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Jim Tressel’s 10-year reign in Columbus reaches its end

Published: Tue, May 31, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

Associated Press


At the bottom of the stunning resignation letter that he carefully typed in his office on Monday morning, in the last lines above his characteristically neat and clear signature, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel closed with a personal note.

“We know that God has a plan for us and we will be fine,” he wrote, referring to himself and his wife, Ellen.

“We will be Buckeyes forever.”

But no longer will he be the Buckeyes coach.

Tressel, who guided Ohio State to its first national title in 34 years, resigned Monday amid NCAA violations from a tattoo-parlor scandal that sullied the image of one of the country’s top football programs.

He said the ongoing investigations and drumbeat of almost daily, sordid revelations were a “distraction” to the university and that he was stepping down “for the greater good of our school.”

Tressel still is scheduled to go before the NCAA’s committee on infractions in August for lying to the NCAA and then covering it up — the most egregious of sins for a coach in the eyes of college sports’ ruling body. The former coach will join school officials at that meeting.

But Ohio State is not required to pay any buyout or severance to Tressel, who made around $3.5 million a year.

Ohio State announced that assistant coach Luke Fickell, already tabbed to take over for Tressel during his self-imposed five-game suspension for his violations, will be the Buckeyes coach for the 2011 season. Ohio State will begin looking for a permanent coach who will take over next year.

It was a startling fall for a coach who won championships and sidestepped several major NCAA violations through the years. They dated to his days as the ultrasuccessful coach at Youngstown State, where he won four Division I-AA national titles, through a decade as Ohio State’s coach, where he posted a 106-22 record.

The abrupt resignation, first reported by The Columbus Dispatch, capped six months of turmoil in the program.

In December, five Ohio State players — including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor — were found to have received cash and discounted tattoos from the owner of a local tattoo parlor who was the subject of a federal drug-trafficking case.

All were permitted by the NCAA to play in the Buckeyes’ 31-26 victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, with their suspensions to begin with the first game of the 2011 season.

After the team returned from New Orleans, Ohio State officials began preparing an appeal of the players’ sanctions. It was then that investigators found that Tressel had learned in April 2010 about the players’ involvement with the parlor owner, Edward Rife.

A local attorney and former Ohio State walk-on player, Christopher Cicero, had sent Tressel emails detailing the improper benefits. Tressel and Cicero traded a dozen emails on the subject.

Tressel had signed an NCAA compliance form in September saying he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing by athletes. His contract, in addition to NCAA rules, specified that he had to tell his superiors or compliance department about any potential NCAA rules violations. Yet he did not tell anyone, except to forward emails to Ted Sarniak, reportedly a “mentor” for Pryor back in his hometown of Jeannette, Pa.

Later Monday, Sports Illustrated reported that the memorabilia-for-tattoos violations actually stretched back to 2002, Tressel’s second season at Ohio State, and involved at least 28 players — 22 more than the university has acknowledged. Those numbers include, beyond the six suspended players, an additional nine current players as well as other former players whose alleged wrongdoing might fall within the NCAA’s four-year statute of limitations on violations.

One of the players named is Cardinal Mooney graduate John Simon, a defensive tackle.

After the article’s release, athletic director Gene Smith issued a statement.

“During the course of an investigation, the university and the NCAA work jointly to review any new allegations that come to light, and will continue to do so until the conclusion of the investigation,” he said. “You should rest assured that these new allegations will be evaluated in exactly this manner. Beyond that, we will have no further comment.”

Ohio State called a hurried news conference on March 8, during which it handed Tressel a two-game suspension (later raised to five games), fined him $250,000, and required him to publicly apologize and attend an NCAA compliance seminar.

Smith and Ohio State President Gordon Gee, though, heaped praise on Tressel and said they were behind him 100 percent. Gee even joked when asked if he had considered firing the coach: “No, are you kidding? Let me just be very clear: I’m just hopeful the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”

Gee was not joking about the Tressel situation over the weekend. Ohio State released a letter from Gee to the university’s board of trustees which said, “As you all know, I appointed a special committee to analyze and provide advice to me regarding issues attendant to our football program. In consultation with the senior leadership of the university and the senior leadership of the board, I have been actively reviewing the matter and have accepted coach Tressel’s resignation.”

Tressel’s downfall came with public and media pressure mounting on Ohio State, its board of trustees, Gee and Smith.


1VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Gee and Smith should also resign. They are just as guilty as Tressel is and they are an embarassment to the State of Ohio.

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2Nonsocialist(710 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

I appreciate all that JT has done for Y-town.

He made some missteps navigating through a broken system, and he is paying the price.

Anyone here not made some, if not worse, mistakes?

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3Photoman(1246 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Perhaps, at 3.5 million per year, we should expect much more from a man such as Jim Tressel.

