Shortly after Jim Tressel was hired in 2001, the newly-minted Ohio State head coach addressed the crowd at halftime of a men’s basketball game and lit a fire underneath those in attendance — and those who subsequently heard it via a video clip — when it came to The Rivalry.
“I can assure you that you will be proud of your young people in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the football field.”
10 years, a 9-1 record against That School Up North, seven Big Ten titles, a national title and a disgraced exit later, Tressel is still lighting fires when it comes to The Rivalry.
A group reportedly numbering in the neighborhood of 200 people marched in support of the dethroned coach earlier Saturday, descending on The Vest’s plush suburban Columbus home to show they have their former coach’s back. And, in typical Senatorial style, Tressel did not disappoint.
Especially when it came to The Rivalry that was near and dear to his heart.
“Don’t forget: Nov. 26th we’re going to kick their ass!” Tressel was quoted as saying from the front doorstep of his home.
Needless to say, those words brought a raucous cheer from those who had made the trek. As did his words regarding his feelings toward the university that reportedly nudged him toward resignation.
“We’re going to be Buckeyes for life,” Tressel said, his arm around his wife. “What’s that old saying? Buckeye born and bred, a Buckeye ’til I’m dead.”
All that does, though, is make the inexplicable even more so, that he would torch everything he’d built at the university he loved and adored by lying and covering up what were, in the grand scheme of things, relatively minor NCAA violations. The decision-making process that began in April of 2010 is, and will continue to be, utterly inexplicable. And sad. Really, really sad.
UPDATED 9:26 p.m. ET: As has been noted to me via email and Twitter, the actual date of this year’s Ohio State-Michigan game is Nov. 26. Cut Tressel some slack, though; he’s got a lot on his mind these days and remembering the exact date of the next The Game likely isn’t one of ‘em.