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.