Next month the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association will induct
Jim Tressel into its Hall of Fame. Along with his plaque expect the
former Ohio State head coach to receive an extended standing ovation.
Next month the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association will induct Jim Tressel into its Hall of Fame. Along with his plaque expect the former Ohio State head coach to receive an extended standing ovation.
Other than his players, there may not be a more adamant group in support of Tressel than Ohio’s stable of high school football coaches. There also may not be a group more blind-sided by his resignation.
“He has done so much good for everyone that comes in contact with him, that it really makes the situation tough,” Piqua head coach Bill Nees said. “People always ask me if he’s really as caring and sincere as he appears and I always answer ‘Yes and more!’”
“I am deeply saddened by his resignation,” Hilliard Davidson head coach Brian White said. “I have always found him to be honest and forthright in his dealings with high school coaches and recruits.”
Said Cincinnati Wyoming head coach Bernie Barre: “I believe that he is a man of great character and integrity. He made a mistake that I believe was made with the best interests of his players in mind. I will always be a Jim Tressel supporter.”
So will the vast majority of this state’s honorable whistle-blowers.
Over the course of his tenure, Tressel was influential in helping the OHSFCA build its clinic by supporting the invitations of fellow college coaches – both regional and out-of-state – as speakers. Unlike his predecessor, John Cooper, who wanted to keep rival college recruiters out of Ohio, Tressel embraced competition for in-state kids and as one coach put it “knew he couldn’t recruit every kid in Ohio.”
On a national level, Tressel did as much as anyone to promote the quality and depth of high school football players and programs in this state.
“It’s really hard right now to imagine the Ohio State football program without Coach Tressel,” Centerville head coach Ron Ullery said. “He was absolutely a quality man who brought much more to that football program and those in it than victories and championships. He’ll be greatly missed.”
As the Elks coach, Ullery has had several athletes go to Ohio State and play under Tressel. As a father he’s had one too.
“(I have) no reservations whatsoever about one of my sons or players playing for Coach Tressel,” said Ullery, who in addition to alumni A.J. Hawk, Mike Nugent and Tom Ingham had son Brent suit up for the Buckeyes. “I’d recommend anyone play for him without hesitation. They’d only be a better person as a result of their interaction with him.”
Other coaches agreed.
“I can say that Coach Tressel has always treated me with respect the few times that I had contact with him,” Coldwater head coach Chip Otten said. “I think Ross and Adam Homan have had great experiences at OSU and respect Coach Tressel. Tony Harlamert
who was a walk-on was treated well by Coach T.”
“It is very sad to see his reign at Ohio State end in this fashion,” Northmont head coach Lance Schneider said. “I am thankful for everything he did for our players and support staff who were members of his program. I will always cherish the friendship I was able to foster with him and members of his coaching staff.”
Columbus Hartley head coach Brad Burchfield took it a step further.
“Jim Tressel has treated me really well and gone out of his way to do so,” said Burchfield, whose team won the 2010 D-IV state title. “I have and always will appreciate that. He has been a huge influence on me as a coach, and what I hope to be as a person. I played for Hall of Fame coach Bob Stuart in the 1990s. Coach Stuart was a disciple of Woody Hayes, and in many ways I felt like I was being coached by Woody Hayes. I hope that our kids at Hartley (and Centerburg prior to that) understand that they were coached by Coach Tressel in some way, because he was such a huge influence on me and our coaching staff.”
Tressel’s reach was immense.
Ullery credits the former coach and other members of the OSU staff as being “major influences” in Brent’s decision to go into teaching and coaching (he’s currently employed at Dublin Coffman).
Burchfield said Tressel will be “incredibly difficult to replace on many levels” and that the coach did “great things for Ohio State Football, Ohio State University and for Ohio High School Football.”
“The next coach,” Burchfield said, “has huge shoes to fill.”
As for that next coach, White, who has led the Wildcats to two D-I state titles, is rooting for OSU interim head coach Luke Fickell.
“I don’t think Ohio knew what they had while (Tressel) was here,” White said. “My hope is that Coach Fickell will get the fair shot that he deserves. He will do a great job, and quite frankly, I believe he is going to bail the AD (Gene Smith) out of a tough spot. I hope (Smith) shows his appreciation for what Luke is doing for the university.”
The coaches feel appreciation and Tressel’s pain in trying to police a roster of young men. As they know, it’s often far more difficult to do than the public knows. And ultimately what caused Tressel’s exit.
“Has (Tressel) made mistakes, of course, who hasn’t,” Burchfield said. “One of the saddest things in society is when one’s mistakes are made public. I shutter to think if all of our private mistakes were made public.
“If there is any guilt, in my opinion, it’s that a culture had spread where undesirables were given control of the football team. One of the things that coaches, teachers and any kind of leader are most responsible for is that the ‘bad apples’ don’t contaminate the rest of the team or the class. This is such a tough thing. Hindsight is 20/20. It is easy to sit back and say that he should have cut those kids loose, but that may be harder to do than most think. There is a reason why the position of Ohio State Football coach is one of the toughest jobs in all of sport.”
Said Nees: “Certainly mistakes were made and the price will be paid, but any attempt to nullify his entire body of work is ridiculous.”
Added Barre: “Tressel has been a great friend to the high school coaches in Ohio for a long time. I am saddened by the turn of events that has gotten us to where we are today. It is obvious that by trying to look out for a few very undeserving players, he forgot to look out for himself.”
Otten and Moeller head coach John Rodenberg weighed in as well.
“We ALL make choices that at the time seem right but looking back aren’t the best,” Otten said. “When you are counting on 18-22 year olds to do everything right things happen, especially at the big time level that OSU is in. Like A.J. Hawk said you can’t babysit 120 kids for 10 years without some issues. I bet every big time program in the country is sweating this out.”
Concluded Rodenberg: “Everything Ohio State has done for us at Moeller has been up front and first class. I believe that once this began Jim Tressel was doomed to be a scapegoat.
“He wasn’t doing anything that any other college coach does or does not do.”