It was inevitable, unfortunately.
Jim Tressel fought back tears while announcing his resignation to his Ohio State football team Monday morning, an illustrious coaching career undone less than three months after his NCAA violations were first made public.
Following 10 years with the Buckeyes, seven Big Ten titles, a 9-1 record against Michigan and a national championship, Tressel was chased from his job by the scandal around his failure to be truthful with his bosses and the mounting public pressure that came with it.
Members of the team Sunday night received messages to meet Monday morning and feared what the news would be, and they were right. Accompanied by Athletic Director Gene Smith, Tressel announced his time as the head of the OSU program had ended. Assistant coach Luke Fickell will serve as the interim coach for the 2011-12 season and the school will hold a full search for a new coach next year.
“He was hurting, and he was fighting it,” said someone who was in the room for the announcement. “I couldn’t look at him because I was hurting myself.”
Smith, in a video released by Ohio State that served as his only official comment, said “our head football coach, Jim Tressel, has decided to resign.” But multiple sources confirmed that the resignation came following pressure from above.
“It’s an unfortunate situation. But in this day and age all of us have to pay for our mistakes,” said John C. “Jack” Fisher, an OSU grad and member of the Ohio State Board of Trustees since 2006, who said the trustees had been working on this decision for a while. “There will be an impact but I think we will be ready to move. Overall, I think there will be a positive reaction. I am optimistic that we are dealing with this the right way.”
OSU president Gordon Gee had appointed a special committee made up of some members of the board and other members of the administration to evaluate the situation facing the 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,” Gee wrote in a memo to Board members released by Ohio State. “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.”
Tressel’s departure does not end Ohio State’s issues, not by a long shot. But it does separate the school from one problem area. Both the coach and the school still face an Aug. 12 hearing before the NCAA Committee on Infractions. If he hopes to coach again one day, or if he just wants to attempt to defend his name, Tressel could appear at the hearing.
Ohio State is dealing with larger issues.
One expert on NCAA infractions said the committee should treat Ohio State more favorably because Tressel has departed, but a finding of a lack of institutional control by the athletic department as a whole could still lead to crippling sanctions if, as could be the case, more violations come to light. The Columbus Dispatch reported Monday that Ohio State and the NCAA have launched a separate investigation into quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
What’s known is that Tressel, who had been earning about $3.7 million a year, is out at age 58 after compiling a 106-22 record over the last 10 years. OSU spokesman Jim Lynch said he was unaware about any possible settlement between Tressel and the university, but it’s clear from his contract that his violations should allow his departure with cause with no further compensation.
“After meeting with university officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach,” Tressel wrote in his resignation letter to Smith, which was released by Ohio State. “The recent situation has been a distraction for our great university and I make this decision for the greater good of our school.
……Tressel’s reputation began to unravel on Dec. 23, when Ohio State announced in a news conference that six players had committed NCAA violations by receiving cash and discounted tattoos in exchange for memorabilia. Pryor and four others were suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season, and that was just the start.
As Tressel sat next to Smith in that news conference, the coach knew he had been alerted to potential violations involving his players and Columbus tattoo parlor Edward Rife in emails in April of 2010, information Tressel did not share with his bosses or the Ohio State compliance office, as required by his contract and NCAA rules. Ohio State discovered those emails in January and began an investigation in concert with the NCAA.
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Daniel Herron, receiver DeVier Posey and left tackle Mike Adams – all junior starters for the Buckeyes -and backup defensive end Solomon Thomas will be suspended for the first five games of 2011. Backup linebacker Jordan Whiting must sit out the opener next season.
I’ve been a big Ohio State football fan since the mid-60s. It’s heartbreaking to see players and the coach screw up and decimate the team like this.
NCAA rules are very specific when it comes to players accepting or obtaining money.
Don’t like the rules? Pressure the NCAA to get them changed.
Until then, NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from accepting free or discounted services because of their status as athletes. While eligible to play sports, they also cannot sell items given to them by the university, such as Big Ten championship rings.
Tressel knew about the violations for 10 months, but kept quiet. Had he come clean as soon as possible, he’d still have his job and the players probably would have received a slap on the wrist.
Lots of faithful Buckeye fans express disappointment and fault the media for overly intense scrutiny. Some fans say it’s simply “the same witch hunt that has gone on in the NCAA for years”, citing USC and Oklahoma. While it’s true that big schools make a ton of money off of their football programs, that is not a prerogative extended to players. You can debate the unfairness of that until you’re blue in the face, but it won’t change the fact that the NCAA forbids it.
Aside from that, OSU players who sell treasured items like championship rings and the gold pants for beating Michigan, prove at the very least, they have no regard for, and place very little value on those prestigeous awards.
Jim Tressel was a hell of a coach, the best the football team has had since the legendary Woody Hayes. It’s sad and pathetic to see him chased out of his job because of a dumb mistake like this. OSU will be without five key players for the first five games. Normally I wouldn’t be concerned, but since the team faces the adjustment of a new head coach and low morale, we’ll see how things work out. I hope they have some good recruits lined up. They’ll need them.