Jim Tressel

Tressel ‘encouraged’ to resign ‘for good of the program’

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The fallout from Jim Tressel‘s stunning resignation, which came nearly two weeks after getting a vote of confidence from his boss, continues this morning with word that his decision to step down as head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes — surprise! — may not have been a completely voluntary one.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, which broke the story on Tressel’s resignation, the now-former head coach was “encouraged” to resign by unnamed individuals.  It’s unclear precisely who those individuals were, but the talk of Tressel stepping down for the good of the program had reportedly commenced several weeks ago.

The Dispatch further writes that “mounting pressure, a pending NCAA disciplinary hearing and new revelations about the culture of the program forced the university to act on their once-revered coach, sources said.”

The new revelations the paper spoke of could include myriad issues, including the school’s probe — prompted by a Dispatch inquiry — into vehicles purchased by members of the football program and their family from a pair of Columbus dealerships.  Additionally, a feature by Sports Illustrated senior writer/pit bull George Dohrmann has been in the works for weeks and is said to be very damning and damaging to the OSU football program in general and Tressel specifically.  While it’s unclear what new details, if any, Dorhmann unearthed, OSU officials were reportedly given a sneak peek into the piece late last week.

“I’m told it is likely my SI mag story will be posted at SI.com later today/tonight. Timing of Tress dec. will make sense after you read it,” Dorhmann wrote on his Twitter account shortly after news of Tressel’s resignation broke.  Dohrmann went on to write that a statement by OSU officials that the “Board and President Gee consider this matter unrelated to the media” is “bs“.

As for the future of an Ohio State football program rocked by the scandal that eventually brought down one of the most successful head coaches of the past decade?  For the time being, you can forget about Urban Meyer riding in on his white horse and saving his home state’s flagship institution, even as ESPN‘s Kirk Herbsteit stated this morning that “[t]he reality is his (Urban Meyer) dream job has always been and will continue to be the head coach at Ohio State.”

In an email sent to students announcing Tressel’s resignation, OSU president/serial buffoon E. Gordon Gee wrote that “recruitment for a new head coach – which is expected to include external and internal candidates – will not commence until the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season.”  So, at least for the 2011 season, Luke Fickell, who it had previously been announced would serve as interim head coach while Tressel served his five-game suspension, will be in charge of the Buckeyes.

Athletic director Gene Smith, who also attended the meeting, declined to comment but said in a release that he is looking “forward to refocusing the football program on doing what we do best – representing this extraordinary University and its values on the field, in the classroom, and in life. We look forward to supporting Luke Fickell in his role as our football coach. We have full confidence in his ability to lead our football program.”

After that, however, the speculation centering on Meyer taking over the program will commence in earnest.

Regardless of whether it’s Meyer or Fickell or whomever, that individual could very well be stepping into an on-field mess spawned by off-field issues.  The university is scheduled to appear in front of the NCAA in August to answer for the cover-up/lies/dishonesty that led to Tressel announcing to his players Monday morning that he was stepping down.  Tressel became aware in April 2010 that at least two of his players — quarterback Terrelle Pryor, wide receiver DeVier Posey — had likely received impermissible benefits but sat on the information — in one instance lying to the NCAA on a compliance form — until confronted with damning emails this past January.

Whether Tressel’s resignation, forced or not, will have an impact on whatever sanctions the NCAA levies on the football program remains to be seen.  It became clear, however, to many involved, including the coach, that the trigger had to be pulled.

“After meeting with University officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach,” Tressel said in a statement. “The appreciation that Ellen and I have for the Buckeye Nation is immeasurable.”

Tressel leaves Ohio State with a 106-22 record, seven outright or shared Big Ten titles — including six straight — and one national championship.  Unfortunately, given the circumstances surrounding his resignation, the on-field greatness will not be his legacy.

Report: Art Briles to interview for Houston job

HOUSTON - NOVEMBER 17: Head coach Art Briles of the Houston Cougars looks on during the game with the Marshall Thundering Herd at Robertson Stadium November 17, 2007 in Houston, Texas. Houston won 35-28. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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At some point, scandal-stained Art Briles will be back at the FBS level as a head coach. It could happen, though, sooner than most everyone expected.

