On May 18, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith was quoted as saying his embattled head football coach still had his full faith and backing.
“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.”
Nearly two weeks later, Jim Tressel stepped down as the Buckeyes’ coach amid reports that he was encouraged to resign by unnamed individuals for the good of the program. As it turns out, Smith himself was one of those unnamed individuals.
During an interview with the Columbus Dispatch‘s Bill Rabinowitz ahead of his school’s response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations, acknowledged for the first time that he asked the long-time head coach to step down the day before he officially resigned. And that his support had wavered “long before” that day came.
Smith would not answer questions directly related to the NCAA case, but he did acknowledge for the first time that, on May 29, he asked Jim Tressel to resign as football coach. Tressel stepped down the next day.
OSU officials publicly supported Tressel long after the revelation in March that he had failed to forward to anyone at the university emails warning him that players had sold memorabilia and received tattoo discounts – an NCAA violation. But Smith admitted that his support had wavered “long before” he asked for Tressel’s resignation. Asked if that meant weeks or days, Smith replied: “Days.”
While not nearly as much as Tressel had, Smith has come under fire as well for the fires of scandal/rumor/innuendo/speculation that’s burned in connection to the storied football program over the past several months. Unlike his now-former football coach, asking himself to step down has not and will not be a consideration.
“Oh, heck no,” Smith told the Dispatch. “There’s never been a point in my life in (this) business when I’ve considered resigning.
“When you know that what you do every day is right and you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got to stay the course and make sure we continue to get better and help our current student-athletes and coaches. So I’ve never thought about that at all.”
Whether Smith’s boss or other unnamed individuals have thought about it, however, remains to be seen and is a scene in this soap opera that’s yet to fully play itself out.