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What’s next for The Vest?

Jim Tressell AP

The on-field accomplishments are well-known and read exactly what you’d expect a future Hall of Famer’s résumé to look like.

A winning percentage of nearly .750 in a 25-year coaching career.  Five national titles — four at Div. I-AA Youngstown State, one at Ohio State.  Six official Big Ten titles.  Dozens upon dozens of players who went on to some modicum of success in the NFL.

The off-field issues that enveloped Columbus over the past year, though, have come to define Jim Tressel‘s quarter century as a head coach.

The final NCAA sanctions on the OSU football program announced Tuesday included a five-year show-cause for the former Buckeyes coach, a punishment that would seemingly preclude him from landing another job at the collegiate level for the foreseeable future but may not have the teeth it was originally thought to possess.  Regardless of how sharp the teeth on the show-cause may or may not be, it won’t change what an institution or an organization would be hiring: a man who lied to the NCAA — on at least four different occasions according to the final report on the Tat Five — and, perhaps more importantly, lied to and/or hid information pertaining to likely NCAA violations from his employer, leading directly to sanctions that will involve a one-year bowl ban and lost scholarships over the next three years.

Does that make him unhirable at the collegiate level?  Not necessarily; right behind dollar signs come W’s in the eyes of an athletic program, and Tressel has proven to be one of the best coaches at the highest level of football when it comes to that all-important letter.  Offer the promise of a winning football program, and coordinating a cover-up underneath your previous employer’s nose and lying to the governing body of collegiate athletics could be scrubbed enough to become palatable for a school desperate for football relevance.

That said, the 59-year-old Tressel knows, as one person close to the former coach put it Tuesday night, “he’s toxic at the collegiate level right now.”  For the time being, Tressel is comfortable in his current job as a consultant with the Indianapolis Colts.  Coaching, though, is in his blood.  Will always be there, more than likely.  And he wants back in it, at almost any level.

I hope so,” Tressel said back in late August when asked if he’d like to coach again. “I’m taking it one day at a time.”

The collegiate toxicity Tressel speaks of privately will likely not go away for the foreseeable future, so the former coach has let it be known to those in and around NFL circles that he’s open to a position at the professional level.  While a college coach at heart, and as he had turned down head-coaching overtures at the next level multiple times during his time with the Buckeyes, those around Tressel acknowledge that the NFL might be the most viable option in the here and now, if for nothing more than it allows the scandal to get smaller and smaller in the rear-view.

Regardless of what Tressel does in the future or where he does it, what exactly his legacy will ultimately be remains an open question.

Time and distance does an amazing job softening the rough edges of history.  Over 30 years after his career ended in disgrace with one televised bowl punch, Woody Hayes is as beloved a figure in the state of Ohio as there’s ever been or will likely ever be.

The same will likely be said for the senatorial splendor of The Vest… down the road.  After some time and distance have been placed between his inexplicable decision to make a conscious effort to launch a cover-up and whatever the final chapters of his life may hold.

Speaking for myself, I just want to know the “why” of the entire sordid mess.  Why would Tressel take a situation that might’ve resulted in a handful of players sitting for a couple of games and cover it up?  Why would he sabotage all that he had built in Columbus for something that, in and of itself, was relatively minor?   Why would a man who had very publicly taken up permanent residence on the moral high ground climb down into the gutter over a few thousand dollars worth of impermissible benefits?

And maybe that’s just it.  Maybe Tressel’s legacy is that we all knew a whole helluva lot more about him on the field than we did off of it.

As Tressel has made crystal clear, even great men make inexplicable decisions and inexcusable mistakes.  Placing coaches atop a pedestal?  There’s a lesson for all of us in that part of his legacy.

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27 Responses to “What’s next for The Vest?”
  1. crindal3000 says: Dec 20, 2011 11:31 PM

    After The penn st thing “the vest scandal “seems like a complete joke.

  2. neyvit says: Dec 20, 2011 11:38 PM

    The “why” question is certainly the most puzzling part of this entire saga. I think after so many years of excellence and the persona that the public built of him (and that he reinforced) created a sense of invincibility – and that invincibility caused an arrogant indifference of the rules as they apply to him.

    When he received the e-mail of Pryor and Posey selling stuff, I very much doubt in his head he was thinking “I MUST LAUNCH A COVERUP!” Instead, he played by his own rules on what he thought was worthy of being punishable. To this day, I doubt he even thinks what he did was wrong.

    It’s a sad end for a great coach and, by most accounts, a good man.

  3. BrownsTown says: Dec 21, 2011 12:00 AM

    FWIW, YSU is in what used to be known Division 1AA.

    Signed,
    That Guy

  4. dkhhuey says: Dec 21, 2011 12:48 AM

    That will always be the ultimate question that may or may not ever come out! It just baffles me why this man made the decision he did that day! I realize the second the decision was made it instantly became a cover up situation and from that point on he had to hide it. I know it will be a decision that will haunt him for quite some time!

  5. vincentbojackson says: Dec 21, 2011 1:28 AM

    Tressel put a stain on a once proud college program and then brought his bad mojo to the Colts.

