Gene Smith, Jim Tressel

Tressel still has supporters, including his boss


There are many people — yes, looking at you Mike Bianchi, Beano Cook — who have been very open with their feelings that they don’t think Jim Tressel will last as Ohio State’s head coach beyond the 2011 season.  Some, including Buckeyes legend Chris Spielman, question whether or not the beleaguered/embattled coach will be on the sidelines at all in 2011.

Given the track record his attorney hopes will help see him through the troubled NCAA waters he’s currently traversing, however, Tressel is not without his supporters both inside and outside the football program.

Most importantly and above all else, Tressel still appears to have the backing of OSU athletic director Gene Smith.

Oh, definitely, no question,” Smith said when asked at the Big Ten meetings in Chicago if he still supported his football coach. “I haven’t changed, I haven’t changed. But I’m not talking about the case beyond that.”

Smith’s not alone.  While his opinion doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne was effusive in his praise of Tressel.

“I know Jim quite well and I knew him back in Youngstown [State, where Tressel coached before OSU],” Nebraska athletics director Tom Osborne said during a recent visit to Cedar Rapids. “My impressions of Jim are No. 1, he’s a very sound football man. He’s very good and knows what he’s doing.

“He’s a very principled man, which has got to be very painful to have your integrity called into question when, basically, that’s the way you’ve lived your life. So, what all happened, why he did what he did, I don’t know. But I do know I would trust the guy.

“I don’t think he’s someone who’d deliberately cheat or try to buy a player. He would never do that. I hope he does [survive the current turmoil], because I think the sport will be diminished without him.”

Not to pick nits with the classy Osborne, Tressel’s not accused of deliberately cheating or trying to buy a player, unless you consider covering up violations committed by a handful of his players to be the former.

Be that as it may, and as noted by Marc Morehouse in his solid “Tressel = Elephant in the room” piece for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, some of those in attendance would prefer to let others speak on Ohio State’s “situation”.

“You need to talk to Ohio State about that,” Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez said. “I’m not going there. I’m not going there.”

Even as some won’t go there, Tressel still has his supporters.  For that, the coach is grateful.

“Coaches are great, they understand all of the challenges everyone has, just as you peers understand yours,” Tressel said during brief remarks to the media.

As for Tressel’s future, the coach will begin parallel preparations over the next couple of months — one for getting his team prepared for a 2011 season in which he will be suspended for the first five games, another for his legal team to prepare his defense in front of the NCAA Aug. 12.

As has previously been reported, Tressel has retained the services of Gene Marsh to represent him when he appears before the NCAA.  Marsh was a member of the NCAA’s infractions committee for nine years, including two as its chairman, before specializing in compliance issues as an attorney for the Alabama law firm of Lightfoot, Franklin & White.

As he continues to make the interview rounds in support of his newest client in a talk with the Columbus Dispatch, Marsh chastised the media for, unlike his contemporaries in the Big Ten, piling on the poor coach.

“This case has had no small amount of incredible piling on by media who otherwise – their sole credential is blankety-blank dot-com,” Marsh said. “All is fair in love and war, and people are free to write what they want. But it’s almost as if some people think if they write one more article, it will be the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

That’s not the way it plays out in the room, Marsh said.

“This is a serious matter with serious people involved,” Marsh said. “They are not going to get all jazzed up or get their head turned by some dot-com writer somewhere.”

Of course, Marsh is absolutely correct.  The NCAA is not going to get all jazzed up over the media pile-driving Tressel’s battered and bleeding coaching body.  What they might get all jazzed up about, though, is… oh, I don’t know… the head coach of a Div. 1-A football program lying to them and covering up violations.  S0mething along those lines, in that neighborhood.

Instead of worrying about how the media’s playing their own version of the blame-and-sanction game, Marsh needs to be concerned about his client’s future, one that may or may not include a show-cause.

And regardless of how much public support he gets from his contemporaries.

Georgia reportedly hires Kirby Smart as head coach

Kirby Smart

Sometimes the rumors really are true.

Seemingly since he arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007, the worst-kept secret in college football was that Kirby Smart wouldn’t jump from Nick Saban‘s perch until the Georgia job opened.

And now, one day after Mark Richt said goodbye in Athens, multiple reports say that’s exactly what will happen – Smart will be the next Bulldogs coach.

Outside of Houston’s Tom Herman, Smart was the only target UGA athletics director Greg McGarity truly targeted and, barring a major turn of events between now and the SEC championship, he’ll have landed him.

Hailing from Bainbridge, Ga., Smart played safety for Georgia from 1995-98, then returned in 2005 as running backs coach. In between he made stops at Valdosta State, Florida State, LSU, the Miami Dolphins and, finally, Alabama, where he helped the Crimson Tide to three national titles and never produced a defense ranked lower than 18th nationally in yards per play defense.

This year’s Crimson Tide defense ranks second nationally heading into an SEC title game date with Florida. If, as expected, Alabama wins and, as expected, Smart is introduced as Georgia’s next coach, he’ll likely pull a move much like Herman last year and work double-duty through Alabama’s run in the College Football Playoff.

What sort of program will Smart run? Other than the Process-based enterprise seemingly microchip implanted into the brain of every Saban aide, it’s hard to say. Smart only spoke to the media three times annually.