According to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Briles is one of at least five candidates to fill the vacancy at Houston.  Briles’ first job as an FBS head coach came at UH in 2003.  In five seasons, Briles guided the Cougars to a 34-28 record during the time, a job that paved the way for him to take over at Baylor in 2008 and put that program on the national map.

Briles was fired earlier this year in the wake of the sexual assault scandal that rocked both the football program and university.  UH regents chair Tim Fertitta confirmed this past week that the door hasn’t been shut on a Briles return, even as some “clarity” when it comes to his controversial ouster in Waco is needed.

“There’s a lot of administrator and ex-administrators and board of regents from Baylor that say that Art Briles was a scapegoat at Baylor,” Fertitta told the Houston Chronicle. “I’ve had calls from ex-chairman of the board of regents there, current big booster there, lawyers that represent Baylor. I have not had one negative call about Art Briles. But there still seems to be a clarity issue. …

“I would love for Art Briles to be on our super-short list. But until, or if, or when we can ever get full clarity, I can’t see us going there.”

For the record, UH’s president is Renu Khator, the second woman to ever hold that title at the university.  She also holds the dual title of UH System chancellor, the first woman to do so.

It had previously been reported that Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will interview for the UH job as well.  Per McMurphy, that interview will take place Sunday, after the SEC championship game this afternoon.

Additionally, former LSU head coach Les Miles and UH’s offensive and defensive coordinators, Major Applewhite and Todd Orlando, respectively, are candidates and will interview.  On Miles, Fertitta publicly stated that the coach “has some interest in us” and confirmed that the interest was being reciprocated.

Passenger jet flyover prior to Bedlam will honor ex-Sooner killed in airport shooting

CHICAGO - APRIL 05:  A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-3H4 passenger jet prepares to land at Midway Airport on April 5, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Southwest Airlines said it finished inspecting its grounded 737-300 series planes and of the nearly 80 planes five of them have cracks in the aluminum skin. The inspections come after Southwest Flight 812 had to make an emergency landing when a piece of its fuselage skin was torn while on its way from Phoenix to Sacramento. The discovery prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing to require emergency inspections on a portion of the 737 fleet manufactured during the 1980s and 1990s for the same fatigue cracks in the fuselage like the ones on the Southwest jets.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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I’ve always loved flyovers prior to football games or NASCAR races. The plans for Bedlam Saturday, though, will be felt in the heart of those in attendance as much as it will in their ears.

In mid-November, Mike Winchester, a former Oklahoma punter on the Sooners’ 1985 national championship team and an employee at Southwest Airlines, was shot and killed at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. Winchester’s son, James Winchester, was a longsnapper for the Sooners and currently plays for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. The elder Winchester also had two daughters who were Sooner student-athletes.

Prior to Saturday’s rivalry game with Oklahoma State, both OU on the ground and Winchester’s employer in the air will honor the memory of the one-time Sooner.

From OU’s press release:

The University of Oklahoma Athletics Department and Southwest Airlines have announced that, weather conditions permitting, a special commercial airliner flyover will take place before Saturday’s Bedlam game in Norman to honor a former OU football player whose life was cut short two weeks ago.

Winchester, whose son James also played football at OU (lettered 2009-11) and is a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, and whose daughters Carolyn (2006-09) and Rebecca (2010-13) competed on the OU women’s basketball and rowing teams, respectively, is also survived by his wife Julie, daughters Emilyne and Kate, and son John. Emilyne will graduate from OU later this month. They will be joined by 13 additional family members on the field for a pregame moment of silence, the national anthem and flyover by a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 passenger jet.

Very well done by all involved. You should all be proud.

Surprise! Big Ten commish OK with teams that aren’t league champs making playoffs

Jim Delany
Associated Press
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I don’t have a lot of regard for that team.

That was Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany in May of 2012 when asked about a non-division winner, let alone a team that didn’t win its conference, qualifying for what at the time was a hypothetical college football playoff.  That comment also came five months after Alabama, a non-division winner, won the second-to-last BCS title ever handed out.

Four years later, Delany’s tune has changed, in part because Ohio State is sitting in the orchestra pit as the No. 2 seed with a virtual lock on one of the four playoff berths — and are also sitting at home Championship Weekend while Penn State represents their division in the conference championship.  To his credit, Delany says the team he didn’t “have a lot of regard for” four years should make the playoff even with a loss to Florida in the SEC title game this afternoon as well.

