"After meeting with university officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach," Tressel said in a statement released by the university. "The appreciation that [wife] Ellen and I have for the Buckeye Nation is immeasurable."
And with that, so ends the Buckeye head coaching career (and likely the head coaching career, in general) of Jim Tressel.
As first reported by The Columbus Dispatch, with the turmoil surrounding Tressel now building for quite some time, Ohio State officials (namely Athletics Director Gene Smith and President E. Gordon Gee) thought that it would be best for Tressel to tender his resignation as coach of the Buckeyes this morning.
The resignation comes nearly three months after Ohio State called a news conference to announce it had suspended Tressel for two games -- later increasing the ban to five games to coincide with the punishment his players received -- and fined him $250,000 for knowing his players had received improper benefits from a local tattoo-parlor owner.
To figure out how we arrived at today's announcement, a look back at the press conference video for each critical juncture in the unraveling of the Tressel Era is in order.
It started just prior to the team's preparation for the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas in December, when it was revealed that several players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, had been selling their memorabilia and/or trading it to a drug dealer/tattoo parlor owner named Edward Rife. Thankfully, the players were trading things like Big Ten title rings and jerseys for tattoos and not for the wares in Rife's "other business."
Still, it was an NCAA violation, and punishment had to be meted out. The NCAA decided to suspend the players for the first five games of the 2011 season, but they remained eligible for the Sugar Bowl (you know, what with tickets needing to be sold and whatnot). On December 23, 2010, Smith and Tressel met with the media:
(Keep in mind as you watch this that Tressel was fully aware of the violations for several months at this point and his e-mail inbox had more smoking guns than Season 2 of The Sopranos. Makes it that much more enjoyable to watch a guy lie right to everyone's face. Simultaneously ballsy and slimy.)
The other funny thing about this video is Gene Smith talking about how "severe" the sanctions are. At this point, Smith had no idea his head coach knew about the players committing these infractions. So Tressel was sitting there watching his boss cry the blues about how punitive the suspensions were knowing full well the worst transgression of all -- his own lying and deceit toward that exact superior -- was bubbling below the surface ready to erupt at any time.
Like I said, ballsy and slimy. (And I mean "ballsy" in a completely shameful way.)
Of course, any sympathy for Gene Smith goes out the window at the 1:40 mark when he blames the economy for the players' violating the rules, to the point where he lauds their intent, as if the players were sending the proceeds home to make sure their younger siblings had a loaf of bread to split. So the moral of the story, kids, according to Smith -- cheating is okay as long as the economy sucks and your family needs a few bucks.
The crippling blow of five-game suspensions for that group of players for the 2011 season turned into the beginning of a violation tsunami in March when it was revealed that Tressel, in a series of e-mails, was made aware of the violations by a former Ohio State player back in the spring of 2010. Making matters worse, he reported this to nobody at the time -- not Smith, not Gee, not an attorney, nobody.
Still, Tressel and his 106-22 record at Ohio State were enough to keep the support of his superiors. Here is footage from the March 8, 2011, press conference where the coach's two-game suspension and $250,000 fine were announced:
Star of this video once again was Smith, who said at about the 1:15 mark that "wherever [Ohio State winds] up, at the end of the day Jim Tressel is [their] football coach."
Right. Until he isn't. Of course, Gee took the school's intent to retain Tressel at that time to another ridiculous degree by jokingly talking about his fear the coach would fire him.
Can you imagine driving in a car alone with Gordon Gee for more than five minutes? Seriously, the government should use it as a torture method to get incarcerated terrorists to speak.
Smith's and Gee's support would end up being short-lived. With allegations of shady car deals, interviews with former players (like Ray Small) exposing an environment of entitlement and illegality, and a pending Sports Illustrated story this week that reveals even more nasty blemishes on the Buckeye program, the school decided today that Tressel should resign. No buyout, no severance, do not pass go, do not collect $3.5 million (Tressel's annual salary).
Gene Smith on today's events....
Jim Tressel is an adult who made the conscious choice to withhold information from his employer -- information that, at that time, would have dealt a serious blow to Ohio State's 2010 Big Ten and national championship hopes. Tressel rolled the dice that the information would never go public, and the team could win big in 2010.
He crapped out.
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Tressel's punishment? A program with far more problems than just Jim Tressel's lack of truthfulness will now, when asked by the NCAA, use that as the sole reason for all of its problems.
And they will hope that the NCAA believes them. Because if they don't, then the NCAA will leave a permanent mark on the Ohio State program in the form of major sanctions.
Permanent. A lot like the tattoos that started this whole mess in the first place.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twittter.com/SeanCablinasian.