06/01/11 — Stevens: Tressel rises from obscurity, falls from grace at Ohio St.

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Stevens: Tressel rises from obscurity, falls from grace at Ohio St.

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on June 1, 2011 1:46 PM

Jim Tressel's fall from being one of the elite coaches in college football may ultimately prove to be as resounding as his rise from relative obscurity to be the face of one of the dominant programs in the country.

Tressel began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Akron in 1975. After stops as an assistant at Miami of Ohio, Syrcause and Ohio State, he became the head coach at Youngstown State in 1986. Tressel led the Penguins to four Division I-AA national championships in seven years before being named head coach at Ohio State in 2001.

In just Tressel's second season in Columbus, the Buckeyes won a national championship. Before resigning on Monday, Tressel compiled a record of 106-22 at Ohio State, and won 10 or more games in eight of his 10 seasons there.

The Buckeyes won at least 10 games in each of Tressel's final six seasons on the sidelines. He led Ohio State to seven Big Ten conference championships, six bowl victories and a 5-3 record in bowl games. Tressel was also 9-1 against rival Michigan.

Tressel's trademark sweater vest and necktie, his reserved demeanor and even his nickname, "The Senator," all felt very Midwest. Perhaps no coach in college football embodied their program the way Tressel did.

His demise began in late April of 2010 when he received an e-mail from Columbus attorney Christopher T. Cicero, a former Ohio State walk-on, notifying him that current Buckeyes players had been selling signed memorabilia to tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife. Rife was under federal investigation by the U.S. attorney's office for drug trafficking.

On September 13 of 2010, Tressel signed an annual NCAA certificate of compliance form indicating he knew of no violations and reported to the school any knowledge of possible violations.

In December of 2010, the NCAA suspended Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four teammates for the first five games on the 2011 season for selling jerseys, championship rings and trophies to Rife. Pryor and his four teammates were allowed to play in Ohio State's victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.

Allegations surrounding the Ohio State program continued to swirl from car deals to other extra benefits. The Columbus Dispatch reported in January that Pryor had been stopped three times for traffic violations over the past three years, each time driving cars that were owned by a car salesman or a Columbus used-car dealership where the salesman worked.

Tressel's success has been limited to the Midwest and more specifically at Ohio State in what has become a very winnable Big Ten Conference. He has never been labeled an offensive genius while running a very vanilla offense.

This in no way is like Urban Meyer or Nick Saban suddenly unemployed with a list of schools a mile long interested in their services.Tressel's marketability as a reserved head coach able to connect with passionate football fans in another part of the country, particularly the South or West Coast, remains highly questionable.

Should he decide to coach again, Tressel could very well find himself in a similar situation of that of former Nebraska head coach Frank Solich. Solich succeeded the legendary Tom Osborne at Nebraska after spending 19 seasons there as an assistant. He was fired after just six seasons, and has become somewhat of an afterthought as the head coach at Ohio University.

In his 2008 book, "The Winners Manual: For the Game of Life," Tressel writes, "Discipline is what you do when no one else is looking!"

The irony is what got Tressel fired is what happened in his program when no one else was looking. Just how far he will fall because of that remains to be seen.