“I myself think Alabama has done enough whether they have a conference champion behind their resume or not. I think Ohio State has done enough. I think the committee has suggested that in their earlier years,” Delany said, by way of al.com, on ESPN‘s College GameDay show. “So what we have right now, I think, is two spots, and three, four, five teams fighting for those spots. Conference champion is relevant, but also, who you played, who you beat, who you played in the non-conference.”

Of course, Delany stumping for Ohio State is far from a surprise.  The fact that he’s seemingly dismissing Penn State and Wisconsin, the two teams that will play for his conference’s championship on the field tonight in Indianapolis, likely won’t sit well with those particular fan bases regardless of his reasons.

That said, Delany likely sees the reality that, thanks in large part to Washington’s win Friday night, his league has only one shot at a playoff berth for the third straight year, and that shot is sitting on its collective couches in Columbus this weekend.

There’s a new reality when it comes to college football’s postseason, and Delany seemingly understands that he has no choice but to embrace it — even as he was so strident against his current stance just a few years ago.

I lost that election four years ago. I argued for the four best conference champions. That was not the decision. We lost that election. That election was four years ago. We have to understand that elections happen, certain ideas are adopted and we’re at a different place now. It’s four best teams. And conference championships are there to help sort that cluster out, as well as head-to-head as well as strength of schedule.

“I was the campaign manager four years ago, for the four best conference champions. We lost that election. What we decided on was the four best teams, which I’m fine with. Obviously, this year is unique in some respects. We have the two divisional champions here today playing for the [Big Ten] conference championship, and they should be respected for that. The committee has another role, and that’s to pick the four best teams in the country.

Ouch, Nittany Lions.  That’ll leave a mark, Badgers.

In the end, though, he’s right.  Ohio State and Alabama are two of the four best teams in the country, regardless of whether they have “conference champions” attached to their names.  And that’s the job of the committee — find the four best teams in college football and put them in the playoffs.

Provisional plans in place in case Navy, ahem, wreaks bowl havoc

ANNAPOLIS, MD - NOVEMBER 14: Sean Reaver #99 of the Navy Midshipmen and teammates run onto the field holding U.S. flags before playing against the Southern Methodist Mustangs at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland. The Navy Midshipmen won, 55-14. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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As un-American as it is, there are numerous individuals associated with the bowl process, including bowl officials and affected schools, who will be rooting for Navy to lose later on today.

Why? Because if the service academy beats Temple in the AAC championship game, it was initially thought, a portion of the bowl process could be paralyzed as Navy would be in line for the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bid but still has its annual rivalry game with Army to play next weekend. A handful of bids would likely be delayed for another seven days, potentially putting some teams in a predicament where they would have as little as a 72-hour turnaround from learning where they will play in the postseason to actually playing in the game.

However, Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com reports, a provisional plan has been hatched that would allow 37 of the 40 bowl bids to be announced Sunday as planned regardless of what happens in the AAC title game this afternoon. The plan is based on four teams in particular winning this weekend, with one of the four, Washington, taking care of business Friday night by beating Colorado in the Pac-12 championship game.

The other teams that need to win? No. 3 Clemson (in ACC title game vs. Virginia Tech), 5-6 Louisiana-Lafayette (at 4-7 Louisiana-Monroe) and 5-6 South Alabama (vs. 3-8 New Mexico State). If those three teams win, McMurphy reports, this is what would transpire when it comes to the remaining three bowl games that wouldn’t be able to offer bids this weekend:

Navy is the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion
Navy goes to the Cotton Bowl, Western Michigan plays North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and Army plays a Big 12 team, most likely Baylor, in the Armed Forces Bowl.

Western Michigan is the highest-ranked Group of 5 champion
Western Michigan goes to the Cotton Bowl, Army plays North Texas in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and Navy plays a Big 12 team, most likely Baylor, in the Armed Forces Bowl.

That said, it’s still possible this tentative plan could be blown to smithereens and the postseason hurled into temporary chaos.

However, bowl officials stressed that those scenarios get blown up if more than three 5-7 teams are needed to fill bowls or there are major upsets in the Power 5 championship games.

“If so,” a source said, “then we’ll have to reshuffle the cards again.

The Group of Six bid, the Cotton Bowl, will come down to either No. 19 Navy or No. 17 Western Michigan, which remained unbeaten with a win in the MAC championship game Friday night.