Coach Tressel – the Latest Casulty of TOSU

About 30 plus years ago I was a young boy watching Woody Hayes coach Ohio State against Clemson. This was 1978 Gator Bowl Game. I was soon to be twelve. We were losing and a crucial drive was taking place when the interception was thrown to a Clemson Linebacker. What happened next never left my memory. A boiling, competitive Woody Hayes mustered up a really great right hook while holding the jersey of the opposing teams’ linebacker. Other than the loss that day, it was truly the highlight of the game. It was also one of the saddest things to see as the finality to a coaching career. I didn’t know or appreciate at the time what that really meant. Just some old coach punching a player. I couldn’t tell you today how I felt then.

Roll forward through Earle Bruce, John Cooper and then came Coach Tressel. Finally, the best replacement for Coach Hayes the university could find. Some one who had that “thing” that Woody had. It only took a little more than 20 years to find that person, but they did. After some major accomplishments, today that coach, Jim Tressel, resigned among a sea of NCAA issues.

I live in Columbus, Ohio. This is buckeye country, plain and simple. OSU football is the heart of what happens here. It is a religion. Probably not unlike many big university towns. Football players in this town are gods. Despite merely being athletes, they are kings for their time playing. At 18 I could not imagine fending off the predators and trying to decipher the good guys from the bad guys. If I was a coach in a sleepy town, I don’t think I would really want to coach here. It’s unmerciful. We cover up our behavior with the words “high expectations”. We have expectations of winning and if you don’t, you stink. I was wondering right now if 10-2 with some bowl wins looks pretty good compared to what we are looking at. Win at all costs. Apparently our beloved Coach Tressel took that approach. Win at all costs. If you don’t you are in the alumni and fan doghouse. No forgiveness. After all, all us fans always know better in every game situation than any coach.

I have to say that I have been embarrassed at times or angry at times at our fans in this city. I won’t take my children to the games because of the fans, the language or behavior. The last game I was at I barely lasted the entire game because I didn’t want to even be remotely associated with these idiots yelling at the opposing teams players. (I had great seats behind the Illinois bench). I talked to my children that day about sportsmanship. A teachable moment I guess.

I know where I stand today. I am angry about Tressel’s resignation. Not because we are losing arguably a tremendous football coach. Not because of tattoos and car deals and free dinners, etc — I am angry because we as a city and those in a position to show young men how to be roll models have failed. I am angry because I don’t know at what point someone decided that Tressel could be co-opted into our cultural here. Win and we look the other way and you look the other way? At what point did he fall into that trap?

John Cooper’s record was 111-43-4 [1] . That is a 70% winning record. Not good enough. Earle Bruce had a 75% winning record. [2] Maybe we just didn’t like those guys. Maybe they just didn’t win enough? Remind me of the major violations under Cooper and Bruce?

Tressel = 82%. [3] (Maybe we should asterisk that). I am angry at our local car dealerships for offering the players or families anything other than support. The tattoo parlor guy, that’s another article altogether. But winning at the expense of character. I was angry in December when the NCAA allowed those 5 guys to play in the bowl game. MONEY won, forget character. After that whatever the NCAA does is a tremendous joke.

I was angry when the emails were discovered. I was angry at the 5 we knew about totally disregarding and disrespecting everyone in this community by trading things they had earned for short term things like tattoos and whatever else. I was angry at Tressel for not asking them to leave. Period. If my child were on that team now, words could not express the venom I would spew at the Coach and players.

I was angry at Gene Smith, Coach Tressel and Gordon Gee for standing in that press conference telling us that a 2 game suspension and a paltry fine should be a sufficient penalty. No character. Just winning. This is what we breed here and this is what we get. Whether its really understood or not, we as community of OSU fans and supporters appear to be some of the most arrogant people on the planet. “I filed false affidavits with the NCAA, so two games should be enough.” It all has smacked of some guys someplace in some room called “OSU FOOTBALL DAMAGE CONTROL ROOM” sitting there with a game plan to see what we would buy and they could sell in order for this to go away so we could keep winning.

