May 30, 2011
The storied and lately sordid Ohio State coaching career of Jim Tressel has come to an end.
According to several sources, he embattled coach was asked to resign amid an NCAA investigation that revealed various indiscretions at Ohio State during his tenure.
Honestly, it's mildly stunning that it took this long.
Three months ago, President E. Gordon Gee and Athletic Director Gene Smith said they supported Tressel, but that support began to waiver after new stories and allegations began to surface almost daily.
Tressel said in a release that it was best that he step down:
"After meeting with University officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach. The appreciation that Ellen and I have for the Buckeye Nation is immeasurable."
Tressel's downfall can be traced back to April 2010 when he was emailed by former player and current Columbus attorney Christopher T. Cicero that his players were selling their memorabilia to tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife. Rife is currently under federal investigation by the U.S. Attorneys Office. It was the first of the 12 emails Tressel would exchange with Cicero. The communication concludes on June 6.
The rest of Tressel's collapse goes a little something like this:
• Sept. 13: Tressel signs an annual NCAA certificate of compliance form stating that he knows of no NCAA transgression within his team.
• Dec. 7: The U.S. Attorney's Office tells Ohio State officials that it discovered Ohio State memorabilia while raiding Rife's home. The merchandise is thought to be stolen.
• Dec. 9: Tressel lies and says it is the first time he's heard of players selling their memorabilia to Rife.
• Dec. 19: Oho State self reports violations to the NCAA.
• Dec. 22: NCAA suspends Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, Devier Posey, Mike Adams and Soloman Thomas for the first five games of the 2011 season.
• Jan. 13: Ohio State's office of legal affairs discovers emails between Tressel and Cicero.
• Jan. 16: Tressel is confronted and acknowledges knowing about the indiscretions since last September.
• Feb. 8: NCAA and school officials interview Tressel and he comes clean about his knowledge of his player's wrongdoings.
• March 8: Ohio State tells the NCAA about Tressel's violations and goes public about it.
• March 17: NCAA denies an appeal on behalf of the players.
• May 30: Tressel resigns.
Not included in this timeline are the multiple stories that surfaced regarding Rife and a car dealership that allegedly provided deals to Ohio State football players. But the nail in the coffin might have been last week's story by the Ohio State student paper, The Lantern, which detailed player violations thanks to the help of former wide receiver Ray Small. In the article, Small gave a callous account of players selling memorabilia for cash and getting deals at car dealerships. In the article, Small said he didn't understand why it was such a big deal and claimed, "(Some student-athletes) don't even think about (NCAA) rules."
Small tried to backtrack off the story late last week, but by that time the damage had been done.
Gee sent a letter to Ohio State trustees earlier this morning prior to the official announcement:
"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. 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."
Lost in all of this will be Tressel's achievements during his 10 seasons with the Buckeyes. He leaves with a record of 106-22, which makes his winning percentage better than Woody Hayes, who is considered the best coach in the school's history. Tressel was 9-1 against Michigan, he won seven Big Ten titles and the school's fifth national championship.
While Tressel should be mentioned in the same breath as Hayes when talking about the school's greatest coaches, his legacy will forever be tainted by this scandal.
Now Ohio State must decide which direction to go next. The university is still awaiting word from the NCAA regarding punishment for its violations and many speculate that it could be as bad or worse than the sanctions USC received, which included a loss of 30 scholarships over three years and a two-year postseason ban.
But Ohio State, even without Tressel, is good enough to challenge for a national championship if it finds the right leader. Assistant Luke Fickell, who was going to coach the first five games of the season that Tressel decided to take a self-imposed suspension, will serve as Ohio State's interim coach throughout the 2011 season. Then the school will conduct a formal search.
Look for Gee and Smith to target big names, including retired Florida coach Urban Meyer, Jon Gruden and Bo Pelini. Other names that might surface are Mark Dantonio, who was Tressel's protégé, and Missouri's Gary Pinkel, who went to Kent State and made a name for himself at Toledo. And of course, Fickell will have an entire year to audition for one of the most prestigious programs in the country.