But here’s one guarantee: he’ll need to nail his offensive coordinator hire. Saban’s former offensive coordinators — Jimbo Fisher and Jim McElwain — have thrived, while his most prominent defensive coordinator-turned-head coach protege — Will Muschamp — failed mightily at Florida because he could never conquer the other side of the ball.

Smart will be expected to win, win big, and win quickly. You don’t fire a coach with 145 wins in 15 years and 19 victories in the last two for any other reason.

Why Steve Spurrier retired, as told by Steve Spurrier

Steve Spurrier

When Steve Spurrier abruptly retired in October, most stopped to reminisce about a true college football original’s career come to a sudden, but not unexpected end. But others pointed out that Spurrier essentially quit on his team in the middle of a tough season. It was an easy take and, hey, it’s not like the Old Ball Coach himself wouldn’t have said something if Mark Richt had done something similar.

In a letter provided to The State, Spurrier reasoned his retirement truly was better for the team, that the team played better without him around and that his presence would’ve generated speculation that would have suffocated the rest of the season.

Considering the Gamecocks lost to The Citadel, one has every reason to doubt that claim. But it’s the one Spurrier is going with.

The letter in full:

In the last few years when asked how much longer I plan to coach, I have said often that if our team is going in the wrong direction I need to resign and allow someone else to take over as head coach here. After six games, we were 2-4 with two blow-outs by Georgia and LSU. We were behind at halftime against UCF (a team that went 0-12 this year). We were definitely going in the wrong direction. I felt that I was doing a lousy job as head coach and a change would help our team become more competitive.

I told our team after I resigned that they needed new leadership, new enthusiasm and a new plan. By stepping aside, this allowed Shawn Elliott the opportunity to change our direction, change our attitude, and hopefully, he could be named head coach after the season. If this happens, some of our assistant coaches would be retained, and this was a major reason for me to get out of the way. Also, by resigning, I forfeited the buyout clause in my contract that saved our university three million dollars.

I certainly believe, as the media has said, that our team played better after I resigned. Shawn Elliott did an excellent job getting this team prepared to play with enthusiasm and effort the rest of our season. Unfortunately, the close games turned into close losses.

When I mentioned I may coach again, I meant possibly as a volunteer coach at a high school. After thirty years as a head coach, I positively know that my head coaching career is finished.

I understand the critics have asked why I didn’t announce I was retiring at the end of the season, as some other coaches have done. I felt that if I had done this, I would have been a distraction throughout the remainder of the season about my last game everywhere I went. I did not want a “Spurrier Farewell Tour.” The players deserve to be the story of each game. Also, it would have prevented Shawn Elliott, a coach that has loved the South Carolina Gamecocks his whole life, from getting the shot to be the interim head coach, with the possibility of becoming the Head Coach here.

When a coach gets fired, the change is often good and helpful to the team. Miami was 4-3 when Al Golden was fired, and the interim head coach went 4-1. Randy Edsall was 2-4 at Maryland when fired and his replacement got the team playing better. Clay Helton, the interim coach at the other USC, was recently named head coach as they went 5-2 under his watch.

Our university was not going to fire me, so I thought it was best for our team that I basically fire myself by resigning. The players have enjoyed playing for Coach Elliott and again the media has said the team has performed better after I resigned.

Thanks to all Gamecocks for allowing me to be your coach for over ten years. My wife Jerri and I will always be thankful and appreciative to the University of South Carolina for this opportunity.


Steve Spurrier

Top four remains same in penultimate College Football Playoff rankings

Bob Stoops

The penultimate College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night and the top four remained the same from last week. Michigan State sits at fifth, meaning Saturday’s Big Ten Championship is officially a national quarterfinal.

Stanford, heading into this week’s Pac-12 Championship, checked in at No. 7, while party-crasher-to-be North Carolina jumped from No. 14 to No. 10.

Ohio State checks in at No. 6, but Stanford seems primed to pass the Buckeyes with a win over No. 20 USC. Getting into the top four, however, would require a loss by No. 1 Clemson or No. 2 Alabama. No. 3 Oklahoma is seemingly in the playoff with a completed 11-1 regular season.

TCU moved one spot ahead of Baylor after a rain-soaked double overtime win over the Bears on Friday night.

Houston, USC and LSU moved back into the rankings, while Tennessee joined the party for the first time this year.

Tuesday night’s release was the final dress rehearsal of the 2015 season; the next time we hear from the CFP selection committee will be to announce the four semifinal selections.

But while these are the second-to-last set of rankings, we can ask 2014 TCU about how much they ultimately mean.

The full rankings:

1. Clemson
2. Alabama
3. Oklahoma
4. Iowa
5. Michigan State
6. Ohio State
7. Stanford
8. Notre Dame
9. Florida State
10. North Carolina
11. TCU
12. Baylor
13. Ole Miss
14. Northwestern
15. Michigan
16. Oregon
17. Oklahoma State
18. Florida
19. Houston
20. USC
21. LSU
22. Temple
23. Navy
24. Utah
25. Tennessee

Dabo Swinney wins ACC Coach of the Year award

Dabo Swinney

When you go undefeated, people tend to give you awards.

In the wake of Clemson’s first perfect regular season, its first since 1981, head coach and pizza party patron Dabo Swinney was named the ACC’s top coach on Tuesday.

Swinney received 27 of the 50 available votes, edging North Carolina’s Larry Fedora (21). Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi each gobbled up one of the two remaining votes.

Aaron Brenner of the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier notes Swinney is due a $25,000 bonus for winning the award.