Those 5 guys played in that bowl game under the condition they would come back in order to build their character. Right. How about those five guys played in that game so that we had a better shot at winning because the Coach knew back in April he didn’t have a shot without them. I am angry we have a media culture that would fire a local radio host for talking about the things he did and get fired for assailing the same University who apparently decided that BH was right. Bravo BH for your courage.

I am angry that I will hear locally about how this is for the good of the University and that football is secondary. That such a statement would be made as some screwed up mantra so we feel positive all the while the President of the University and its athletic director are behind their Coach 100% just a few short weeks ago. We here locally bought this crap in December and again in early March. Unfortunately our arrogance and stature will not let the rest of the world leave us alone. If we were a nation unto ourselves, this would have gone away already. They only sold their stuff and it’s a stupid rule — ..let’s play football.

In my opinion THE Ohio State University, as part of the penalties forthcoming should have to have Coach Tressel as their coach. It may actually force us as a community to consider ourselves and our roles. Our own culpability and character. While we are not responsible for TP’s actions any more than Tressel is, how does a community or someone doing their job not ask the question of “how”? How does a student of modest means afford such things? How. Seems like compliance 101. I am angry that Commissioner Delaney would turn this whole debacle into some higher level conversation about how our poor athletes deserve to be paid. Did I say he was from the Big 10? Sick.

Wouldn’t it be great on opening day to have Tressel on the sidelines while the rest of the football world openly mocks us? Would we still require ourselves to be referred to as “THE Ohio State University”. I would bet dollars to donuts we would pack the stadium that day. Buy the merchandise and cheer loud and strong. I am angry this man has resigned. It isn’t for the good of anyone. I know the conventional wisdom is “allow the guy to resign”, but I can’t help but think real character would be if Gordon Gee had a press conference firing the Coach for lying and hiding information.

It’s the next step in a play book of trying to whitewash all us into hoping this will go away by pretending the snake has lost its head. The snake here is everyone who ever offered anyone associated with OSU athletics anything other than being supportive by buying tickets, merchandise and traveling to games. One day when these young men have children and are faced with college debts to send such children to college they may finally understand what TOSU gave them, the fans gave them, the city gave them and what they spit on.

I have been around a while and felt suspicious in December, very skeptical in March and now, decidedly settled about the fact that this whole thing of tattoos for cash was merely a fuse which lit a powder keg of cultural gasoline. I am unconvinced Tressel’s resignation is anything other then another “hope” it will be enough to stop the leaking ship from sinking further. The next step in the strategy from OSU FOOTBALL DAMAGE CONTROL ROOM.

In order for me to believe that I have to believe that the guy who everyone would seem to agree is not responsible for the daily actions of his players is taking responsibility for it. Hogwash. I believe this is deeper. I am sorry he has resigned. I feel his resignation actually portends a larger, deeper bomb readying to go off, rather than a conclusion. We already know and have digested what he did. We have already digested the 5 game suspension, Why resign? We have a President and AD who openly supported the guy with the full knowledge of what he did, so why resign? Unless of course we don’t know. What if we don’t know?

I am sorry we are here today looking at this mess without conclusion. There won’t be any finality until an NCAA ruling and ensuing appeal. Our 2011 season is more likely than not a total write off. A good guess would be 2012 and 2013 will be damaged. We could hope for some ESPN special a few years from now about the whole thing.

I hope though, moving forward, truly, this whole thing changes our culture here. Our reality and our focus. I love winning. I hate losing. I hate watching my team get run over on national TV. But I like losing with character. I cherish winning with character. At the end of the day I have found that character is not how far you fall. It’s how well you bounce. For some reason I have a feeling Tressel would have bounced well, but we will never get the chance to see it here.

We have made the final error of judgment today. Firing the coach. Frankly if there was ever a moment to become a legend, this is it. A true leader. A man who would make such a mistake, yet recover to demonstrate, by leadership how to lead after a lapse in judgment. We are THE Ohio State University and have now committed the greatest of sins. We are pretending Coach Tressel merely represented himself and we had nothing to do with it. For that, I am truly angry. When you understand that, you will begin to understand how we got here to begin with. Then, maybe, we could be winning.

[1] Wikipedia ‘” John Cooper

[2] Wikipedia ‘” Earle Bruce

[3] Wikipedia ‘” James Tressel.