Has Jim Tressel Lost His Edge As The Fearless Leader Of Ohio State?

Phil HarrisonCorrespondent IJuly 24, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 13:  Head coach Jim Tressel of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts in the second quarter against the USC Trojans during the college football game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 13, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

It wasn’t that long ago that everyone in and around Buckeye Nation was anointing Jim Tressel as the best coach in college football.  There were many who even dared to put him on a pedestal above (gasp) Wayne Woodrow Hayes so early in his tenure. 


Between the 2001 and 2005 seasons, Ohio State had an “embarrassment” of riches.  They had beaten Michigan four out of five times including a victory at The Big House for the first time in 14 years.  They had won a National Title in 2002 over what many considered to be the best team ever assembled in College Football, the Miami Hurricanes. 


Tressel’s teams won or shared two Big 10 Titles, and went to three BCS bowls, winning them all. The Buckeyes amassed a better than good .794 winning percentage during their return to relevancy in College Football. 


After enduring the Cooper era in which a victory over Michigan or a bowl opponent came about as often as sunburn in Seattle, everything about the world seemed in balance.  The crime rate in Columbus went down, a Fiesta Baby Boom ensued, the winters weren’t as cold, and a big win didn’t even result in all of campus being set ablaze.  Ahh, if we could only get those days back.


Fast forward three years and my how things have changed in the fair old College Football obsessing town of Columbus, Ohio.  There are no national titles since 2002, and there are adolescent toddlers that can’t seem to remember when the suddenly national punching bag program won a big game.  


The yocal locals on the  local Sports Talk Radio are now talking about the the economy being in shambles, Ohio losing jobs, the crime rate skyrocketing, and The Gap even having the audacity to stop selling khakis (and here you thought the former George W. was to blame).  This is all because Jim Tressel can’t seem to get out of his own way anymore.


Now it’s time to grab a glass of half empty water and pop a perspective pill.  All Senior Sweater Vest has done over the past three years is make two National Championship appearances, win or share three Big 10 titles, make an annual right of beating Michigan, and steer the program to a nation’s third best .846 winning percentage behind only USC and Florida (I refuse to count Boise State and their blue field).


Is the criticism being lobbied about around town warranted, or is Tressel feeling the wrath and fallout from the program’s success?  The reality is that there are probably 116 other college programs who would love to enjoy the media scrutiny that has been so prevalent over the last couple of years.  Dare I state that perhaps the lynch mob has gotten ahead of itself?  Pause and let this all sink in for just a moment.


Don’t get me wrong Ohio.  I am not asking the sea of Scarlet and Gray to lower their expectations.  I am certainly not even a part of the majority who feels that the near win lasta winter over Texas was a moral victory. 


Ohio State is a program rich in history and tradition, and should expect to be a winner every year.  What I will argue is that Tressel’s troops cannot be expected to win every game, every year.  Despite what we all would like to believe, Ohio State will not be the most talented team year in and year out.  Injuries will happen to key players, mistakes will be made by teenage Gods, and somebody is going to outplay you from time to time.


What is certain is that Jim Tressel and his staff will continue to coach, and they will from time to time have game plans that don’t work, and play calls that might show up on the next mystery dinner theatre menu.  Obsessive fans will continue to yell at their larger than it should be, High-Definition Flat- Screen, every sports channel in the world television that exudes awesomeness out of frustration. 


Despite all of this, I am coinfident that there will be many big games that Ohio State will pull out and revel at what a great play call saved the Scarlet and Gray from having to execute the “most important play in football” on fourth down (for those of you who don't know, that is the punt according to Senator Tressel). 


If there is one blessing about being in the rooting corner for a program like Ohio State, you can bet there will always be the “next big game” (lookup September 12th of this year).


The program might be in a perfect storm sort of Big Game failure right now, but I have full confidence that the man that brought a National Title back to town after a 34 year hibernation, and is still continuing to win the “smaller” big games over Michigan and others in the Big 10 (11) will win his fair share.  Not only will he do this, but the manner in which it will be done will be nothing but class. 


So Buckeye Fans, take that Sweater Vest that you were planning to burn and hang it back in the closet until next year.  If I have gotten to you too late and you have thrown it out with last year's Christmas tree, I suggest you go and purchase a new one. Do it before either The Gap stops selling them, or every one in town gets thrown into the campus dumpsters to fuel bonfires after the next National Championship.