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What will Jim Tressel’s legacy be?

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Jim Tressel coached at Ohio State for 10 years. For 10 years he made his case as one of the greatest coaches in the history of an illustrious football program. He spent a decade building his legacy – a legacy that came to an end exactly one year ago.

Months after news broke that Tressel knowingly played ineligible players, OSU athletic director Gene Smith asked Tressel to resign from his post as football coach. An NCAA investigation found that six players had received improper benefits in the form of tattoos and money in exchange for memorabilia. All of those players, including former quarterback Terrelle Pryor, have either graduated, transferred or left the university. Pryor, running back Daniel “Boom” Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey, lineman Solomon Thomas, lineman Mike

Adams all received 5-game suspensions as a result of the December 2010 scandal. Linebacker Jordan Whiting received a one-game suspension and has since transferred to Louisville.
One year ago – on May 30, 2011, Tressel officially submitted his resignation to Smith.

“I am sorry and disappointed this happened. At the time the situation occurred, I thought I was doing the right thing,” Tressel said. “I understand my responsibility to represent Ohio State and the game of football. I apologize to any and all of the people I have let down. I will grow from this experience.”

One year removed from the largest football scandal in school history and OSU has a new coach, Urban Meyer. With the semi-crazed OSU fanbase looking forward to 2012 and putting the scandal behind them, what will Tressel’s legacy be?

Tressel won seven Big Ten Championships during his time at OSU. His 9-1 (8-1 after one was vacated) record against the University of Michigan is the best percentage in school history. But so often in the world of sports, players and coaches are remembered best by their final act. Tressel’s final act, his resignation in the midst of NCAA violations, still resonates in the minds of some Buckeye fans.

“His involvement in the tattoo scandal was surprising because he was known as a conservative guy that kept things close to the vest,” said Ethan Rutman, a third-year in logistics management. “Reports kept coming out about his involvement and it become more and more disappointing.”

In many ways Tressel and former coach Woody Hayes had similar coaching careers. Both coaches possess winning records against Michigan. Hayes and Tressel account for more than half of OSU’s Big Ten titles and are two of the three coaches in program history to win a National Championship. Both coaches ended their careers at OSU in controversy.

It is difficult to enter OSU’s campus and not be influenced by the presence of the legendary Hayes. The football team practices at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and Ohio Stadium sits on Woody Hayes Drive. In the southeast section of the stadium, you can find a plaque commemorating Hayes on his 13 Big Ten titles and five national titles.

Hayes’s 28-year coaching career ended in 1978 when he was fired for punching a Clemson player in the closing moments of the 1978 Gator Bowl.

OSU football historian Jack Park said that as time passed, fans forgave Hayes and remembered the coach for the great things he did on and off the field.

Park said he thinks Tressel will eventually be remembered in a similar fashion.

“It will take a while for the fans to move past what he did,” Park said. “At least five years and maybe a little longer. Eventually, people will tend to remember the great wins, the wins over Michigan. You look at the entire picture of the man, the good and the bad, and he should be recognized for both. Jim Tressel did so many more good things than things that weren’t very good.”

Andrew Mann, a third-year in sports and leisure studies, said fans should be thankful for the wins, but upset by the way Tressel left the program.

“Tressel did a lot of great things for this university and for the football program,” Mann said. “But he made a costly mistake and he has to suffer the consequences. If you ask me in 10 or 15 years what I still thought of him, I would give you the same answer. He did a lot of good and was a great coach, but it is hard to ignore his role in the scandal.”

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