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4Rockyroad(149 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Jim Tressel and Bernie Madoff operated in a similar manner and shared similar character attributes. And their "true believer" followers share similar attributes as well. Both men operated Ponzi Schemes and both men were found out.

Jim and Bernie both portrayed themselves as paragons of virtue; men to be trusted. But their overly successful results were a bit too good to be true in the dirty world of money (and that is what big time college sports is all about). Their followers didn't care because the payoff was terrific.

However, both were giants with clay feet and both have been shown to be charlatans.

Jim wrote books and was almost evangelical in his lectures on how to lead an "above-board" life. His last book title included the words, "Promises From God". Jim knew the promises from God, but he didn't know that his players couldn't afford the cars they were driving or the tattoos on their bodies.

Well God kept His promise to Jim yesterday. The irony was that He lowered the boom on Memorial Day, just weeks after the OSU Spring Game in which Jim hypocritically once more clothed himself in the flag to honor our troops by wearing "camo" on the sideline. God does have a sense of humor.

All smoke and mirrors for the fan base. And now just smoke for Jimbo.

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5snworb56(53 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Nonsocialist.... you said it exactly. Many good men have fallen. He will be back. There is alot of good from his career that is just not newsworthy yet.

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6lacatheline(14 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

there has only been one person in history who did not make a mistake, and all Christians know who that is!!
Jim made a mistake, and is paying for it, those who are so critical of him don't know him, and what i hear in their comments is jealousy.
how he can be compared to bernie madoff is idiotic. madoff made millions cheating people, jim was trying to shield his players from their misjudgements.
as a YSU fan from their hay days, we know Jim is a good person ans wish him the best.
let the man who has not made a mistake throw the first stone.

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7MLC75(660 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Jim Tressel is human,he made a mistake.He didn't steal anything from anyone,he tried to protect his players.The players involved should have their scholarships taken away and kicked off of the team.

Comparing Jim to Madoff shows,how ignorant and stupid some posters are.Jim will be back,better than ever.

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8BuckNut1(2 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

People on this board make me sick. Comparing him to a Bernie Madoff? A convicted felon serving time in prison for stealing money from people through the biggest fraud this country has ever seen? Where did Tressel commit a crime here?

HellaBB, you have a lot of nerve talking about Penn State and the integrity they have. Don't you read the news? The Penn St. football "program" has had more players arrested in the past 7 years than any other Big Ten school. Yes, read that again, actual arrests not violations. Joe Paterno hasn't been aware that he is a football coach since 1994 so don't get on your high horse; your "program" has criminals walking through it.

Jim Tressel made a mistake, no question about it and his resignation is warranted, but people like HellaBB and RockyRoad make this area look stupid with their blind comments. Get educated and then come back and post.

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9mrblue(1175 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

I really don't think that this was a surprise to anyone. It's just too bad that a good coach took the wrong path. It will be interesting to see what penalties the NCAA imposes.

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10grand4dad(218 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

I'm very sad to see this. It is a real shame. I believe he's basically a good man who made mistakes that he is paying for now. More bad publicity for our area.

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11buckeye_always(3 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

I agree that we are human and make mistakes. I think when errors are made, they are mistakes but when one makes money off those errors, that is a crook, and we all know many of them. However, Tressel made an error but he is not a crook.

While I love the game and am a Buckeye forever, I wish him luck in his next venture, not hatred because of an error in judgment.

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12leftyompton4life(79 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

You as*holes have some nerve comparing Jim to Bernie Madoff(I forgot Tress stole billions of dollars from people.)

Tressel simply did not come forward when he knew his players were doing things that went against NCAA policy. He is guilty of not outting several players. That is it! You guys act like he sacrificed virgins, killed babies, blew up a building...the guy looked the other way thats it.....

Many of you sit/stand there like you would go right to the NCAA comission and report your players when in fact you know if you were making $3.5 million, winning big games, and making the OSU a ton of money...you would look the other way....

Should he have acted differently? In a perfect world yes. Tressel is not a thug, not even close...and don't forget who brought money, fame, and national attention to YSU for many years....

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13candystriper(575 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

The SI article ... Mickey Monus and Jim Tressel

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14JME(802 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

For HellaBB:

"Penn State football players ranked No. 4 ... in SI/CBSNews crime report"

"But when Sports Illustrated and CBS ranked the programs with the most players owning "police records," the Nittany Lions ranked No. 4"


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15JME(802 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

"Since 2002, 46 Penn State football players have faced 163 criminal charges, according to an ESPN analysis of Pennsylvania court records and reports. "


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16BuckNut1(2 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago


Here is some more for you from the same article.

