Puskas: Manziel, Tressel represent hope

Johnny Manziel and Jim Tressel have been in the news and they seem to have something in common.

Manziel was drafted by the Cleveland Browns to lead the franchise to a Super Bowl — somewhere it’s never gone — some day.

Tressel was drafted — again — by Youngstown State. But this time it’s not to win football games. Instead, his new job is to lead the university out of a malaise of financial woes and shrinking enrollment and into a new era of success.

The common theme was in the reaction to both men being hired. There seems no middle ground on either of them.

Manziel is either another sure first-round bust or a franchise QB for the ages.

The reaction to Tressel’s agreement in principle to become the next YSU president seems just as polarized.

On one side is a group of people who can’t believe the university hired a former football coach — sans a Ph.D. — and a disgraced former football coach at that. Some of them can’t get over what they feel is a double negative with Tressel in that he is not perceived as an academic and that his career at Ohio State ended in scandal. Some of them feel either alone is reason enough not to hire him to run YSU.

But just as many observers openly backed Tressel’s candidacy. They believe he is a born leader who will be able to motivate students, faculty and potential university donors to — respectively — learn, teach and part with significant chunks of cash to the best of their abilities.

It’s a sign of our times that people — often with much in common — can be so divided about Manziel, Tressel, politicians and issues of the day. This is who we are these days.

So who’s right?

I won’t hazard a guess on Manziel. Super Bowl or Super Bust? Like most Browns fans, I’ll hope for the best for a moribund franchise.

Tressel is someone with a more extensive body of work, and despite what the detractors say, most of it is impressive. And it’s not just about winning football games.

I’ve watched Tressel work from afar and up close for more than 20 years at YSU and OSU and grew to appreciate what he accomplished — and what he helped others accomplish — at both places.

I think his skill set can translate into the sort of comprehensive leadership role YSU is hiring him to fill.

Tressel is a master motivator. He has a way of uniting diverse people in pursuit of a common goal. When you break it down, isn’t that what YSU needs?

Well, that and an infusion of cash. If there is one man who seems able to unite diverse community and business leaders — some with the deepest pockets in the Mahoning Valley — behind YSU, it’s Jim Tressel.

Yes, Tressel’s career with the Buckeyes ended in a scandal. He paid dearly for it, too.

But this is America, where some still believe there is good in a man who has made mistakes. The idea of a shot at redemption still resonates for us.

And it seems to resonate even louder in the Mahoning Valley.

Write Vindicator Sports Editor Ed Puskas at epuskas@vindy.com and follow him on Twitter, @edpuskas_vindy.

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