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Time and change will surely show



Published: Sun, August 19, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



If Jim Tressel didn't realize his life was in a fishbowl by now, he most certainly came to that realization this week when -- gasp -- it was reported he wants his football team at Ohio State to learn, of all things, the school's alma mater.

When this earth-shattering story broke, reaction was curious, to say the least. Much of the reaction was quite startling.

"Those guys are there to play football, not to sing," some said.

(I thought they were there to get an education, but I must have been mistaken.)

"Tressel is too old-fashioned for today's players," chimed in another. "He's got to get with the times."

One of the reasons: Excuse me, but wasn't Tressel's approach to coaching one of the reasons he was hired by Andy Geiger in the first place?

Tressel's predecessor wasn't very close to the players; he coached the coaches. He also went 2-10-1 against the Buckeyes' biggest rival and 3-8 in bowl games.

John Cooper's allies will argue he sent more players to the NFL than any Buckeye coach in history.

His critics can counter that those players left with barely a touch more education than when they first arrived.

The program's graduation rate and conduct of its players were at an all-time low and a great source of embarrassment to the university's administration.

Among the ideals that Tressel presented to Geiger and university president Britt Kirwan was better communication between the head coach and the players, increased emphasis on academics and team unity.

Personality conflicts: In the final months of Cooper's regime, one of his team captains, receiver Ken-Yon Rambo, came under attack by fellow players for continually showing up late to practice.

Another player has a pending lawsuit against a teammate, claiming unnecessary actions in practice caused an injury.

What Tressel has always understood is the relative importance of Buckeye football to the citizens. His experience as an assistant coach in the mid-80s helped him realize how the football squad can and should interact with the other university groups, like the marching band.

The Ohio State band is widely considered one of the best in the country. It's rendition of Script Ohio was recently voted college football's greatest tradition.

Ohio State has ranked among the nation's top five in attendance every year since the NCAA began keeping track of figures in the 1950s.

What Tressel understands is how the football team and the band and the fans and the alumni groups and all the other support groups must work together.

Traditions everywhere: Requiring the football players to learn the words to Carmen Ohio isn't any different, for better or worse, for instance, than at Clemson, where the players touch a big rock when they enter the field.

There are traditions at every college. At Texas A & amp;M, the fans stand for the entire game. At Arizona, the words "Bear Down" are painted on the field, a reminder of the words spoken by a dying player in the 1920s.

"Win one for the Gipper" is a tradition. So is Traveler, Southern Cal's white horse. And Mountaineer, the student mascot at West Virginia.

One of the criticisms of John Cooper was that he wasn't an Ohio State guy. He hadn't coached there, didn't understand how important winning the Michigan game was and failed to appreciate the tradition of Buckeye football.

Now, Ohio State has a coach who has the background and understanding of the tradition and he's considered old-fashioned and kind of hokey.

Kind of like another guy who was called the same things a generation ago.

And, if Tressel wears a white shirt and tie on the sideline, and refuses to put on a coat in the cold winds of November, and wears a black hat with a block "O" on it and he takes out a sideline marker now and again, it'll be OK by me.

XRob Todor is sports editor of The Vindicator. Write to him at todor@vindy.com.




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