.com)