    Only Bin Laden had a worse year.

  6. supremeomega says: Dec 21, 2011 1:32 AM

    JT was under a lot of pressure to win another title and dispell the fraud label brought on by the Florida LSU and USC beatings. He sold his soul to recruit Pryor who really did not want to go to OSU. OSU was the preseason favorite to win it all and Tress got greedy thinking this was the best team he had in a whole and with TP could physically stand up to an SEC champion.

    If Tress reported the truth the players get several games and the team may win 9-10 instead of 12 games. Tressel sold out for Clarett also and then threw him under the bus. I have lived in Columbus most of my life and seen his antics. Great coach, decent man but could not take the heat of losing and was willing to let a few star players do whatever they wanted to win. He got what he deserved and will have to live the rest of his life knowing he threw his career away for basically nothing. He could have gone on to surpass Woody…Sad!

    I hope he gets a chance to go somewhere eventually

  7. sparky151 says: Dec 21, 2011 2:18 AM

    It’s only mysterious if one is not familiar with Chris Cicero. He’s a former OSU player who became a lawyer. He’s acted unethically in various matters and had his law license suspended previously. He’s the person who emailed info to Tressel that players were hanging out with Ed Rife, a tattoo parlor owner and drug dealer. Cicero learned this from a meeting with Rife concerning representing him during the federal investigation.

    Tressel’s concern was that the players might be using or selling drugs or at least might be arrested if they were on the premises when Rife was arrested. Since Cicero is a famously unreliable source (his troubles with a local judge were front page news a few years back), Tressel tried to find out for himself what was going on. He asked a local FBI agent about the case, asked a Pryor family friend named Sarniak about it, and asked the players. The players denied using or selling drugs. I doubt the subject of tattoos even came up though that’s what the NCAA is fixated on.

    Cicero violated Rife’s attorney-client privilege when he emailed Tressel. He’s currently facing a disciplinary hearing before the Ohio Supreme Court about it. Tressel probably thought it better not to compound the violation by passing the info along to the compliance office and NCAA. That’s certainly an ethical position, though not the one the NCAA demands.

    Of course the irony in all this is that the NCAA doesn’t seem to care about players earning outside income by selling drugs since Iowa isn’t under investigation after several players were arrested for drug dealing in 2010. Meanwhile the NCAA rule against selling memorabilia is probably invalid under Ohio law but it’s not in the players’ or university’s interest to litigate it and earn further ire from the NCAA.

  8. Pac12ute says: Dec 21, 2011 3:17 AM

    @ crindal3000 I couldn’t agree more. The violations/bad publicity before Penn State (UNC, Miami, OSU, Oregon, Boise St., USC, South Carolina, LSU fights, Central Florida, New Mexico, and on and on) all seem like a distant memory.

    As for Tressel, have him start at the bottom level of FBS teams and require a no-transfer, no-buyout contract for a 5-7 year period so he can build up a bad program to help pay his dues. Should be the same for all violators.

  9. buckeyeron says: Dec 21, 2011 7:11 AM

    Tressel was obviously more concerned about the welfare of the players than he was about himself. He knew that the NCAA penalties would be grossly out of line with the “crime” and he tried to protect these kids future careers. After all, we are talking about players who sold items that were by all accounts their own property. Tressel brought most of these guys up from low income neighborhoods and gave them a chance for a new life in the NFL. How could any coach who cares about his players seriously taking all that away from these guys by reporting a trivial and unjustified infraction to the NCAA? A five game suspension in the NCAA can make a huge difference in the draft prospects, and earnings, of college players. Tressel was known for supporting his players however he could, and this is just another example of him doing that.

  10. lookatthefarside says: Dec 21, 2011 7:26 AM

    It only seems right that, “The Vest”, would move to Sad Valley.

  11. mario1357 says: Dec 21, 2011 8:03 AM

    Your comments regarding the Tressel matter and the lessons we should learn from it can also apply to journalists. Go Blue!

  12. florida727 says: Dec 21, 2011 8:05 AM

    Personally, I’d like to see Tressel sue the NCAA for defamation. Look it up on dictionary.com. What the NCAA has done to Tressel by handing down this type of punishment constitutes “the unjustified injury of the good reputation of a person”.

    As others have stated, what he did was wrong, I get that. Even if his so-called cover-up was for his own benefit and that of protecting his players, the penalty is too severe, especially when compared to what other coaches have been proven guilty of.

    Bottom line: the NCAA is pissed off that he lied to them. So in exchange, they essentially make him a “unhireable”. In a court of law, I think he wins. We live in a right-to-work society last I checked.

  13. PanchoHerreraFanClub says: Dec 21, 2011 9:13 AM

    Perhaps a better question is why Penn State hasn’t been suspended from the Big Ten. Let’s put this on the scale, the coach turning his back on players trading autographs for tattoos and the university president and AD (who still works for Penn State, he’s just on leave) covering up child rape. The NCAA is at least (and the last one) investigating. The Big Ten not much said about Penn State. In fact, Penn State will be representing them in a bowl game!

