Over the past few months, the college football world has been hit with a series of revelations regarding the behavior of a handful of Ohio State football players and their coach, Jim Tressel.
It began with an NCAA investigation into allegations of improper benefits received by quarterback Terrelle Pryor and five of his teammates. It continued with accusations that Tressel failed to notify the proper university authorities—accusations we now know to be true. And it got worse when we discovered that Tressel didn't act despite having been made aware of the situation thanks to a series of emails from a former player-turned-attorney.
At every stage of this story, Tressel's dishonesty and questionable actions have been thrust into the spotlight.
For its part, the University reacted as best it could, punishing Tressel with a fine of $250,000 and suspending him for the first two games of 2011. As further information became public knowledge, the efforts at damage control ramped up, culminating in Tressel's self-imposed five game ban. He claimed that in light of his behavior, he should face a punishment equal to that of his players.
In truth, none of these measures have done anything to clean up this mess. And as this Columbus Dispatch report details, the sequence of events have made Tressel look more and more culpable with each passing month.
What have we heard from the coach himself? His statements have been carefully constructed with each word weighed and measured. He's given us half-hearted apologies and acknowledgements that he didn't do the right thing. And despite the punishments he will now face, the University has steadfastly refused to fire him.
As I wrote yesterday, the NCAA's recent notice of allegations was actually good news for the program, albeit in a twisted way. Things would be much worse had the NCAA elected to include a "lack of institutional control" or "failure to monitor" charge. By avoiding those, the Buckeyes skirted what have traditionally been the most damaging allegations and most severe resulting penalties.
Yet OSU, and especially Tressel himself, still face severe penalties. All parties must now wait until August, when the infractions committee will rule on the case.
However, that is not the only option remaining.
Amid his web of lies and half-truths, Tressel has (unsuccessfully) attempted to maintain that he was simply trying to do the right thing. But instead of worrying about the past, Tressel should choose to do the right thing now.
It's time for Jim Tressel to resign.
If the school won't terminate his contract, and it appears that it won't, then it's left to Tressel to do what's best for his players and his program. While his resignation would probably not stave off NCAA punishment, it would go a long way toward convincing the public that at least some of what he's saying is accurate. By stepping down, he would give weight to his assertion that he wants to do the right thing. As of now, it's nothing but lip-service.
It's hard to imagine an ending to this story that could repair his reputation. Regardless of what the NCAA does to Ohio State, Jim Tressel will forever more be regarded as a liar. As a lifelong Buckeye fan, I realize the magnitude of losing a coach with his on-the-field record, but there is simply no other way to rescue Ohio State football.
If he wants to prove that he's grown from this experience, if he wants to prove that he has his program's interests at heart, then Tressel must take responsibility and walk away.