"Since 2002, 46 Penn State football players have faced 163 criminal charges, according to an ESPN analysis of Pennsylvania court records and reports. Twenty-seven players have been convicted of or have pleaded guilty to a combined 45 counts."

Twenty-seven players pled guilty. This does not include the players who will face trial to see if they could be guilty.

Jim Tressel in a prison cell? Of course you believe that, an educated and perfect person such as yourself can pass judgement on people because you are perfect.

I stated before, Jim Tressel made a mistake and is paying for the mistake. He did not commit a crime, unless you count the assault on the Big Ten and Penn State over the last few years on the football field. Then yes, he is gulty of that severe beating.

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17walter_sobchak(2672 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

In the final analysis Jim Tressel is a good man whos operated in a system that breeds a culture of corruption. OSU and the NCAA can sell thousands of Pryor's #2 jersey, reaping huge profits, but Terrell cannot then trade one of the jerseys that he was given for a tattoo. The NCAA rules need to be rewritten to recognize the realities that these 19 year old kids live in.

However, Jim lied, tried to cover-up this story, knew it was illegal, and couldn't survive the scrutiny. He resigns and Gene Smith should be right behind him. Fortunately for E. Gordon Gee, Jim didn't fire him before he resigned.

ANd, if anyone believes Penn State's program is clean, they are clueless. Why would a kid want to play in a podunk town like State College and what does it take to lure them in? All I know is that the boosters in Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, Austin, Miami, et al, are laughing at Columbus. I mean, you can't cover-up simple tattoos and cars?

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18AnotherAverageCitizen(1193 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Most big time college coaches are like most big time politicians. If you start digging you will find it. What ever you are looking for.

Comparing tressel to those other Million Dollar scam artist is just wrong. Sure Tressel should have done some things differently. But how many of us has witnessed things not done correctly and turned a blind eye? You did it, I did it, we all did it, Tressel just got caught. How many people speed going down the street daily? How many roll through stopsigns? How many claimed a few extra dollars in tax write offs?

Nobody can control that many players all year long. Not Tressel. Not Paterno.

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19paul21045(28 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

The SI article really raises some questions . . . the same ones that were popular during Watergate. What did they know and when did they know it. Pres. Cochran is quoted as well as YSU's compliance person . . .yet what was done? The Phar Mor stories with Monus handing out paychecks for work never done was common knowledge, again no consequences. And, if they truth be told the University personnel were not the only ones "not seeing anything" . . .

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20Owlguin(50 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Immediate problem one - only Tressel is gone. The coaches (who all, no doubt, knew what was going on), are still there - including the new interim coach. Problem two - the position of Director of Compliance is not an independent position making it a useless position. That being said, OSU's director of compliance is the one who is there to prevent things like this from occurring, or find them if they do occur, and he's also still employed. Problem three - the NCAA is out of control with their rules, and unable to enforce them. They are like the police on I-80. Everyone is speeding by but every once in awhile someone is stopped.

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21mrhappy(23 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

stop saying "hes just a good man who made a mistake." deliberately breaking the rules is not a mistake. he thinks he is above the rules and he deserves to lose his job.

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22captdinger(110 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

I agree with you mrhappy and the other thing I would like to say is this is all about Tressell, how did Penn State get involved in this conversation unless someone is trying to get Tressell out of the limelight? They just don't want to admit that the man is a out-and-out sleezebag.

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23commyliberal(94 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Can we talk about the elephant in the room? I'll spell it for you...NCAA. SO these kids are playing football & NCAA & colleges make all the money. What a crock of poo!

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24LRG5150(17 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Looking out for kids that you care about is not being a sleezebag. And he is a good man who has paid the ultimate penalty for his transgressions, losing the job he has loved and coveted for his entire life. Stop making this out to be something its not. Attacking his character is short sighted, but I expect that of the youngstown public. Not sure why he would continue to donate and support this area when there are so many haters.
The players, as well as the awful compliance department, had their hand in the end of his tenure. College football and the ohio state university have suffered a huge loss here.

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25leftyompton4life(79 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

I like how people call Tress a sleezebag and other names...you know...because of you are so holier-then-thou...what he did really cant be considered sleezy! If he was banging other women then his wife...then he would be sleazy.

And if any of you out therer want to call him sleazy...then obviously none of you ever found out that:

1. Someone you knew cheated on a test/taxes/etc.
2. Someone you knew cheated on a significant other.
3. You saw a crime being committed.
4. Either you or someone you know broke the law....

Well if you didnt report any of these things to their higher power then obviously you are as bad a Tressel...because you are putting him in the same category.

On the other hand....HE DIDNT BREAK THE LAW YOU TROLLS!!!!

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26redvert(2239 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Where do some of you come up with this crap that he was trying to protect his players? Protect from what, the chance that they might of gotten suspended and not been able to play in last years BCS game.

