Simply put, Jim Tressel loves The Ohio State University. In his ten years as the head coach of the Buckeyes - known for most of it as just Tress, The Vest or The Senator - all he did was collect 106 victories on the field of play, including the twelve that were later vacated from 2010. He won one national championship, logged five BCS wins in eight appearances on the big stage and nine wins over the Michigan Wolverines in ten tries. He didn't run the score up on lesser opponents - much to the dismay of the fan base at times - and wasn't the most flamboyant of leaders in front of the camera. He could lay ten-thousand words on a room full of reporters and have virtually said nothing at all. His trademark sweater vest became a source of pride within those who rooted for Ohio State, and a punchline for all who didn't. He didn't care, and neither did we.
For nearly his entire decade at the helm he was our classy, spotless leader free of controversy. When all was said and done - ending with a Memorial Day resignation in May of 2011 - Buckeye Nation was left to ask itself one very important question: Was Jim Tressel not the man we thought he was? In the end, he probably wasn't.
But he was damn close.
With the first anniversary of Coach Tressel's resignation quickly approaching, we take a look back at his decade of success at The Ohio State University through the eye of a camera lens. Enjoy. We did.....
Act Like You've Been There Before
When you coach for a decade at one university, playing against the best teams that college football has to offer, you're bound to be matched up with some of the greats. Coach Tressel held his coaching counterparts with the highest esteem and in return was as respected by his piers as any coach in the country. He faced off against some old dogs and some up-and-comers. Some were as successful as any who had come before them at their respective institutions, while others struggled to find success. One thing was clear - most of them found themselves with losing records against Ohio State as long as Jim Tressel was roaming the opposite sideline.
Joe Paterno - Penn State University
Upon the passing of Penn State's Joe Paterno, who had controlled the program for 46 years, Jim Tressel spoke highly of a man he had great respect for: "Coach Paterno was a role model and mentor to all coaches in America. It was an honor to know him, learn from him, and compete with him. Coach Paterno will be remembered as one of the great difference makers of our time. I, personally, will miss him dearly."
Lloyd Carr - University of Michigan
Kirk Ferentz - University of Iowa
Mark Dantonio - Michigan State University
Bret Bielema - University of Wisconsin
Rich Rodriguez - University of Michigan
Pete Carroll - University of Southern California
Mack Brown - University of Texas
Chip Kelly - University of Oregon
Urban Meyer - University of Florida
Somebody Make a Play
To many of Coach Tressel's players he was a not only a mentor, but a father-figure and a friend. He helped prepare young men for life after college as much as he did for football. His loyalty for his players was undying. Former Ohio State punter Jon Thoma wrote a piece for The Ozone titled, 'In Defense of My Coach' in which he made his feelings known for his former coach during the controversy that swirled around the program as 2010 was becoming 2011. He made a very telling comment within that column that spoke volumes of the man we simply knew as Tress:
"My freshman year he approached me, a mere walk-on back-up punter, and asked me how my parents and two sisters were doing. He referred to them all by name! We had about 120 players on the team and he knew every person in all 120 immediate families. He knew because he cared."
It wasn't enough for Coach Tressel to coach his kids at the game of football. He made such a positive impact on the young men he coached that, for most of them, it will stick with them for the rest of their lives. Jon Thoma is one of hundreds of examples. Regardless of what is said or done in the coach-player relationship, Coach Tressel refused to turn his back on the young men he was tasked with taking care of. Kids make mistakes and Jim Tressel knew it. But he always kept his promise to the parents to look out for their kids. In some cases that must have been very difficult...
Maurice Clarett | Running Back | 2002
Troy Smith | Quarterback | 2003-2006
Terrelle Pryor | Quarterback | 2008-2010
James Patrick Tressel - The Vest
While Terrelle Pryor became the scapegoat for many, Jim Tressel was - is - and may forever be the fallen hero after the infractions story fully played out last year. One day he will be honored by the university he loves and when that day comes, Buckeye Nation will be thankful for the gesture and for everything Coach did for the school, the kids, the community and the fan base.
Coach Luke Fickell did his very best to hold down the fort in 2011, and he did so with grace and a class about him that very few could demonstrate in the situation he was put into. Urban Meyer has now taken over and the vast majority of the fan base has put the controversy behind them and is looking forward to better days. I personally hope that in doing so, they don't forget the great days at The Ohio State University from 2001 until 2011 brought to us by former Head Coach Jim Tressel.
There were many.
“On your best days be great. On your worst days, be good. Every other day, get better.” - Jim Tressel