Ohio State Football Coach Quits Amid NCAA Scandal

Originally published on May 30, 2011 6:42 pm

Jim Tressel, who guided Ohio State's football team to its first national title in 34 years, resigned Monday as the NCAA investigates the Buckeyes for possible rules violations.

In a statement released by the university, Tressel said: "After meeting with university officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach. The appreciation that [wife] Ellen and I have for the Buckeye Nation is immeasurable."

Tressel's teams finished in the top 5 of college football's rankings in seven of the past 10 years

Luke Fickell will be the coach for the upcoming season. He already had been selected to be the interim head coach while Tressel served a five-game suspension.

Ohio State spokesman Jim Lynch said he was unaware of any buyout or severance package. He added that Tressel had returned from vacation Sunday night and met with athletic director Gene Smith, who then met with staff. Tressel typed his resignation and submitted it to Smith, he said.

Ohio State's program has been under fire amid a scandal involving players selling championship rings in exchange for cash and tattoos. Selling rings and memorabilia is against NCAA rules. Tressel did not immediately report the infractions, and when he spoke out later, he was suspended for the first five games of next season.

Several former players have since come forward to say that selling memorabilia has been a common practice at Ohio State.

Tressel's downfall came with public and media pressure mounting on Ohio State, its board of trustees, President E. Gordon Gee and Smith.

"We look forward to refocusing the football program on doing what we do best representing this extraordinary university and its values on the field, in the classroom, and in life," Smith said in a statement Monday. "We look forward to supporting Luke Fickell in his role as our football coach. We have full confidence in his ability to lead our football program."

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 players' punishment — and fined him $250,000. The school said at the time it was "very surprised and disappointed" in Tressel. Yet, the school still managed to crack jokes.

Asked if he considered firing Tressel, Gee said then: "No, are you kidding? Let me just be very clear: I'm just hopeful the coach doesn't dismiss me."

Tressel and Ohio State were to go before the NCAA's infractions committee Aug. 12 to answer questions about the player violations and why Tressel did not report them. He denied knowledge of improper benefits to players until confronted by investigators with emails that showed he had known since April 2010.

The 58-year-old Tressel had a record of 106-22-0 at Ohio State. He led the Buckeyes to eight Bowl Championship Series games in his 10 years. Combined with a 135-57-2 record in 15 years at Youngstown State, where he won four Division I-AA national championships, Tressel's career mark was 241-79-2.

NPR's Mike Pesca and Fred Kight of member station WOUB contributed to this story, which contains material from The Associated Press.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Tim Rudell, of member station WKSU, has the story.

TIM RUDELL: Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Terry Pluto has known Tressel for 25 years. He says it was the cover-up that led Tressel to finally give in to pressure to resign.

BLOCK: As a coaching friend said, it's knucklehead cheating. That's what it is, Terry, knucklehead cheating. And what he meant was, we're not talking academic fraud or systematic payments. You're talking about kids selling gold pants or whatever, for tattoos and for a few bucks. But unfortunately, that's really not what got Jim fired. What got Jim fired was - the lie is the big deal. It's the old thing: The cover-up is worse than the crime.

RUDELL: Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith talked about the resignation shortly after Tressel announced it to a morning meeting of his team.

BLOCK: Coach Tressel did what we all knew he would do. He did an eloquent job of explaining to the young men what transition really means, and what they needed to focus on. So he met with the team, and exited.

RUDELL: John Rogers and Tony Visconti(ph) are Ohio State fans out planting petunias today, as part of a Memorial Day spruce-up project in West Akron. When Rogers hears the news about Tressel from Visconti, he stands up, wipes his forehead, and says he thinks Jim Tressel was just keeping things going for his team and trying to keep the Buckeyes on top.

BLOCK: You want to have a winning team because it gives you an up attitude. And that's what everybody needs to have. So do I think he should have resigned? No, I don't think so. I think maybe the rules are a little bit too stringent.

RUDELL: Visconti kneels and begins popping the little, plastic flower pots from a tray. He says that while Tressel was just protecting his boys, he still broke the rules.

BLOCK: It's against regulations. It's against regulations. I mean, you can't - where does it stop then? So I understand where he had to come up to - with a decision to resign to protect the rest of the Ohio State program. So my hat's off to him for that. I'm sorry that it, you know, that it happened in the first place.

RUDELL: For NPR News, I'm Tim Rudell. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.