It’s been nearly 16 months since Jim Tressel was fired/resigned from his job as Ohio State’s head coach, “stepping down” on Memorial Day 2011 after he was found to have, in essence, lied to both the NCAA and his bosses about impermissible benefits received by a handful of players.
With a celebration of the Sweatervest’s greatest accomplishment during his 10-year run with the Buckeyes looming, could the disgraced former coach, now serving in an administrative position at the University of Akron, be ready for a return to Ohio Stadium?
During the annual OSU-Michigan game Nov. 24, the Buckeyes’ 2002 national title team will be honored on the field of the Horseshoe. OSU athletic director Gene Smith confirmed to the Cleveland Plain Dealer that anyone associated with that team will be permitted to take part in the celebration, which presumably includes Tressel.
The question is, will he return and take the field with his former players?
“I don’t know,” former OSU defensive back Dustin Fox told the Plain Dealer. “I would like to think so. It wouldn’t feel the same without him.”
Another member of that 2002 team, Mike Doss, said that while “[w]e would love to see Tress there,” he said the group doesn’t want anything involved with that weekend, including a potential Tressel return, to overshadow what’s really important.
“[T]he most important thing is to support Urban and the new Buckeyes,” the ex-DB said. “So that Saturday is not necessarily about us, it’s about the team playing on the field.”
While that’s indeed a noble thought on Doss’ part, the question of whether Tressel will make an appearance on the same field in which he won 106 games — 94 officially thanks to the NCAA sanctions — will be a shadow looming over the two-plus months that tick by awaiting the kickoff of the greatest rivalry in all of sports.