Ohio State Football: Was Jim Tressel the Best Coach in Ohio State History?

Collin BerglundCorrespondent IIIJune 2, 2011

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 18:  Head Coach Jim Tressel of the Ohio State Buckeyes walks across the field before a game against the Ohio Bobcats at Ohio Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Jim Tressel may have tarnished his legacy at the end of his career with scandal, but how did his 10 years in Columbus compare to previous coaches?

Tressel certainly surpassed recent predecessors John Cooper and Earle Bruce, and through winning a national championship, immediately passed all previous Buckeyes' coaches save two: Paul Brown and Woody Hayes.

Brown was a great coach, but he is not famous for his time with Ohio State.  Tressel's career was made (and broken) in Columbus.  Tressel gets the nod.

Tressel and Hayes are the top coaches in Ohio State history.  Who is No. 1? 

Winning is what matters in college football.  Time forgets indiscretions, so while Tressel's scandal is certainly an influence on his character, it won't impact his perception for the purposes of this article.

Tressel and his Buckeyes won the Big Ten every year between 2005 and 2010.  He led the team to his only national title early in his career.  In 10 seasons, Tressel went 106-22 appearing in eight BCS bowls.

Hayes had a much longer career in Columbus.  In 28 seasons, Hayes had a staggering record of 205-61-10 and won three national championships.  He also won the Big Ten 10 times.

Tressel had a better per-season record than Hayes and won the conference more times.  Time also tends to paint a rosy picture of historical figures, giving Hayes another advantage

And despite all that, Hayes is still the coach (old) OSU fans will look back on most fondly.  Three national championships speak for themselves. 

Tressel won just the one, and even though he shouldn't have to take the brunt of the blame for losing two more championship games, the fact is winning one isn't better than Hayes.

Hayes made Ohio State what it is.  The Buckeyes were at their best when the rivalry with the University of Michigan was strong. 

Games between the teams of Hayes and Bo Shembechler, a coach Hayes groomed when Shembechler played at Miami (OH) University, were among the best college football has seen.

Tressel's name will not have the same mystique surrounding it 20 years from now.  While Tressel's legacy is tarnished, Hayes would be the greatest coach in Ohio State history even if Tressel left on better terms.