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Keeler: Congratulations to Kirk Ferentz: You’re the highest-paid football coach in the Big Ten. For now, at least

[ 42 ] May 30, 2011 |

Finally, The Vest rests.

It was only a matter of time. Time and stunning, unjustifiable hubris.

For months — years, really — Ohio State coach Jim Tressel roamed above the law, played by his own rules. When you’re 9-1 against Michigan in Columbus, you can get away with anything.

Well, as it turns out, almost anything.

Tressel, who was extremely successful — and increasingly controversial — at Ohio State, resigned today, amid a rising storm of accusations and NCAA allegations.

The straw that allegedly broke the camel’s back was a Sports Illustrated report by esteemed investigative journalist George Dorhmann, which is slated to hit newsstands this week.

Tressel, known for his stoic demeanor and sideline sweater vests, was the most successful coach at Ohio State since Woody Hayes, winning a national championship with the Bucks in 2002-03. He captured seven Big Ten titles in 10 seasons. His average record with the Scarlet and Gray was 11-2. He owned rival Wolverines. Heck, he owned just about everybody else in the league, too, including a 5-1 record against the Hawkeyes during his tenure. (Although several of the losses were close, and Tressel’s lone setback to Iowa — a 33-7 whupping at Iowa City in 2004 — was the program’s largest margin of defeat ever against the Hawkeyes.)

But there’s also been rumblings of foul play within Tressel’s program from the beginning of his tenure, a line of dubious player behavior that runs from Maurice Clarett to Terrelle Pryor.

But on April 25, the NCAA came calling, and the gig was finally up. Tressel was accused of withholding information from the suits and Indianapolis and — worse yet — lying to the NCAA in order to keep his players on the field. A “notice of allegations” for “potential major violations” was sent to Ohio State. The notice decreed that the Ohio native “failed to comport himself … (with) honesty and integrity” and said he lied when he filled out a compliance form in September which said he had no knowledge of any NCAA violations by any of his players.

You can lie to the media. You can lie to fans. You can lie to your bosses. But lie to the NCAA, brother, you’re playing with fire. Let’s put it this way: Former Iowa assistant Bruce Pearl was let go at Tennessee for far less.

The big story now is who comes in next: Former Hawkeye coaches Bob Stoops and Bo Pelini are Ohio natives who would fit the mold; ditto ex-Florida coach Urban Meyer, if his health permits. Ohio State remains one of the top 5 jobs in all of college football, a glorious, storied destination. The expectations are huge; the fan base rabid and unrelenting. Tressel managed to set the bar very high and very low, all in the same breath.

Meanwhile, congrats, Kirk Ferentz — you’re the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten.

For now.

Iowa's head coach Kirk Ferentz shakes hands with Ohio State coach Jim Tressel before the start of the game, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009, at Ohio Stadium. (Matthew Holst/HawkCentral file photos)

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Sean Keeler: Sean Keeler has been a sports columnist at The Des Moines Register since 2002. Got a story tip, comment, complaint? E-mail him at skeeler@dmreg.com. You can follow him on twitter at twitter.com/seankeeler or on Facebook at facebook.com/smkeeler. View author profile.

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