Then-sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor (2) speaks with former football coach Jim Tressel during a game against Minnesota on Oct. 24, 2009, at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 38-7.  Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Then-sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor (2) speaks with former football coach Jim Tressel during a game against Minnesota on Oct. 24, 2009, at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 38-7.
Credit: Courtesy of TNS

Letter to the editor:

“The story of Tattoo-Gate.”

It almost writes itself. It would start with the recruitment of 6-foot-4-inch, big-armed, smooth-running quarterback from Jeannette, Pa., by a coach known for his integrity, sweater vest and winning. The end is where the story turns, with that same quarterback being shunned from the university he embodied for three years, a coach being forced out of the program whose tradition he continued and brought to new heights and many reputations being forever tainted.

Years later, the Ohio State Buckeyes won the 2015 National Championship. The reasons why are plentiful and oft-discussed. But one that’s often overlooked is the scandal in 2011 that led to coach Jim Tressel’s resignation, the vacating of 12 wins including a win in the Sugar Bowl over the Arkansas Razorbacks and a bowl ban. The short version is as follows: six players on the Ohio State football team were found to have traded Big Ten championship rings, cleats, jerseys and a national championship ring in exchange for cash or for trade: tattoos. Twelve emails between Tressel and Columbus attorney Christopher T. Cicero ensued, describing the details of the allegations and investigation. These emails never made it to Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, and thus an investigation into Tressel’s lack of action supervened. Eventually, Tressel resigned as head football coach.

But Tressel’s resignation meant the possibility of a new culture, one that could compete for national championships with the Southeastern Conference and beyond. It would take the perfect hire, however, to put the team in this position. Enter Urban Meyer.

Meyer had just decided to leave a Florida program because of health issues, one that he had led to two national championships. He was working for ESPN as an analyst and color commentator. But Meyer decided to come back to coaching, for Ohio State. Add that to the fact that he is from the state of Ohio and had already worked on the staff at Ohio State earlier in his career, and that meant the perfect alignment of the stars for an Ohio State-Urban Meyer marriage. Meyer vowed to make Ohio proud. His recruitment of athletes and change in system and culture at the university has done just that.

There’s no way to prove whether Ohio State would have been able to win with Tressel as head coach. OSU loved Tressel and the teams he coached while he was here. Fans rooted hard for Terrelle Pryor throughout his time as starting quarterback and defended every wobbly throw or bad decision. No tattoo scandal will make them regret those feelings. However, nothing that happened during that time compares with winning the big one. And all Ohio State fans can thank Jim Tressel for it.

Daniel Herbener
First-year in journalism
herbener.4@osu.edu