Lantern file photo
I was working on a story about the possibility of former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel becoming the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts last week.
Obviously Tressel didn’t end up landing the job, but as I was working on the story, I went out on campus to get some students’ opinions on what they thought about the man who was at the center of the biggest scandal in OSU football history.
The typical method for getting these opinions is going up to random people and asking them what they think. As a reporter, I try to make sure I represent all sides of the issue.
So for this article I wanted to get a couple voices saying, “I love Jim Tressel. I’m glad he’s trying to get back into coaching,” and a couple voices saying, “I hate Jim Tressel.
He ruined OSU’s football program and I’ll never forgive him.”
The first person I talked to hadn’t heard about the possibility of him becoming the Colts’ new coach, but said he had no ill will toward Tressel and hoped to see him get back into coaching.
The second person I talked to had a similar opinion.
So did the third. And the fourth.
And the fifth.
As much as I tried, the fact was, not one person had anything bad to say about Tressel.
In fact, the general sentiment was that people missed Tressel.
And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I did too.
I miss Jim Tressel.
A lot of Buckeye fans are quite enamored with their new prized possession, OSU coach Urban Meyer.
He’s bringing in a stellar recruiting class and seems to be giving the program the momentum it needs to lift OSU out of the hole Tressel helped dig.
Maybe I’m crazy, but it just doesn’t feel right.
Meyer is corporate. He’s intense and he’s very professional. He’s the type of coach who will make a player the best football player he can be.
But Tressel was a coach who made a player the best person he could be. He was someone players could talk to about life on and off the field.
He gave the OSU program an image of purity. It had the feel of an old-school family values operation.
It was an image Tressel carried on from Woody Hayes.
When you supported the Buckeyes, you weren’t just supporting a program that won a lot of games. You were supporting a program that did things the right way and was successful. It went beyond winning and was part of the reason fans are so passionate about OSU football.
People got the impression that Tressel loved to be a Buckeye. He even wrote a book titled “What it means to be a Buckeye.” In it he explained what being a Buckeye meant to him.
“It means we are extraordinarily blessed and we have an awesome responsibility to uphold the higher standards that have been set before us,” Tressel said in the book. “It means we have a tradition that is second to none. It means we love Ohio State.”
I don’t get the same impression with Meyer. I get the impression Meyer loves the opportunity being a Buckeye provides. He knows it’s a program built for winning and knows he can be successful if he’s in the driver’s seat.
Meyer is a ruthless winner. Tressel was a successful saint.
Obviously that image blew up in Tressel’s face when all the violations came out. Maybe Tressel is a con man and everything he did was all an act in a grand scheme to win football games. Maybe it isn’t possible for a coach to be so successful and so saintly at the same time, but it sure felt like a privilege to support a team with a coach who gave that impression.
I don’t think Meyer is a bad man. From everything I’ve heard and read, he seems like an OK guy.
He just doesn’t give the OSU program the same wholesome image Tressel did.
Plenty of people think Tressel’s image was just that — an image. A façade covering up the corrupt coach in a corrupt industry.
But a man should be judged by the entirety of his actions, not one mistake.
Tressel was the guy who visited hospitals, supported charities and provided support for players needing advice.
I talked to a man named Dennis Singleton in April when all the violations Tressel committed were coming out. The reason I was talking to Singleton was because he has an uncanny resemblance to the former Buckeye coach. He used to dress up like Tressel for fun at OSU events. During a parade on the weekend of July 4, 2010, Singleton was on a float dressed as Tressel.
Singleton said a flurry of people were coming up to him and anxiously shaking his hand thinking he was the real Tressel, but one interaction was different than the rest.
“One man comes up to me very serious, a totally different demeanor,” Singleton said. “He looks at me and says, ‘Thank you so very much for what you did for Gladys. She was my sister.’ Then he walks off and I didn’t know what to say, but it just speaks to Jim Tressel. He’s done a lot of good. He’s a good and decent man.”
Singleton said he has tons of stories just like that.
The media never reported on what Tressel did for Gladys. I’m sure nobody ever knew besides the family.
Is a guy who helps an old woman and doesn’t tell anybody really a villain?
Is a coach for one of the largest fan bases in the world that took the time to personally answer every email as long as it wasn’t too offensive, really a fraud?
Maybe, but I don’t think so. And judging from what I heard from the OSU students I talked to, they don’t think so either.
Urban Meyer might be the present, but it appears a lot of people miss the past.
They miss Jim Tressel.
And so do I.