  14. mrmondaynite says: Dec 21, 2011 9:14 AM

    florida727 – I didn’t know dictionary.com was an acceptable legal source in US courts.

    You are obviously not a lawyer. I could go on and on, but you clearly know nothing about defamation.

  15. mrmondaynite says: Dec 21, 2011 9:46 AM

    Work is slow, so I just pulled out my old law school outlines.

    Public figures almost never win defamation cases.

    Further, truth is an “absolute defense” to defamation. I think it’s pretty clear that Tressel did what he was accused of (and found to have done), and my belief is further cemented by Tressel’s acceptance of the show-cause penalty.

  16. dkhhuey says: Dec 21, 2011 10:37 AM

    Personally, I’m torn about how I feel about Jimmy The Vest!

    On one hand, I’d love to hug him for all he did at OSU and for his players. He restored a program that was mired in a losing streak in the bowl games and against Ann Arbor Community College (sorry but if they continue to refer to us as Ohio – this is the moniker I will use for them). He locked down the state for recruiting and made great strides in bringing in players from outside of Ohio. Although his Tresselball drove me nuts at times – he was a proven winner and for that, he will always have my gratitude.

    On the other hand, I want to punch him right smack in the middle of his glasses for what he did to OSU. I will never understand what the F@#$ he was thinking when he lied and covered up a few minor rules violations and subsequent 2 or 3 game suspension penalties, and turned it into a full blown fiasco is beyond me! It was a monumental mistake that cost the university and players plenty, as well as his own career and reputation.

    The bright news is the university and football program will emerge much stronger given the year we have all been through. The amount of coverage OSU got during this time was just mind blowing, I must say! The verdict has been delivered and we can now put it all in the rear view mirror! We now have an incredibly optimistic outlook on the future given we have Urban Meyer at the helm of our football team!

  17. psousa1 says: Dec 21, 2011 11:33 AM

    Coordinator in NFL. He can coach.

  18. whyalwaysthehate says: Dec 21, 2011 11:40 AM

    Olieho State

  19. dkhhuey says: Dec 21, 2011 11:58 AM

    @why – wow, how original!

  20. thekatman says: Dec 21, 2011 1:40 PM

    What idiot AD would want to hire Tressel after his firing from Ohio State for cheating? He cheated at Youngstown State and OSU. Once a cheater, twice a cheater…. always a cheater. Would you want to be the 3rd AD to get burned?

  21. gators56 says: Dec 21, 2011 2:37 PM

    All the fall out leaves OSU in a bad situation for the next few years.

    JUST DESERTS for URBAN LIAR!!!

  22. lgwelsh1 says: Dec 21, 2011 2:56 PM

    When you look at the entire scenario the punishment doesn’t fit.

  23. whyalwaysthehate says: Dec 21, 2011 3:47 PM

    @dkhhuey

    sorry… The Olieho State

  24. glestonsimmons says: Dec 21, 2011 7:40 PM

    Why? Why????
    As if this crookedness was a one-time incident?
    The answer to your “why?” is that Mr. Vest made a living at cheating. He developed a quaint little aura that explicitly and implicitly stated he was a righteous fellow while he dishonestly put talent on the tYSU and tosu football fields who could win games and bring him success, kind of like Pat Robertson has made millions using his front called the 700 Club.

    The more important why is why is this allowed to go on for so long and why do so many people think this phony is still “a good guy at heart.”

    Maybe Elwood G. Gee has some asinine answer to lend us.

  25. woebegong says: Dec 22, 2011 7:57 AM

    Gators56,

    You have to get over the Meyer thing. The man can coach and he will bide his time, and build up his team, by recruiting and hiring good assistants. Not going to a bowl next year is probably a blessing in disguise. In 2013, they will be a solid contender in the big 10.
    You have your HC in Mushcamp, so if you are this upset that Meyer left Florida and is now at OSU, it shows people that you don’t have a lot of faith in your HC.

  26. ericbrinkman says: Dec 25, 2011 7:11 AM

    Why is that he promised that stupid lawyer he wouldn’t tell anyone–that was the mistake that caught him.

    The lawyer that sent him the email asked him in the email not to tell anyone that he’d heard it from him–so Tressel promised that he wouldn’t say.

    Then the lawyer gave the email to someone else.

    The whole thing is just sad; he was a good coach he every player he’s had said that he treated them like family–it’s hard to say what his motivation was to not say anything as it started to come out, but what he says it that he was worried about dragging his kids into a drug investigation.

    I think, if time can forgive Woody, Tressel has nothing to worry about as long as he sticks to what was why he was winning–taking care of his players and staff as if they were his family.

    Cheers,
    eric

  27. woebegong says: Dec 25, 2011 7:43 AM

    Unless another college wants to end up in trouble or fined for taking him on, I would say the five year band is pretty effective. If he has a desire to remain in coaching, I guess he could go the NFL assistant coach or maybe even head coach route. I hear the N.Y. Jets are looking to replace mouthasaurus Rex.

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