Time will aid Tressel legacy

Ohio State football fans will remember the 106 victories, seven Big Ten titles and the 2002 BCS championship.

For Jim Tressel’s friends and supporters, his legacy will include not only that success on the field, but his leadership and philanthropy off it.

There is tangible evidence of the latter at Youngstown State — the soon-to-be-opened athletic training center, the endowed scholarship in the name of Tressel and wife, Ellen, and the four national championship trophies in Stambaugh Stadium.

For the next few months, however, the Tressel name will be attached only to stories about tattoos, emails and accountability.

But, as always happens, time will blur the details of Tattoo-gate, and years from now, in most corners of the country, the Tressel name will be a distant memory.

“Tressel? Wasn’t he the coach somewhere who got in trouble?”

In Ohio, of course, the details will burn a little longer.

It’s been 33 years since Woody Hayes was fired, and there isn’t a Buckeye fan who doesn’t recall the circumstances:

Gator Bowl. Clemson. Art Schlichter interception. Charlie Bauman.

Likewise, Tressel will be linked with Terrell Pryor, Daniel “Boom” Herron and the other players who exchanged championship rings and other memorabilia for tattoos.

The names of Ed Rife, the Columbus tattoo parlor owner; Chris Cicero, the former Buckeye player and lawyer who first emailed Tressel with information about the players, and Ted Sarniak, the Jeannette, Pa., businessman and Pryor’s “mentor,” also will be personae non grata around Ohio Stadium.

But time — and victories — heal all wounds. And Monday’s other news should help that process.

Pryor is being investigated again by the NCAA and the university, and don’t expect to see him set foot on the field in an OSU uniform again.

That will make it easier for interim head coach Luke Fickell and his staff to prepare for the 2011 season.

A team needs its quarterback position, more than any other, to be settled as soon as possible.

With Pryor expected to be finished, Fickell’s offensive staff can name its starter (and offensive leader) at the outset of fall camp and move forward.

The Buckeyes aren’t going to be eligible for the Big Ten championship or a bowl game, but a nine- or 10-win season, the hiring of a big-name head coach and a top-10 recruiting class, and the spring and summer of 2011 will be quickly forgotten.

Tressel’s legacy may take a little longer to heal, but the brightness of his coaching success and community goodwill will eventually outshine the darkness of the Tattoo Five scandal.

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

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