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Friday, Nov 17, 2017
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Ohio State's Tressel loses job, and integrity wins out

And so Jim Tressel has dotted the "I" in "Resign." The only question is when Urban Meyer will decide if he needs to spend more time with his family in Columbus. It is never a small news item when a powerhouse college coach from a powerhouse football power has to step off the cliff to avoid being pushed. You have to mess up pretty bad at Ohio State to have to resign when you've won one national championship, played for two others, averaged 10 wins across 10 seasons and gone 9-1 against Michigan.
Tressel did, and he's gone, sweater vest and all. That this took this long speaks to the power of all that winning. The guy was a king in Ohio. It also speaks to the limp leadership from crazed Ohio State president Gordon Gee and Buckeyes athletic director Gene Smith, who dropped the ball on Tressel. Remember last March, when Gee joked that he hoped Tressel didn't fire him! What a knee slapper! Gee and Smith weren't driving the bus that uncovered a lot of this stuff and that led them to force Tressel out. It was the media. Sports Illustrated has new and sweeping allegations. Tressel was like a rat in heat when the laws started closing in, going from a two-game suspension, to asking for a five-game suspension, to seven games and promising to wear a wedding dress on the sidelines his first game back … we're not sure about that last one, but we hear it was on the table. Some insist Tressel's offenses, trying to hide his ballplayers selling rings and jerseys in violation of NCAA rules, was simply paternal instinct, protecting his kids. I say it was lying, cheating. Some will say the cover-up is worse than the crime. I say a cover-up is a crime, too. What all of this is really about is arrogance, the arrogance that makes a coach think he can do what he wants and not let everyone else in on it. We had a more onerous example of that not too long ago in our town, at USF, which jettisoned jumbo Jim Leavitt when he, too, decided he was above the law. Jim Tressel apparently never touched one of his players. But the arrogance was there just the same. Granted, his president was cracking jokes, his athletic director wasn't a hard charger and the NCAA didn't seem to be that interested in the whole thing, what with the Auburn and Cam Newton case (which I still say isn't over) and all the bad publicity. The hypocrisy in college football, an unstoppable money machine, is incredible. Can we just pay these kids and be done with it? But even with rules being rules, let's remember that the Ohio State Five were allowed to play in that Sugar Bowl, which was a travesty. At the time, I remember thinking it was up to Tressel to sit those players. It was a matter of the integrity of the game. We soon knew why he didn't. He was dirty. Urban Meyer issued a statement Monday saying he was very happy spending time with the ESPN family of networks or whatever he said. Meyer would seem a perfect replacement in Columbus. He'll get a chance to rescue Ohio State just as he rescued Florida and put the Gators back on a pedestal, if you don't count all the arrests. In the meantime, Jim Tressel is gone, him and the sweater vest he rode in on. It's about character, kids. It always comes down to that.
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