Jim Tressel Resigns: Coach Didn't Do the Honorable Thing, So Ohio State Did

Rich ThomaselliSenior Writer IMay 30, 2011

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 11:  Head Coach Jim Tressel of the Ohio State Buckeyes watches his team play against the Miami Hurricanes at Ohio Stadium on September 11, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Jim Tressel has resigned as the head football coach at Ohio State University.

The next logical question is, was it forced or voluntary? If you read between the lines, it looks like the former.

Tressel didn’t do the honorable thing and step down on his own, so Ohio State had to seize control of the situation.

The Columbus Dispatch—as on top of the team it covers as any newspaper or website can possibly be—broke the story this morning of Tressel’s resignation.

But in a telling piece of the story, the Dispatch wrote that, “Less than three months after President E. Gordon Gee and Athletic Director Gene Smith said they fully supported their embattled coach, mounting pressure, a pending NCAA disciplinary hearing and new revelations about the culture of the program forced the university to act on their once-revered coach, sources said.”

"Forced the university to act"—the most compelling phrase in the entire article.

There’s no question that Tressel was the most successful Ohio State football coach since Woody Hayes, maybe even the most successful ever. In 10 years, he had a record of 106-22—including 9-1 against Michigan—and brought the Buckeyes to three national championship games, winning the title once.

But Tressel has become embroiled in a maelstrom of controversy ever since it was revealed last December, prior to the Sugar Bowl, that several of his players were involved in selling Big Ten championship rings and memorabilia to a local tattoo parlor owner.

Those acts, in and of themselves, weren’t necessarily deal-breakers. Damaging, yes. But left at that, probably not enough to cost Tressel his job.

In fact, Gee and Smith publicly supported Tressel.

But when the story broke in December, it wasn’t the first time Jim Tressel heard about these incidents. A former Ohio State football player turned attorney emailed Tressel in April of 2010, telling him that the tattoo parlor owner was under federal investigation (for drug trafficking and money laundering), and as part of the investigation, the feds found evidence that the tattoo parlor owner was buying OSU memorabilia from several players.

Tressel failed to inform his superiors. Still, Gee and Smith supported him, with Gee now uttering one of the most ridiculous sentences ever uttered by a college president when he said, responding to a reporter’s question on whether he considered firing Tressel, “I just hope the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”

But aside from Gee’s idiocy, it appears OSU finally realized that it could no longer keep Tressel. More and more information was filtering out of Columbus that either Tressel ran a rogue program, or he was oblivious to what was going on.

Neither situation cast a particularly strong light on the coach.

The situation was spiraling out of control—Sports Illustrated is rumored to be preparing an article even more damaging to Tressel—and OSU officials had to act.

Why? Because Tressel didn’t.

Tressel should have done the honorable thing and stepped down on his own, and it appears he did not do so in this situation. Oh, they’ll trot him out for a press conference, or he’ll release a statement, and it will appear that he resigned of his own volition. But he had months and months to do that and didn’t.

So OSU did it for him.

It’s a shame, really. Tressel brought the luster back to Ohio State. But you can't run an outlaw program, regardless of whether you turn a blind eye or are truly unaware.