I sit here in the early evening hours of Monday, May 30th and for the first time in 10 years The Ohio State University does not have a full-time football coach. No matter what side of the proverbial fence you sit on, this is bad for Buckeye Nation across the country.
A lot has been thrown around since the bomb dropped this morning that Jim Tressel was stepping down. We've heard he was forced. We've heard his assistants had no idea. We've heard that the Sports Illustrated article (being released online tonight) is the final damning piece of evidence of a program out of control. We're hearing from the Columbus Dispatch that a new investigation into Terrelle Pryor has been launched and that his playing days may seemingly be over.
There's been venom from all angles from fans. Fans glad that Tressel is gone. Fans mad at the players who started the trouble by selling rings and trophy's. Fans upset with the national media, in general.
I've said all along that I wouldn't have an opinion Tressel's fate until we knew all the details. Until the hearing, and we got to hear JT's reason's for WHY he covered things up, I'd give him the benefit of the doubt that it was for some greater good or to prevent some greater evil. He surrenders today to quell the daily turmoil and harm his presence was doing from a reputation standpoint to the university. Unfortunately his white flag comes with the obvious conclusion of guilt. If it were as I had hoped, and Tressel backers around the country were clinging to, and there was some shred of reasoning that justified his actions, it is all but gone now. Why else throw in the towel?
In the end, he did it the right thing. I know some of you will chastise me and make comments, but like it or not, he did it the right way. The university has gone through enough. He and his family have gone through enough. The fans have gone through enough. And, most importantly, the players on the team, the players parents he made promises to when he sat in there living rooms, have been through enough.
What impression or scar does this leave on the legacy of Jim Tressel? For me, not much. I'll always remember Tressel's time at Ohio State as that of a time of rebirth. While John Cooper consistently had top 5 and top 10 ranked teams, he missed the bigger picture: win bowl games and BEAT MICHIGAN. Tressel understood it and walked the walk. 9-1 speaks volumes. 6-4 in bowls with a national championship isn't anything to laugh at either.
Rivals and fans of other programs talking about asterisks and the last ten years now being tarnished are just upset about the final scores. Bottom line: nothing Tressel or his players did gave them a competitive advantage on the field. They broke NCAA rules, but not the ones that protect the game and keep the actual playing field level. Michigan fans and writers, I'm sorry. The last ten years, and especially the last three, Tressel has not only outcoached you but had a large talent advantage. A talent advantage not reached as a result of some back door recruiting deal, or paying players to come to Ohio State. Ultimately it is your program that has faltered while ours has flourished. You wanted accountability from Tressel and him to own up to his actions? Then you own the last ten years! Stop trying to act like it wasn't what it was: you getting OWNED, in your building or ours, for a yearly "know your place" beatdown. Sorry UM (and fans of any other school we've beaten over the last ten years wanting to claim they were screwed or asking for an asterisk) it is what it is. And you lost between the white lines.
And now the inevitable "Who are they gunna git" talk begins.
I for one am very interested in seeing if Luke Fickell can handle the moment. He certainly has the resume, his lack of experience in the big chair is what makes everyone look past him. He's a Columbus kid, played for four years under Coop, been raising his family and coaching at OSU ever since. Being co-defensive coordinator, it's hard to say if he has more responsibility or impact on the Silver Bullets than Jim Heacock. The defense is always loaded, making it even harder to contrast his input on success to the talent level. I do know this: since his move to the sidelines and Heacock to the press box, a noticeable change in the emotion and energy of the defense has been apparent.
You're naturally going to have the "big gun" candidates like Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, John Gruden and Bo Pelini. All for one reason or another are tied to Ohio State from their roots and background. All supposedly have a "dream job" list with Ohio State at the top. Of that group, to me Stoops is the most intriguing. He's been in Norman for (I believe) 12 years now. When Cooper was fired in January of 2001, Stoops was a hot name for the job. At the time he was coming off of a national title win over Florida State and was just settling in to his spot on the Sooners sidelines. I wonder 10 years later if the opportunity to move back home (well, 2-1/2 hours from home) and finish his coaching career near family and friends would intrigue him enough to make the move? Also, he's seen the dark side in Norman when just a few years ago, prior to Sam Bradford's run, they were calling for his head.
Here's a few names I wonder if they are looking at, and wouldn't be surprised to see come up as realistic candidates: Gary Patterson TCU, Dan Mullen Mississippi State, Jim Grobe Wake Forest, Kyle Wittingham Utah, and here's a real dark horse, what about Josh McDaniels?
So off we go into the fortnight. We mourn the loss of a great coach and even better man. A man who wanted so badly to keep his players out of trouble that ended up costing himself the dream job he coveted and had excelled at. Was it all just to win, or was it all for the good of the athlete? Following Jim Tressel's career since Youngstown State (bastard gave me a "B" on my YSU football camp evaluation my freshman year in high school! I was clearly an A offensive line candidate... despite being 5' 6" at the time lol) I whole heatedly believe it was for the kids. While he certainly skated the rules on occasion previously, you almost always got the sense that in every instance he was trying to do what was right for the player, and they screwed it up despite his best efforts.
It will be an interesting couple of days listening to the rumor mill. And it's not even July!
METALLICA SONG OF THE WEEK
"Don't Tread On Me" in honor of Memorial Day.