Gee, I wonder if Tressel gets a bonus if the buckeyes play in a BCS game. No, that wouldn't have any influence on his decision to play stupid now would it?

College "brown ball" is amazing isn't it!!!

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27piak(508 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Probably in three years, Tressel will be coaching somewhere. Some big time college program is just aching to get a hold of a coach who can "turn things around" for them. YSU and OSU are two big trophies in his bag.

You can't argue that big college football is not a money maker for the colleges/universities athletic programs. Somewhere, some school will "rehabilitate" him because of what he can do for them.

Will the NCAA try to stop him? Follow the money trail for your answer.

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28Rockyroad(149 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Jerry,"Tark the Shark" Tarkanian was dirty. Pete Carrol was dirty. So why should Jim Tressel occupy a lower ring in the hell of Dante's Inferno? Because neither "Tark the Shark" nor Pete Carrol portrayed themselves as saints. Neither one of them held themselves up as examples of how to lead an above-board life.

And neither traded on the impeccable reputation of their fathers, as Tressel did with his father, Lee.
And, most importantly neither marketed themselves through books and lectures as examples of how to run a clean life and a clean program:

"Life Promises for Success: Promises from God on Achieving Youre Best
by Jim Tressel"

"The Winners Manual: For the Game of Life
By Jim Tressel"

You see, Jim even professes to know the mind of "God". He doesn't know where his players got the money for tattoos nor money for late model cars with big wheels and great sound systems, but he knows the "promises from God."

Jim, you've had it coming for years and and you finally got it. That, was a "promise from God."

The irony was that Jim, ever the huckster selling himself, donned camo during the Spring Game to "honor the troops". It played well to the minions, but God has a sense of humor. So He lowered the boom on Memorial Day! Think about it.

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29LRG5150(17 comments)posted 5 years ago

His hand was forced to announce his resignation on monday. It wasn't his choice. He was told to quit or be fired on sunday night.
Throughout his career he has shown nothing but support for the troops. To say that he somehow intentionally announced it on memorial day to dishonor anyone is another cheap shot at the man.

And Redvert, if you think the decision regarding the emails was so black and white as to say his motive was purely sinister is shortsighted at best. The fact is that Ed Rife is a bad man and I am sure he had his concerns over his players hanging out with a man of that character. Sure he wanted to win, thats his main job afterall, and I am sure he thought nothing would come of the memorabilia sale, so he made a bad mistake. But I don't think it was as sinister as the media makes it, there are a lot of other emotions involved when kids you care for are putting themselves in precarious situations.

I do think he really messed up by not coming clean in December, but he lost his job because of it. Yet the NCAA, through lobbying by the sugar bowl, let the players play. Why? Because it was in their financial interest. Amazing the hypocrisy that is the NCAA.

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30oasismgt(4 comments)posted 5 years ago

Jim Tressel broke the law...Just that simple! He violated the rules...Why is it that when someone we like break the rules, it's they made a mistake? but when others break the rules we want full punishment?

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31honesttalker(1 comment)posted 5 years ago

Jim Tressel is a victim of alumni requirements for a winning football team. All they want is wins and they are the ones that pressure coaches to get the best players. When an item is given to a player , that belongs to him and he can do what he or she wants with the item. Tressel found out after the deals were made.
I believe all the school officials new what was goigon and when an alumni told what happened they had to blame Jim Tressel.As a coach you were the best with your playes but someone had to take the heat, sorry. Best of luck and I will still wear my Tressl t-shirt with pride .

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32Imjustsayin(2 comments)posted 5 years ago

Jim Tressel is not a victim. He knows what he is and he has to live with that.

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33snyder(13 comments)posted 5 years ago

Tressel broke the law and hurt all the kids on the team who did not break the rules. He promised parents he would protect their children and he did that for a select few.
Tressel wanted to beat Michigan sooooooo bad he gave Pryor what ever he wanted to come to OSU. Pryor isnt worth the penalties they are going to pay-OSU won the battle getting Pryor but Michigan won the war by being able to compete for Championships. If SMU got the death penalty-OSU get ready to be strapped in You shoud be next.In the long run Tressel will have cost OSU more money than Madoff stole.

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34woolyd(579 comments)posted 5 years ago

O-H-N-O!!!!! Isnt it sad the only time in you pathetic poisonous nuts lives you could consistently beat MICHIGAN and its all a sham you cheated. I often wondered why so many Ohio five star recruits would go sit at O-H-N-O ST instead of attending other schools when they would be able to start as freshman. Now we know there are no rules and they get to live like rock stars and millionaires down in Cum Blow Us. Well as USC had to do today be prepared to have the recent national title STRIPPED and a couple victories against BIG BLUE taken away.

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