powered by the Iowa City Press-Citizen & The Des Moines Register
Subscribe via RSS Feed

Hansen: Is former Buckeye coach Jim Tressel a tragic hero?

[ 0 ] July 28, 2011 |

Chicago, Ill. — If you don’t know what to think of Jim Tressel, the Ohio State football coach who was fired last spring for violating NCAA rules, a few of his comrades  in the Big Ten might be able to help you out.

Losing Tressel was a big blow for the Buckeyes. He consistently pounded Michigan and won a national championship, a bauble that eluded Earle Bruce and John Cooper. In essence, he was Woody Hayes without the storm alerts.

But he got caught letting his players break NCAA rules without doing anything about it and was punished for it. Those players traded memorabilia for tattoos and cash and Tressel covered it up.

You can criticize the rule that says college athletes can’t sell the gifts they received. In the real world, Americans who receive gifts are usually allowed to do with them what they wish. In the less-than-real world of big-time college athletics, gifts apparently come with conditions.

Some say the price Tressel paid was too high, some say too low.  On Thursday, a few of Tressel’s former colleagues weighed in. Some made him sound like a martyr.

Mark Dantonio of Michigan State called Tressel a “tragic hero” and said the consequences were “heart-wrenching” for Dantonio and his family, who know him well.

“He’s had a lot to do with my life as a mentor, really since 1983,” Dantonio said, “and that’s a long time period. Usually tragic heroes have the ability to rise above it … and that’s what I’ll look for in the end.”

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany wasn’t quite so sympathetic.

“Jim Tressel made a mistake and paid dearly for it,” said Delany, who called that and Michigan’s crime of breaking rules on practice limitations “embarrassing” for the entire league. Thursday morning,  he met with the coaches and told them to shape up and follow the rules.

Bret Bielema, the former Hawkeye, who has far exceeded his playing career as Wisconsin’s coach, was asked about all the “negative headlines” this summer.

Without mentioning Tressel, Bielema said the NCAA should “hammer the guys who don’t do things right.”

Talking mainly about recruiting violations, he said, “When you are consciously aware of abusing a rule, there’s no excuse. Maximize your opportunities, do what you have to do. But when you consciously break an NCAA rule, to me the only way to deter that is to get rid of people or seriously hold programs accountable. That’s probably the No. 1 thing I would love to see happen in the world of college football.”

Ohio State asked Tressel to resign then said he could call it a retirement if he wanted. He paid no fine. He received the last month of his base pay, which comes to $54,000. In return he promises not to sue and agrees to cooperate with the NCAA on Aug. 12 when Ohio State goes before the infractions committee.

Ohio State recently learned that no new violations were found during the NCAA investigation. There was no evidence the school had failed to properly monitor the football program.

Somehow you get the feeling Ohio State will survive this.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Marc Hansen: Marc Hansen is a sports columnist for The Des Moines Register. View author profile.

Comments closed