Bad decisions downfall for Tressel

Published 1:23 am Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Somewhere, Woody Hayes is crying.

This isn’t the way Woody built the Ohio State football program. This isn’t the way he allowed other teams to conduct their business. If you cheated and Woody found out, he told the NCAA.

Dammit. I’m honest and you’re gonna be honest, too.

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Woody was the greatest football coach in Ohio State history. Unfortunately for his legacy, he was fired right after the 1978 Gator Bowl when he hit Clemson linebacker Charlie Bauman after intercepting Art Schlichter that sealed the game for Clemson.

Bauman never felt the blow. He was surprised after the game when told by his teammates what had happened. Woody was a tough old guy, but Bauman was hit a lot harder during the game.

Woody was a man of integrity, high morals, honesty. He believed in hard work, not free cars or tattoos. And Woody truly cared for his players.

Ohio State players would get in trouble, but in those days the Columbus police called Woody first, not their parents. The players were in fear of Woody. They wished the police had called their parents.

Jim Tressel is no Woody Hayes, but he’s not the Al Capone that seems to be painted by the media and talk shows.

I’m not going to defend Tressel as a God-fearing, compassionate, concerned, humble man who has just been misconstrued. However, he is a man who possesses those very qualities. He just happens to be human and a football coach under a lot of pressure from fans and wealthy boosters with deep pockets to win.

Players aren’t the only ones who make bad decisions.

There’s no doubt Tressel has been a fatherly figure for players. I have heard about a lot of kind acts he has performed, many that no one would have expected. He has been generous with his money.

Not only that, Tressel reached out to the high school football coaches in Ohio unlike his predecessor John Cooper who distanced himself from the men who were his recruiting lifeline. Tressel attended the football coaches association’s yearly meetings while Cooper was generally a no-show.

But somewhere along the way Jim Tressel got caught in that gray area and it sometimes turned into more charcoal. Oakland Raiders’ owner Al Davis once said, “Just win, baby.”

In the realms of college athletics, it’s “Just win, baby, or get fired.”

When “The Ink-ling” occurred, Tressel was concerned about his players. He did try to protect them.

But he also had the preseason No. 1-ranked team and a chance to win it all. Winning lots of games, a Big Ten championship, a berth not only in a BCS bowl but the title game meant lots of money for the school and the league. It would also be a plus for recruiting.

And, least we forget, big bonus money for him.

Woody Hayes once got in trouble because he bought a couple of Big Macs for a hungry player. It was a very small infraction, but it was done out of concern for the player. Woody cared about him and did the moral and Christian thing.

You see, that’s not allowed by the NCAA. It must be some sort of separation of church and state thing.

Reports have Tressel claiming ignorance to players getting special treatment or deals on cars, high-paying jobs, money under the table, or swapping property for cash. For that he and the administration are guilty and it has caused many to question Tressel’s true character, some even calling his reputation the biggest myth in college football.

Tattoo swapping wasn’t that big of a deal, but the cover-up was. Woody was a history teacher. He could have told Tressel what happened to Richard Nixon.

Although he’s no history teacher, Tressel did have a great career whose legacy will be unfortunately tarnished by an incident that got him fired.

Maybe he’s more like Woody than we realize.


Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.