The Plain Dealer
The Ohio State football program has six of its former coaches enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.
It could be seven soon.
That’s because in his first year of eligibility, Jim Tressel has been included on the ballot for the Hall of Fame’s 2014 class, listed with former Ohio State All-Americans Tom Cousineau and Jim Otis.
The ballot includes 75 players and six coaches from the Football bowl Subdivision and 87 players and 26 coaches from divisional college football. Tressel’s vast list of accomplishments came in both.
But he’s most known for leading Ohio State to the top of the college football landscape.
Though he won four FCS championships at Youngstown State before Ohio State hired him in 2001, Tressel led the Buckeyes to the BCS National Championship in only his second year, cementing his permanent spot in program lore.
That set the table for a 10-year run that included two more national title game appearances, a 9-1 record against archrival Michigan and seven Big Ten championships, though one is vacated because of sanctions for NCAA violations that occurred under Tressel’s guidance.
But what defines Tressel? His 106-22 record at Ohio State or how he left?
That could be the determining factor in whether he’s a first-ballot inductee.
What many remember Tressel for now, even more than his sweater vest, his national title and his success against Michigan, was his involvement in Ohio State’s “Tatgate” scandal, one in which he knowingly played players – including star quarterback and prize recruit Terrelle Pryor – who had earned improper benefits from a local tattoo parlor owner.
That came as much of a surprise given Tressel had seemingly epitomized everything that was right about the university and college football, both on and off the field.
Then not only did he knowingly play ineligible players, Tressel was also dishonest with his bosses and Ohio State’s compliance office about his actions, which were violated the terms of his contract and NCAA rules. That ultimately cost him his job.
Tressel could join John Cooper, Woody Hayes, Earle Bruce, Howard Jones, Francis Schmidt and John Wilce in the Hall of Fame. Cooper was most recently inducted in 2008 after finishing with a career record of 193-83-6.
By statistics alone, it would seem as if Tressel – who won more than 100 games at Ohio State alone and finished with a career record of 241-79 – would be a shoo in. His track record, however, could make it more complicated.
But he is on the ballot in his first year of eligibility by rule, which states that a coach must be retired for at least three years before being included.
The 2014 class is announced in May from Irving, Texas, and the selections will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the 57th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 9 in New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
The new Hall, which is currently under construction, will open in Atlanta before the beginning of the 2014 college football season.