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Opinion: Jim Tressel, We Knew Ye Well

By Sam Kienzle


Jim Tressel, head football coach at The Ohio State University, has offered his resignation following months of apologizing, explaining, and dodging the omnipresent media after it was reported that he knew of improper benefits going to several of his players, but pleaded ignorance to the NCAA so they could participate in the 2011 Sugar Bowl against Arkansas.

 

Jim Tressel resigned Monday after scandal tainted the image of one of the NCAA's top football programs. (Photo from Getty Images)

The players in question currently remain on the roster, but are being forced to sit out five games at the beginning of the 2011 season, allegedly traded Ohio State football memorabilia for cash and tattoos at a Columbus tattoo parlor.  While the trading of improper benefits took place, the owner of the parlor, Ed Rife, was under secret investigation by federal authorities over unrelated drug trafficking and money laundering suspicions.

To sum things up, the beans got spilled all over Columbus regarding the timeliness of Tressel’s knowledge on the matter—and there was too much impending wrath from the NCAA and too much outside rancor directed at Ohio State to get all those beans cleaned up and allow Tressel to weather the storm.  Even a man who won a national championship, seven Big Ten titles in ten years, and consistently hammered Michigan could not stand untouchable.

Tressel lied when the stakes were high, and, for now, his name and reputation will burn with veneration, schadenfreude, or disappointment in the minds of college football fans across the country.  Opinions and sentiments will differ greatly, because Ohio State football has long been a beloved and powerful entity to Ohioans and an antagonist to almost everyone else.
So now, Tressel is gone.  From the perspective of everyone else in the Big Ten, this is a good thing.  Michigan fans have to be relieved that their tyrant is deposed, last besting Tressel in 2003.  Coach Ferentz only got one victory against Tressel, albeit a wonderful 33-7 smashing in 2004.  Most pundits would agree 2004 was the last time Tressel had a “down” year after establishing the program during his 2002 national championship season.

The Buckeyes from the 2004 team still went 8-4 and ripped both Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl and Big Ten co-champion Michigan in the last game of the regular season.  And this brings to light an important observation regarding Tressel’s dominant reign of the past ten years: it was incredibly hard to beat his teams.  Iowa got one win post-OSU revival, Penn State got two (but only during their stellar Big Ten championship seasons of ’05 and ‘08), and obscure teams like Northwestern and Purdue might enjoy one-year successes against the Buckeyes before being razed like a flimsy shack upon their next meeting.

Tressel led Ohio State to its first national title in 34 years. (Photo from washingtonpost.com)

If you got a win against Jim Tressel, hold it high and remember it, because it was all but certain the next year you would pay for the spear you hurled at the beast of the Big Ten.  Wisconsin got some nice wins in ’03,’04, and last year—but it was only last year that their victory allowed them to stay above Ohio State in the hunt for the Rose Bowl.  With Jim Tressel coaching the Buckeyes, you were either choking on their dust or scurrying feverishly to stay ahead.

So what’s next for Iowa?  Will Ferentz get some victories against Ohio State before his time is done?  I sure hope so.  When Lloyd Carr left Michigan following the 2007 season, Ferentz only had two wins against Michigan—’02 and ’03—sacred years in Iowa Football lore.  Now, Ferentz has four wins—fattening up on Rich Rodriguez’s bad teams of ’09 and ’10.

Beating Ohio State every now and then instead of once a decade depends on a few things.  Scheduling (either meeting in the Big Ten Championship game or future crossover games with new division alignments) and Ohio State’s future coach are clearly the biggest factors in whether Iowa will enjoy success against Ohio State in the near future.

Will they stay a power?  Getting someone like Urban Meyer, a proven national championship-caliber coach with strong ties to Ohio, would assumingly sustain their supremacy.  Or will they turn into an Earle Bruce-type team, winning 9 games in a good year and permitting guys like Marv Cook to become instant legends?

It really doesn’t matter who’s leading Ohio State, because wins against the Buckeyes should be considered a rare an fleeting moment of glory.

 


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