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Commentary: Mistakes, history undo Jim Tressel’s persona

Add Jim Tressel to the list of Ohio State football coaching legends who were not able to leave on their own terms.

Woody Hayes. Earle Bruce. John Cooper. Jim Tressel.

The first three were fired. Tressel “resigned,” but seems as if the university gave him at least a slight push out the door. The last time an OSU coach left on his own terms was during the Korean War.

“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 his letter of resignation. “The appreciation that Ellen and I have for the Buckeye Nation is immeasurable.”

Tressel brought this upon himself, make no mistake about it. Maurice Clarett, Troy Smith and Terrelle Pryor — Tressel’s three most high-profile players at OSU — were caught up in NCAA investigations. Was Tressel the one taking improper benefits? No. Did he try to cover it up or turn a blind eye? Yes.

Being the head football coach at The Ohio State University is no easy task. You’re essentially carrying the banner of the university. When people think of OSU, they think of football, not basketball, the medical center or even President E. Gordon Gee.

You have to be a presence in the community and portray a larger-than-life personality. Tressel worked that to perfection, giving unyielding support to the troops, doing countless speaking engagements and donating to charities. He even had to two nicknames, The Senator and The Vest, which gave him an unfailingly loyal following.

Tressel wrote two books, “The Winners Manual: For the Game of Life” and “Life Promises for Success: Promises from God on Achieving Your Best,” which reflected his extremely conservative style that produced an insane number of victories.

In his 10 seasons in Columbus, Tressel went 106-22. He won a share of seven Big Ten titles. He went to eight BCS bowl games, winning five, including the 2002 National Championship against the Miami Hurricanes, who were essentially a collegiate All-Star team.

But, if you’re going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk every step of the way or else you’re going to slip and fall. And, my oh my, did Tressel fall hard over the past year.

OSU athletic director Gene Smith, also under fire, weighed in, in a YouTube video released by OSU.

“I do want to thank coach Tressel for his long service to our university,” Smith said. “There was a lot of people he touched in a highly positive way. We were very thankful for his leadership during the years that we had great success on the field and off the field.”

So, who’s going to be the next head Buckeye? Popular opinion seems to boil down to two candidates: interim head coach Luke Fickell and former University of Florida coach Urban Meyer, who got one of his two BCS titles by embarrassing Tressel’s squad, 41-14, in the 2007 BCS Championship game.

Whoever gets the job better be ready for three things: exposure, pressure and eventual shame.

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